Trans­gen­der fighter beat­ing down big­otry

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

BANGKOK — Clad in a pink tank top and shorts, her face made up with rouge and red lip­stick, trans­gen­der Muay Thai fighter Nong Rose Baan Charoen­suk is a for­mi­da­ble op­po­nent.

Just ask Karun “Priew­pak” Kaem­lam, a male fighter who lost a thrilling five-round match to Rose, as she is gen­er­ally known, ear­lier this month.

“I wasn’t able to fight her strength and big build,” Priew­pak said. “She fights like a man be­cause she is re­ally a man,” added Priew­pak, who sus­tained a gash above his right eye in the fight at the cap­i­tal’s Ra­jadamn­ern Sta­dium.

Score­board

It was the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive win for Rose in the rev­ered Muay Thai arena af­ter be­com­ing the first trans­gen­der fighter there last month.

The crowd was clearly in her cor­ner, cheer­ing wildly for her through­out.

“Be­ing a trans­gen­der doesn’t mean that we’re weak,” Rose said af­ter the fight. “We can achieve any­thing.”

The 21-year-old started fight­ing at age 8, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of an un­cle, a Muay Thai fighter who en­cour­aged her to train. Her twin brother is also a Muay Thai fighter.

Born Som­ros Polchareon, Rose said she iden­ti­fied as a wo­man at an early age and be­gan wear­ing makeup and a sports bra in the ring.

In the ru­ral towns where she has done most of her fight­ing, her ap­pear­ance dis­con­certed some of her male op­po­nents.

“They would say they didn’t want to fight with a gay per­son as it would be embarrassing if they won or lost,” she said. “I still face those in­sults, but I don’t care about them.”

Thai­land is widely seen as a par­adise for gay and trans­gen­der peo­ple, but many say they are treated as sec­ond-class cit­i­zens.

Trans­gen­der women fig­ure on tele­vi­sion, in beauty pageants and at hair sa­lons and cos­met­ics coun­ters, but they can­not change their gen­der des­ig­na­tion on iden­tity pa­pers, de­spite a 2015 law against gen­der-based dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Af­ter more than 300 fights, rack­ing up 30 of her 150 wins through knock­outs, Rose said she was fi­nally al­lowed to fight at Ra­jadamn­ern Sta­dium.

Put­tipong Plukram, the owner of the camp in the north­east­ern prov­ince of Buri­ram where Rose trains, calls her a “great role model”, cit­ing her dili­gence in chores and training, and say­ing she of­ten runs far­ther than any­one else.

“Ev­ery­one re­spects and adores her,” said Put­tipong, 56.

Rose is not Thai­land’s first trans­gen­der boxer. That was Parinya Charoen­phol, the sub­ject of the 2004 film Beau­ti­ful Boxer.

Toom even­tu­ally ran a box­ing school and Rose some­day hopes to do the same.

Rose also as­pires to be an am­bas­sador for Muay Thai around the world, and urges trans­gen­der fight­ers in ru­ral ar­eas not to be dis­cour­aged by early set­backs.

REUTERS

Muay Thai fighter Nong Rose Baan Charoen­suk, a trans­gen­der, trains at a gym in Buri­ram prov­ince, Thai­land, on July 3.

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Ath­letes and of­fi­cials launch the World Taek­wondo Grand Slam Cham­pi­ons Se­ries in Bei­jing on Mon­day.

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