With a powdered face, red lips and profiled eyebrows, Thai transgender Nong Rose jumps into the Muay Thai ring with determination to fiercely combat her male opponents and discrimination.
“When I’m in the ring, I just think about winning,” the 22-year-old boxer told EFE before a fight held at the end of September in the eastern city of Phimai, arriving with a blue mini jumpsuit and a bag of Hello Kitty.
As her trainer prepares the fighter’s muscular body by smearing it with liniment and giving her the latest advice, dozens of fans come to pry and wish Rose, turned into a local heroine, luck.
Her rise to fame has been plagued with obstacles for this athlete, nicknamed “the poison rose” and who began in this sport at the age of eight under the influence of her uncle, a famous retired wrestler.
“When I declared my sexuality -at 13-, at first the Muay Thai industry looked down on me and accused me of having an advantage for wearing a sports bra during the fighting” while her opponents fought bare-chested, recalls the Thai woman, whose name Born Somros Polcharoen.
Currently, Rose is the only active transgender in this fighting sport considered national in the ancient kingdom of Siam and follows in the footsteps of Nong Toom, who retired in 1999 – to start her sex change – after being the first «trans »In breaking the conservative rules of this centuries-old practice.
As their fight, the main attraction of the night, approaches, minor boxers exchange punches and kicks on the canvas that heats the bustling atmosphere that surrounds the open-air stage.
“Criticism pushes and motivates me towards victory (…) Some opponents despised me when they saw me fight with makeup, they thought I had no chance against them. And in the end, I won the contest “, confesses the implacable fighter who has more than 60 wins on her card.
The almost hypnotic tone produced by traditional flutes, similar to that used by snake charmers, precedes combat.
Rose, who wears boxer shorts and a top, and her rival dance through the ring in a kind of ritual to add fortune and challenge their adversary.
The Thai woman seems to emulate a butterfly that floats on the canvas flapping its wings, while the opponent runs around the four corners making gestures of virility.
The bell rings. Rose’s family and friends cheer and applaud every hit she lands.
After the five rounds and by unanimous decision of the referees, Rose won the champion and belted the S1 super featherweight belt, organized by the promoter OneSongChai.
“What I want is for all transgender colleagues who feel depressed (because of discrimination) to stand up and fight. We are all good in different aspects or jobs: if you persist, one day you will be successful, ”says the warrior.
«To those transgender women who want to be Muay Thai boxers: practice, work hard, be punctual and you can beat anyone. Being a transgender woman is like any other man who stands up and fights for what he loves, ”continues Rose.
Among the milestones reached by Rose is becoming – in June 2017 – the first transgender to fight in the mythical Rajadamnern stadium, the oldest in this sport and whose ring cannot even be touched by women.
Despite her youth and a long career ahead, which has already led her to fight in other countries such as France or Japan, the Thai fighter already has a future plan.
“I want to establish my own Muay Thai gym for foreigners and locals (…) and start treatment for a future intervention for gender reassignment, although I have not yet planned when it will be,” the champion aspires.
Although Thailand has a reputation for being an open country with the LGBT community (lesbians, gays, transsexuals and bisexuals), civil rights groups denounce that they continue to be treated as second-class citizens.
“My family was always by my side (…) Now there is a new generation, acceptance is greater and tends to improve,” the fighter confides. EFE