Thai Teenage Birthday Party


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I went to a birthday party in a small village. A friend’s son was turning 15. A monk came over in the morning and oversaw a ceremony where the birthday boy had his wrists wrapped in string, and then the string was wrapped around his mother’s wrists and those of the guests.

There was food in the morning, thai food of course, and then in that evening a party for his friends. Those big bags with a flame at the bottom were sent aloft. Most interesting to me was the fact that the birthday boy’s new girlfriend showed up, but so did a 15-year-old ladyboy (male who dresses and acts female and is referred to as such) who was enthusiastically greeted and brought into the party as an equal. There was also a lesbian girl of the same age, who had her hair cut short. They call them “Toms.” Nobody treated her any differently than the other guests, either.

When I was fifteen, there was no acceptance of any variation in gender roles. High school boys would prove their masculinity by beating up “fags.” I think this Buddhist culture may be more advanced than what we had in Missouri in 1965, when I was 15.

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