"Tom" the LadyBoy on the street
NightLight's focus has always been on helping women who have been exploited in the sex industry of Thailand. The number of men who are exploited here, however is a growing concern for many organizations. "Tom" is a good example. "Choice" and "consent" should never be justification for continuing exploitation. Our desire is to reach any individual who, trapped by circumstances, ends up in the sex industry. Our divine appointments lead us to those very individuals. On this given night our divine appointment was with "Tom."
"Tom" the LadyboyWaiting for God's prompting we passed one bar after another. "C" bar came my mind. As we went through the curtain I looked up and saw ladyboys dancing. The bar had just been changed to an all ladyboys bar. I must have been mistaken and heard God wrong. As we turned and walked out, I stared with disapproval at the policeman sitting comfortably at the entrance in his usual position.
Emily called and I turned to see "Tom" sitting outside. I had prayed with Tom in a different bar back in January. Tom, one of the mamasans, is a large man dressed in a yellow jacket wearing make-up and earrings. Tom is a very sweet and gentle person who feels like a woman trapped in a man's body. I struggle to choose the appropriate pronoun. I find it difficult to call him her, but when I call her him I feel like I am rejecting the identity he has chosen. Tom tells us that he/she is bored with this work. "It is all about sex," Tom tells us. Tom wants relationships that build from friendship as opposed to relationships that start with sex and are all about sex. Tom said it feels dirty. "I'm tired of it but the owner likes me," Tom said. "How much do you get paid?" I asked. "12,000 baht a month," Tom said. "But if I had a good job that paid 8000 baht I'd take it to feel better."
"I believe in God, you know." Tom had told me that in January. Tom went to a Catholic school growing up and a Christian-sponsored high school. Nikki, another team member, said she had Tom on her mind tonight when we passed the old bar and had regretted not stopping. "God brought us here to you tonight," I told Tom. "6th sense," Tom asked? "No, God." I told Tom how we ask God to lead us to the person God wants us to talk with. I said, "God had you on His mind tonight. All these people working here and God brought us to you." Tom looked pleased. I asked how I could pray. Tom said he doesn't like the way he is; in between sexes. He wants to be complete as a woman. He has felt more female since preschool. I held Tom's hands and prayed that "Tom" would find his true identity in Christ and know God's love with confidence. I prayed God would provide a better job and reveal the good plans God has for Tom's life.
Tom thanked me and asked for my number. He wants to surprise me and come to church some Sunday. Tom wanted to know if dress was casual. "Yes," I answered, wondering if he would be wearing the long dangly earrings and make-up. I hope he comes. I hope she comes. I hope the first people he/she meets are those who will welcome Tom as he/she is. I'm fairly confident this church will be welcoming. The pastor has told me before that Tom would be welcome. Thailand has many transvestites and transsexuals working in many sectors so there are many opportunities to know and love them. Of course, there are still many who avoid knowing them because it is easier to judge and exclude when you don't know and love someone. Thai society though is generally more accepting of those who call themselves "ladyboys." Tom has many skills and will be a great asset to an organization like ours some day. My mind envisions the possibilities. Only God knows.
Thank you for your commitment to pray and support NightLight, and all those who are doing outreach in the red light districts.