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Transgender Thai katoey woman
A Thai katoey from BangkokBjörn Bechstein via Flickr

Thailand plans to legally recognise a third gender

The move is designed to ensure trans and gay citizens receive fairer legal treatment

Thailand is set to recognise a "third gender" in its new constitution, in a move to ensure fairer legal rights for trans and gay individuals. Despite the relatively permissive LGBT scene in the Southeast Asian country, current Thai law does not recognise same-sex unions, denying them access to services such as opening a joint bank account or getting medical insurance.

The new charter would be the first step to legal recognition for trans and non-gender conforming individuals. Many members of Thailand's vibrant community of kathoeys define themselves as belonging to a third gender, with those born male saying that they "feel with a female heart". 

The Thai military government asked a panel to rewrite the constitution after the previous one was scrapped after the coup last May. 

"We are putting the words 'third gender' in the constitution because Thai society has advanced," Kamnoon Sittisamarn, a spokesperson for the panel, told Reuters. "There are not only men and women, we need to protect all sexes. We consider all sexes to be equal."

The panel will submit their new charter to the government in April.

There are an estimated 10,000 to 100,000 trans people in Thailand, with more sex reassignment surgeries taking place in the country than anywhere in the world. The spectrum of gender diversity in the country led one high school in rural Thailand to introduce a third toilet specially for kathoeys after its headmaster discovered that 10% of the pupils identified as trans.

Watch Transmormon, our documentary on a young trans woman struggling to reconcile her identity with her Christianity: