Than Zaw Oo
photo credit: IOM/Muse mohammed
“I was interested in joining the beauty course because I have a girl’s mind and I would like to learn more about beauty and this subject. I am transitioning to be a woman. I am finishing my vocational course soon and it has taken 3 months.
I would like to learn everything including cutting hair for men and women and doing makeup.
When I first wanted to attend this training my parents didn’t agree with this decision as these jobs are generally done by women but I asked them again and again and eventually they agreed. In Mon State there are a few transgender women who are working in the beauty industry.
After I finish the training I will try and become a professional and I will work at my friend’s shop. I am thinking of opening a shop in my ward and work only here in my native town as there is no shop. All my friends are working here. It costs about 20 Lakhs (around $1,500 USD). I will still need to learn for about a year before I am fully competent.
My father doesn’t like my transitioning. In front of my father I have to appear like a man. My mother accepts me.
Here the teacher explains everything in detail and I also used to work at my friend’s shop before I attended the training where I learnt some basic knowledge on how to dye and straighten hair, but here I can learn more detailed techniques.
I can also use some of the techniques I learn here for my transition. If I wear like a lady I look more beautiful. Here there are not many people who have transitioned but in Yangon, (Myanmar’s largest capital city) there are some famous people who have fully transitioned.”
Large numbers of young people from Mon and Kayin State, in Myanmar’s South East migrate irregularly into neighbouring Thailand. Nearly half of Myanmar’s migrants into Thailand were from Mon and Kayin States and it is estimated that there are close to 3 million workers there at any one time (many undocumented). By undertaking vocational training, people like Than Zaw Oo have more opportunities in their local Townships and learn about safe migration.
Interview: Liam Best / Translation: John Nyun