While many may regard Thailand as an LGBT-friendly country because of its vast normalization of transwomen and ladyboys (locally called kathoey), but the Thai society is more than what meets the eye. Conservative culture and values still remain.

"I don't know what to say but everything I am is just who I am, it's not something I created or wanted to be, I am just who I am.

Since I was very young and didn't even know the word 'Tom' I was punished by my mother because I walked like a man so I cried and asked my mom 'How to walk nicely?' Mom heard me and so she stopped punishing me and forcing me about how to walk. I got bullied when I was young but it disappeared when I grew up. 

I want to tell the society and the parents who do not understand us to be more open-minded. People any sex can be bad and good. Love is beautiful. Love is understanding, taking care each other, and compromising. Please do not judge that we are wrong or different, we're just like you who have feelings, who have hearts, and we work for our family. Please do not be disgusted by us as long as we do not disturb you or the society."

Jib, age 25

"I don't feel that being tomboy is different from other genders or should be treated any differently. I can't say that it is an identity because I feel that I am just like anyone else in the world, just like other genders; I don't want others to limit what gender I am.

Since kindergarten I didn't like wearing something small and tight for girls except I had to wear the girls school uniform. 

At home, my family understood because I am still a good person and if I do something wrong it is not because of my gender, but my behavior and action.

As i said earlier, this group or people is ordinary people who cannot choose which sex they are born with but when they express their identity, please give them chance and be open minded because they are normal people who want to be accepted just like anyone else."

Prae, age 22


"I want people to look at other people inside and out, not just judge them by their sex. Everyone is equal. It's not necessary to look at people as the third gender, ladyboys, gay I mean I don't want sexual discrimination in the society. Human is human, they have a feeling just like anyone else and as long as they are not dangerous to the community I'm ok. I am what I am and it doesn't have to be in common with anyone"

Jojo, age 29

Within Bangkok alone, a full spectrum of gender expression lies among tomboys. While most of them carry masculine traits, some are comfortable to exhibit their feminine characteristics such as wearing lipsticks or eye makeup. A few rejected the label “tomboy” they’re given by the society. 

“Actually, I don’t want to be defined as a tomboy. I want to be a man. In the future, I’ll be a transgender man,” 21-year-old Phatchaporn Eiam-sakul said.

American photographer Derek Brown, who has been living in Thailand for 13 years, captured over 65 Bangkok tomboys as part of this project. The photography exhibition aims to give voices to LGBTQ teens and adults and promote greater acceptance of gender diversity of the capital city.

“Working with the Bangkok lesbian and tomboy community opened my eyes,” said Brown. “One gets so used to seeing toms out and about in Bangkok, often with their girlfriends. It all seems all accepted and normal. Getting to know the individuals closer I learned of their struggles with family and society along with some of their day to day challenges.”

Shooting the subjects for three months, Brown, also the owner of Studio Soi Six in Bangkok, learned that there is “no single monolithic ‘tomboy’ sexuality.”

“Like all people of all genders and orientations, there’s a range of gender fluidity,” Brown said. “There is not one tomboy bucket you can drop everyone into.”

“At the end of the day it’s about celebrating our uniqueness,” said Brown. “It was a real pleasure to work with subjects from the Bangkok LGBTQ community who taught me something about the power being comfortable in my own skin and self.”

"I came out when I was 13, my family was fine with it, they just didn't want me to be sexist to straight people. My friends and people in society are friendly to me. It doesn't matter what gender you are, but you should not be a sexist or homophobia. Unite and support us because some people in our society still won't accept us. Help improve their ability to see the bright side."

Bell, age 23


"I came out when I was in grade 7. People need to understand that not all tomboys are bad."

Plam, age 15

"Ever since I can remember I never liked boys, but I didn't know that I was a tomboy until I was in grade 4. My family give me freedom to be what I want to be but just have to be a good person. My friends all accept me as a tomboy. Being tomboy, lesbian or homosexual is not a bad thing. I want the society look at who we are not our sexual orientation.'"

Maprang, age 23

"I came out in grade 10, I liked one of my girl friends so much. People started to notice that I was wearing elastic band tube instead of regular bra. Being a tomboy is about sexual orientation and fashion preferences which to me are we are all the same, nothing is different. I want people to stop thinking that tomboys, gays, trans are different."

Poy, age 22


"Being a tomboy is not to be 100% like a boy but not to be girl neither, it's in between boys and girls but we are attracted to girls. When I was 13, my family didn't accept it at first because I am the only daughter but time makes them understand in who I am."

Jam,  age 22


"It makes me happy to be like this. It's not easy to be a tomboy and not everyone can be one. Some people want to be a tomboy because they follow the trend but others want to be from their heart."

Import, age 17

"I like it this way, this is myself and when I express myself I become happier. I knew I was a tomboy since grade 7, my friends were ok with me, but my family wasn't. In the end I am what I am, I can't be anyone else. 'Hate me as I am' is better than 'Love me as I am not'."

Nam, age 21

"Being a tomboy is to express my true self, what i feel and what I want to do, like a boy. At first nobody accepted it but now they do. I came out when I was 13, my family only asked me to be a good person"

Tattoo, age 21


"To be a tomboy is to be myself which is not just some trend I follow

I've been a tomboy since I was 5, but I didn't have any idea what it meant to be. When I came out, my family wouldn't accept me, they forced me to put on girl clothes, separated me from my friends and stuff. 

Now I'm much older and I have a job, take care of myself and at last my family can accept me. It's ok if you are tomboy since you were young, but I do not support that you keep switching yourself again and again, if you're happy with what you are, you better be it."

Timtim, age 25

•    •    •


Tomboy Bangkok was shot in the spring of 2018 with over 70 different tomboys coming to Studio Soi Six for a portrait sitting. 

See portraits of all participants.

Using Format