Yollada “Nok” Suanyot has become the first transexual woman in Thailand to win a high-profiled political administrative role and will now oversee her native province of Nan.
Nok, 28, won the May 27 elections and overcame a ruling party opposition candidate from Pheu Thai — all as an independent candidate without a political party’s support.
Nok was famously arrested as a teen for using a “false” ID that matched her gender expression but not her birth-assigned male gender. She used that ID to enter and win beauty pageants. Nok went on to become a member of the group Venus Flytrap, which the Global Post describes as “a Spice Girls-esque troupe,” before later turning her hand to other media work such as a television career. Nok has also been a vocal trans rights advocate, calling for state-backed gender reassignment treatment to be made more widely available.
While her political opponents did attempt to use her trans identity against her at points, it did not feature heavily in the political race. Nok herself is reported to have stuck to engaging with issues like tourism drives, improving education, and finding ways to better care for the elderly. With this platform Nok was able to win the respect of the electorate and, ultimately, her seat. She is not expected to allow her administrative role to take her away from the spotlight for too long however, having told the Global Post that trans rights are something that Thailand must focus on:
“Good laws protecting transexuals have yet to come. We’re still on the fringe. Look at me. My role in society is that of a woman. But the law recognizes me as a man. That doesn’t make much sense, does it? Perhaps we now have greater acceptance in society. But not when it comes to legal rights… so, if we’re jailed, we’re put in prison with the men. We can’t get proper health insurance. We can’t get married. We have problems travelling outside the country and trouble dealing with banks and government offices.”
Nok has said that alongside her political duties she will continue her side-projects such as her voice-over work for the National Geographic.