You wouldn’t have been able to find the wedding unless you asked people. It was off the road, after the road ends, to be honest. No house back there has more than four little rooms. But construction is going on in the village. It takes 3 or 4 years to get a new house finished, made of concrete blocks between concrete poles, with a poured concrete floor. Money comes slowly.
View and Wichai were getting married. The whole village attended, as they do for every wedding-house blessing. It is becoming customary here in our area for the wedding to take place at the same time as the new house blessing. At 9 a.m. a group of 5 Buddhist monks assembled to chant stanzas of scripture invoking merit upon the couple, their family, and everyone present. An elder chanted a more colloquial blessing that mentioned divinities and spirits. This is how almost every new house blessing goes. Then the monks were served lunch, and so was the crowd outside. At noon the monks left and so did most of the crowd.
Around four in the afternoon the wedding took place. It consisted of an announcer on a public address system inviting one group after another to come and tie cords around the wrists of the couple while wishing them well. Parents offered the newlyweds floral leis, and the couple pledged affection and respect to the parents in turn. That is what made them married. It was a ceremonial connecting of two clans. Actually the connection can just happen without any ceremony at all. All the people with any relationship to the two families took a turn to tie strings on the couple’s wrists. Closest family members then led the couple into their bedroom and showered them with flower petals. A grandparent might have regaled them with a few words of advice, full of double meanings. Meanwhile, the party began. The crowd came back for more food, plenty to drink, honorary messages, and scantily dressed singers filling the air with familiar tunes.
The only thing that set this wedding apart from every other wedding in villages around here is the fact that the bride is a transsexual. She was born and treated as a boy for a few years. But she has become a full-fledged woman. How she accomplished that seems to be irrelevant. We cannot be sure whether there was any surgery involved or whether the district office has changed her national identification card from M to F. What we can see clearly is that Wichai presents himself as a short, muscular, tattooed, shy, farmer who does wood carving on the side. The village reacted to this couple as they would to any couple.
This type of couple is not unheard of out here. Almost everybody can name one or two couples with a trans wife and a “real male” husband (to use the term most common). There are lesbian couples here, too. I know of several two-male marriages, but Pramote and I are the only ones with any kind of official status [we were married in the USA].
The Thai government is lagging behind village folks. Progress toward equality for persons of diverse sexuality still has a ways to go. Job discrimination is mentioned frequently. Legal right to adopt and
raise children is still a dream. View and Chai cannot have their marriage registered and get an official marriage certificate unless View’s ID card calls her female. But village people have little sense that this couple’s relationship is more unusual than several others in the village. Every relationship is different. It’s in the city where life gets confused.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.