Treat transgender people with the courtesy you would like to be treated with-Panisara Skulpichairat, May 15, 2012
A meeting for Ms Skulpichairat's volunteer assistants
As audience members walked into Panisara Skulpichairat's (Poy's) first lecture, "Who's deciding male or female?" they were each handed a questionnaire. The questions asked were a way of getting people to think about their own personal gender, and when the results were eventually revealed, many people were surprised to see that what was originally thought of as marginalised became more like the 'norm'.
Ms Skulpichairat offering her first lecture on Peace Boat's 76th global voyage
Poy, a member of the Thai Transgender Alliance, and a human rights activist, began her first lecture by asking everybody to close their eyes and visualise a journey into their past, to moments related to gender. All of her presentations boasted colourful or attention-grabbing images, and she covered the physical, biological and genetic aspects of sex, as well as issues related to gender identity. She informed the audience that some people are intersex, which means they have a mixture of both male and female sexual organs in their body, and that for every one million people around the world there are more than two thousand who are intersex.
Ms Skulpichairat's presentation projected attention-grabbing images
The audience learned that transgendered people live everywhere and in all walks of life, including the elderly, refugees and the disabled, and in every field of work. During the second lecture, information from The National Transgender Center for Equality in the United States revealed that 57 percent of transgender people were rejected by their families, 19 percent have experienced homelessness, and 47 percent have attempted suicide. "The worst thing however," said Poy, "are hate crimes, and many transgender people are killed every year."
Kanami Akasaka, one of Ms Skulpichairat's volunteer assistants
Participants were made aware of some of the challenges faced by transgender people, and by Poy herself. "Once," she said, "I had an accident and had to have an operation on my abdomen, but after the operation the nurse pushed my bed into the lobby and left me in the corridor. They didn't want me to stay in a ward because I'm neither male nor female." She explained further that there are no laws or regulations that exist to support transgender people's lives, and there is also a lack of friendly and sensitive healthcare services.
Poy ended her third and final lecture by letting the participants know how they could become an ally of transgender people. "Treat transgender people with the courtesy and respect you would like to be treated with yourself." She said. "People are people, whatever their parts, and what really matters is inside our hearts."
Results were shared from the questionnaire that was given to participants
Kanami Akasaka, one of the volunteers who had handed out the questionnaires at the entrance to the lecture, first heard the story of Poy at the introductory session for guest educators. "Last year, said Kanami, "I was working at a children's day care center for disabled kids, but I struggled by the fact that those children were unable to express themselves, leading to my own loss of confidence toward my work. My battle," she continued, "was probably incomparable to what Poy went through, and I have really been moved by her courage."
Gender is something that we take for granted, and questioning this in itself makes us question how society tends to categorise all of us. Poy's lectures highlighted the importance of making a more inclusive society for all minority groups, not just the transgender community.