Thailand is known for having a huge transgender population. Many trans women participate in pageants, cabaret shows, and adult entertainment. It is rare for trans women to find careers outside of those industries, especially when discrimination against them is rampant in the workplace.
But Nong Rose Baan Charoensuk is literally fighting for a chance to succeed as a Muay Thai Fighter.
At an early age, Nong Rose was trained to become a fighter along with his twin brother. Winning fight after fight, she was recognized by many in her village and the region.
When she came out as trans at the age of 13, her family was against it saying that a trans woman’s gentle and feminine nature opposed the violent nature of combat sports. This did not stop Nong Rose. She chose to continue fighting in the ring as a trans woman. She wore make-up, braided her hair, and wore women’s clothes.
Being trans did not stop her from winning trophies and bagging championships. With her success, she proved to her family that being trans and having an innate feminine nature does not stop one from winning in the ring. Her family grew to accept her decision and identity.
2017 was the year that Nong Rose made history when she became the first transgender fighter to compete at the Rajadamnern Stadium. Prior to that competition, the stadium had a strict dress code against sports bras and long hair. Women and trans women were not allowed to fight in the ring for decades until Nong Rose did. She not only headlined the event, but also won her bout.
Nong Rose doesn’t only want to fight in the ring, but she also mentioned how she wanted to fight the prejudice that disallowed women and trans fighters like her from getting opportunities in this male-dominated sport.
“I fight the way I do to be a representative for transgender women everywhere. I’d like to think that I’m helping at least some part of society accept us for who we are.”
With the help of Philip Villa, founder of Yokkao Fight Team, she was able to sign a three-year sponsorship contract which will allow her to fulfill her dreams of being a Muay Thai ambassador and a champion for trans rights in Thailand and the rest of the world.
Philip Villa also expressed his support for Nong Rose and trans people.
“Transgender people should be given the same rights and respect as everyone else and I do believe that in the Muay Thai world when even females are not considered given the respect they so deserve, this will be the beginning of many changes within Muay Thai. For there to be a change, actions are required and this is my contribution to social equality.