'The Beautiful Boxer' explores an international perspective of gender expression

Maggie Giordano | Contributing Writer

Originally published March 2017

Understanding obstacles facing people who are transgender can be difficult for some Americans. The LGBTQ+ community has gone through many battles to try to open the eyes of non-LGBTQ+ individuals on what happens in the daily life of an LGBTQ+ individual. We see more people expressing their preferred sexual orientation in the United States every day.

The Office of Counseling Services gathered students on March 30 for Under the Lens: Explorations in Queer Cinema to help shape perspectives on transgender people. The showing started a little after 5 p.m. in the Webb center.

"The Beautiful Boxer" is an Ekachai Uekrongtham film about a transgender boxer in Thailand. The film is based on a true story of the famous kickboxer, Pariinya Charoenphol, and goes through the hardships she faced in her life leading up to her gender change surgery.

Also known as Toom, the boxer recalls her journey from the time she knew she wanted to become a woman to the moment her parents signed the papers to approve her for surgery. The boxer encounters ridicule and alienation throughout her past as child and later at her boxing camp. The movie shows how difficult it was for her to be in the masculine world of boxing and how she used her femininity to gain popularity as a boxer.

In most cases in Thailand, the culture is very accepting of transgender individuals compared to America. They are perceived as smart, gifted and have skills that most men and women do not have. Because they have lived the life of two different genders, they have gained knowledge of both.

“Thailand is very unique in a way because we are a very conservative country. At the same time with something like this, the country is very open,” Office of Intercultural Relations Interim Assistant Director for international initiatives, Rachawan, Wongtrirat said.

"Kathoey" or "katoey" is a term in Thai that refers to a transgender individual. The words used to describe LGBTQ+ people in Thailand are very different to America. A "Lady Boy" refers to someone who dresses as a woman but has the male genitalia. While a "Tom Boy" is the opposite, in which it is a woman who dresses as a man but still has the female genitalia. Transgender women can also be referred to as "Secondary Female."

“To gain more awareness on trans issues around the world because I think we see so much in the media about our western lens. I think it is important to think about transgender in that international perspective,” psychologist for Counseling Services, Dr. Alex Dryden said when asked what the goal of the showing was.

They provided snack of chips and candy, as well as provided Counseling Services stress balls in the shape of Big Blue’s paw. A discussion ensued after the movie to discuss thoughts and perspectives about the film in an open and supportive atmosphere.

Dryden says they plan to explore other countries next year to see and compare how they experience gender expression. For more information, call the Office of Counseling Services at 757-638-4401.