Naa Jian born c. 1910 Thailand
gouache on paper, 11 x 7 inches
2015

Naa Jian lived in a rural village in the province of Ayuthaya, Thailand.

In her book, Toms and Dees, Megan Sinnott interviews Ing, a relative of Naa Jian. Ing describes Naa Jian’s mannerisms as “like a man,” and that was “just the way she was.” Naa Jian was a respected member of the community, “did all men’s work—fished (with a net), did farming, all the heavy work.” Naa Jian lived with a woman named Ee Iat, “like husband and wife.” According to Ing, no one could flirt with Ee Iat or Naa Jian would get angry. “At first they had a houseboat together. Then they had a big house and a rice field together.” Naa Jian supported Ee Iat, and they lived together for such a long time that, “If Naa Jian were a man, he would have children and grandchildren by now…”

Ing recalled that Naa Jian had been married to a man before, but they did not get along and had no children. The husband would get drunk and Naa Jian would beat him. He ended up leaving Naa Jian for another wife. Naa Jian told him, “Go ahead and leave. I don’t want you anyway.”

Ee Iat’s nephew lived in another district. He wanted company and asked if she would come to live with him. Naa Jian was devastated when Ee Iat agreed, exclaiming, “This house is for us to live in together. If you’re going to leave, this land and house are mine. If you want to go, you just take yourself and get out of here.” According to Ing, Naa Jian gave Ee Iat fifty thousand baht and told her, “Okay, now we’re broken up. You don’t need to come back anymore. If I die, I’ll give all the rest of my property to the temple.” Later, Ee Iat came back but Naa Jian would not have her.


Sources:


Sinnott, Megan J. Toms and Dees: Transgender Identity and Female Same-Sex Relationships in Thailand. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2004.

Thank you to members of Anjaree Thailand for helping me with translation.