Yollada “Nok” Suanyot
Thai Transgender Activist Wins Provincial Election

By Trudy Ring

Originally published on Advocate.com May 28 2012 9:30 PM ET

Transgender model-actress-singer and activist Yollada “Nok” Suanyot has won election as the top financial officer in Thailand’s Nan province, making her the highest-ranking transgender politician in the nation.

Suanyot won election Sunday, running as an independent against a candidate from the nation’s ruling Pheu Thai party, according to a Thai-language outlet cited by the Global Post news site.

Suanyot, a former beauty pageant winner, has been a photographic model and a member of the singing group Venus Flytrap, a Spice Girls–like act made up of transgender women. She also does commercial voice-overs and runs a jewelry business and a home-shopping TV channel. She is founder of an activist organization, the TransFemale Association of Thailand, working for greater rights for transgender people, including public funding for gender-reassignment surgery.

“We barely have any rights at all at this point,” she told a Global Post interviewer shortly before the election. “Our genitalia is not recognized as female (even after surgery) so, if we’re jailed, we’re put in prison with the men. We can’t get proper health insurance. We can’t get married. We have problems traveling outside the country and trouble dealing with banks and government offices.”

Her gender identity, however, did not figure prominently in the campaign, she said. “As far as I can see, the people of Nan are believers in human rights,” she told the Global Post. “They examine my ability to develop the province more than my gender.”