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Believing that teenagers can be dissuaded from certain unwanted behaviors, a Buddhist temple in Thailand has endorsed a program that forbids young monks (would be ladyboys) from displaying feminine mannerisms and from wearing any makeup or perfume.
The Kreung Tai Buddhist temple in Chiang Khong on the Thai-Laos border provides lectures given by older monks who emphasize that the young men were born male and cannot adopt another gender. Although Thailand has one of the largest populations of ladyboys in the world as well as a very tolerant ‘live and let live policy’ when it comes to the ‘third sex,’ many parents fear that their sons will become transsexuals (katoey) and send them off to the temple in an attempt to ward off any feminine impulses. For many Thai boys Buddhist training infuses discipline and they learn to focus on the simpler things in life. Their days consist of rising before dawn to study and collect alms, not wearing shoes, shaving their heads and donning simple saffron robes.
For the last three years, training for boys aged 11 to 18 at the Kreung Tai temple has been directed at eliminating “deviant behavior”. The senior monks accept the difficulties of this program and have had some success but not as much as they had hoped. About half of the boys who have attended sessions gave up their feminine ways but the other half went on to undergo sex changes. “We cannot change all of them…but what we can do is control their behavior and make them understand that they were born a man and cannot act like a woman,” said head-teacher, Ptisanu Witcharato. We can’t help what we are born, and some choices really do seem to be not choices at all but rather acquiescence to that which is innate to the human spirit. Monks or no monks, that essence is powerful, predetermined and it would seem in many cases, implaccable and undeniable.