Just 3 months back in June this year, Muay Thai’s most influential promoter, Songchai Ratanasuban overturned decades of strict dress code rules enforced at Rajadamnern Stadium that forbid wearing sports bra or sporting long hair. The move paved the way for Nong Rose Bancharoensuk to make her debut at the historical stadium on 7th June. The first ever transgender fighter to ever step into ring of the revered arena and as a headlining bout, no less. Next thing you know, Nong Rose won the fight and her name became plastered all over the media.
With over 300 fights to her name, Nong Rose’s debut Rajadamnern fight was no one-hit wonder. She has since made 2 more fight appearances at Rajadamnern against Karun “Priewpak” Kaemlam and veteran Muay Thai star, Kompayak Singmanee respectively and winning on both occasions. There are reportedly plans for her to fight in Japan by the end of the year and the future now looks all bright and promising for the 21 year old.
Nong Rose’s success and rapport with Muay Thai fans appeared to have opened a door of opportunity for trans fighters in the country. Last night, on Tuesday 19th September, a relatively unknown Angie Petchrungruang became the first trans fighter to enter the ring of the prestigious Lumpinee Stadium. Muay Siam Magazine dubbed her the “Kathoey with the cruel knees from Pattaya”. In her fight against the visibly taller Petchsagon, Angie went on to win with a spectacular KO in round 4 despite getting cut above her left eye. The crowd went wild. Once again, a kathoey is making her mark in the world of Muay Thai.
As her fighter name suggests, Angie trains out of the Petchrungruang Gym in Pattaya. The gym has received a good amount of attention thanks to Sylvie Von Duuglas-Ittu, renowned Muay Thai blogger and fighter who has adopted the camp as her training base. Angie’s incredible journey from her first day at Petchrungruang to her historic fight in Lumpinee has been well documented on Sylvie’s website, 8LimbsUs.
Angie’s Lumpinee debut may be arguably more inspiring than that of Nong Rose as it extends beyond just adorning make-up and sports bra for the fight. Angie started her fight career at the age of 30, when most Thai fighters would have retired. More remarkably, she has actually taken hormones for 10 years and had in fact, developed breasts. She is as close as it will ever get for a female to have stepped to fight in the rings of the top stadiums of Bangkok. The OG kathoey fighter, Nong Toom of “Beautiful Boxer” fame also appeared to support Angie in her Lumpinee debut. This was clearly a significant event for the transgender community in Thailand.
Nowhere in the world are the transgender women as socially accepted as in Thailand. The locals call them kathoeys, which is often translated as “lady boys”. More accurately, the term refers to people who are born male physiologically, but possessing the psychology of a woman. Or as the Thai says, “a female heart”.
Could Nong Rose’ and Angie’s signal a shift in the Thai national sport’s paradigm? Until today, the top Thai boxing arenas of Lumpinee, Rajadamnern and Channel 7 have had a rule that bars women from entering or even touching the rings. Maybe, just maybe, this rule might be completely abolished some day in favor of a new female division at the highest level of the sport.
Nong Rose will take on Petsupan on 12th October 2017 at Rajadamnern Stadium.