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“Same same, but different”: A baseline study on the vulnerabilities of transgender sex workers in the sex industry in Bangkok, Thailand

Jarrett D. Davis (Department of Research, up! International, Bern, Switzerland)
Glenn Michael Miles (Department of Human & Health Sciences, Swansea University, Swansea, UK)
John H. Quinley III (Independent Researcher, Bangkok, Thailand)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 3 September 2019

Issue publication date: 3 September 2019

Abstract

Purpose

This paper is a part of a series of papers seeking insight into a holistic perspective into the lives, experiences and vulnerabilities of male-to-female transgender persons (from here on referred to as “transgender persons”/“Ladyboys”) within the sex industry in Southeast Asia. “Ladyboy” in Thai context specifically refers to the cultural subgroup, rather than the person’s gender identity and is not seen as an offensive term. Among the minimal studies that have been conducted, the majority have focused on sexual health and the likelihood of contracting or spreading HIV/AIDS, while often ignoring the possibility of other vulnerabilities. The paper aims to discuss this issue.

Design/methodology/approach

The study interviews 60 transgender persons working within red light areas of Bangkok. The final research instrument was a questionnaire of 11 sub-themes, containing both multiple choice and open-ended questions.

Findings

This study found that 81 percent of participants had entered the sex industry due to financial necessity. There was also a high vulnerability among transgender sex workers to physical and sexual violence. This includes nearly a quarter (24 percent) who cite being forced to have sex and 26 percent who cite physical assault within the last 12 months.

Social implications

These findings can aid the development of programs and social services that address the needs of ladyboys, looking beyond gender expression and social identity to meet needs and vulnerabilities that often go overlooked.

Originality/value

This survey provides deeper understanding of the vulnerability of transgender sex workers, including their trajectory into sex work and potential alternatives.

Keywords

Citation

Davis, J.D., Miles, G.M. and Quinley III, J.H. (2019), "“Same same, but different”: A baseline study on the vulnerabilities of transgender sex workers in the sex industry in Bangkok, Thailand", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 39 No. 7/8, pp. 550-573. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-01-2019-0022

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited