By Idries Abdur-Rahman, M.D., FACOG
Thailand, the peninsula snuggly tucked between Vietnam, the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman sea, definitely has a stacked deck. Delicious food, friendly locals, enchanting landscapes, beautiful beaches and an unrivaled nightlife all make Thailand a hot spot for tourists and residents alike. Frequently ranking among the world’s top tourist destinations, it’s no mystery why so many people have fallen in love with this southeast Asian paradise.
So, beyond the sun and the sand, why has Thailand become a hot spot for the LGBTQ community? Part of it’s popularity likely relates to the fact that Thailand not only accepts transgenderism but actually encourages it. As a matter of fact, Thailand is one of the few countries in the world that actually recognizes a third gender. People of this third gender, known as the kathoey, are transgender women (born male who identify as female) and they can be found at all levels of society. Thailand is even home to the annual Miss International Queen pageant, the world’s largest transgender beauty pageant.
This probably explains why Thailand is increasingly being known for it’s medical tourism industry and especially for SRS (sex reassignment surgery). Males from all over the world seeking gender reassignment surgery are flocking to the capitol city Bangkok in part due to the extensive experience Thai surgeons have given the large volume of patients and in part due to the cheaper cost of the procedure. The ability to recover among the tropical beauty of Thailand just happens to be an added perk.
So how much cheaper are we talking? Well, patients on average pay about a third of what they would pay in the United States or Europe and many argue that the results are better. Depending upon the facility and the extent of the surgery, costs in Thailand generally range between $5,000-$12,000. In the U.S., comparable surgery would generally run anywhere from $25,000-$40,000, so the cost savings is quite significant. As added option, many Thai facilities offer what is known as a complete “femininization package” which includes ‘facial feminization’, a surgical procedure that shaves the facial bones, lowers the hairline and lifts the eyebrows giving the face a softer, more feminine appearance.
So Thailand is definitely more than just sun, sand and fabulous beaches. Millions of people come to Thailand every year for it’s great location and culture and more and more people are staying for the gender reassignment surgery.
-Have you ever wondered why vibrators were considered medical therapy? Check out the answer right HERE.
-While youre hear, check out this piece about self mummification in Japan. Yes! I said self mummification!! Read it HERE.