This Documentary Explores Thailand's Queer Tomboy Culture
Thailand's LGBT spectrum contains a group commonly referred to as "Tomboys" or "Toms," an identity that is unique to Thailand's queer community.
Toms: The Complex World of Female Love, a short documentary by Coconuts TV, explores a sexual identity that is unique to Thailand.
The filmmakers' definition of Thailand's Tomboys – or Toms – is as follows: "Girls who dress and act in a masculine way, typically sporting a uniform look of short hair, T-shirts, and jeans [...] Toms don't consider themselves trans or even lesbians."
The word "lesbian" developed a negative connotation in Thailand since its introduction in the 1970s, leaving room for other labels to gain acceptance. The film notes that Toms usually date extremely feminine women, often referred to as Dees. The Tom and Dee relationships often adhere to stereotypical gender roles and could be compared to the more widely recognized "femme/butch" stereotypes.
Katrina Kaufman, one of the film's producers, explains:
Tom culture is becoming more prevalent in Thailand than ever. Toms are gaining acceptance through movies, social media and prominent figures in the community, especially among younger Thais. But many Toms still face societal discrimination, as our documentary addresses. It's not necessarily overt. They're free to be themselves in public and walk around holding hands with their girlfriends (often ultra-feminine "Dees"). Yet, Toms aren't that accepted by the older generations, and they don't have the same legal rights as heterosexuals in Thailand. Despite the country's reputation for being sexually liberal, there is still a stigma when it comes to same-sex female couples.