By William Walker.
Bangkokmaintains a less than a reputable reputation in the minds of some of the millions of tourists who flock to experience its oft-seedy nightlife on the streets ofKhao San Road; an area served by an ever-increasing number of transgender people. This large, though often marginalised community are at odds finding work in what remains a largely conservative country. However, one airline is committed to offering employment to a controversial area of Thai society known as the “third sex”.
Relative newcomer PC Air became the first airline in the country to offer work to transgender people. The airline, named for its owner Peter Chan, rather than any allusions to correctness in the political stream, sought rather quickly to address the issue of “ladyboys” being mainly employed as dancers and entertainers in the country.
Chan feels that “ladyboys inThailanddon’t have good jobs” and hopes that promoting them as employable in a wider range of roles will go some way towards making them more socially acceptable in the country. Chan’s ambition does not stop there, however, as his business model is set to incorporate both elderly and disabled employees.
The flight attendants aboard Chan’s airline claim that passengers are largely welcoming, although the idea remains something of a novelty, as other attendant’s claim that a number of passengers insist on having photos taken with them. It remains to be seen whether this harmless misunderstanding in the air evolves into social acceptance on the ground, as other jobs away from the lights ofKhao San Roadcontinue to preclude this “third sex”.
These companies do tend to rely on their images, however, as evidenced by rival South East Asian airline AirAsia displaying huge posters across the city highlighting the beauty and obvious femininity of its air crew, and as cabin crew manager Natcha Mitsumoto confirms “you still have to look like a lady to work here”. Regardless this remains a bold move by a budding business, which has the potential to open up an otherwise conservative country in understanding a potentially vast, untapped workforce.