Nattakron 'Nutchy': A Transgender Orphan's Inspiring Journey to Becoming Village Head of San Khayom Village, Lamphun, and A Dedicated Advocate for Sustainable Development.
November 21, 2023
A child was embraced with love and care by the villagers, having lost her mother at the tender age of three months. The child’s name was Nattakron 'Nutchy' Sampansak.
Deprived of her mother, the orphan found parental guidance from her grandmother, supported by the caring community of villagers. Though born male, Nattakron has always known that she was a girl since her childhood
"I used to wear my brother's fighting shorts, but I turned them into a one-legged skirt by folding one leg in. I even fastened a large to the soles of my shoes, crafting my makeshift high heels. From that moment, I realized I was not a boy," reminisced Nattakron, reflecting on her childhood memory.
Nattakron was always at the top of her class, including her admission to an all-boys provincial school. Her active involvement extended to numerous village events such as religious and Kathin ceremonies, not to mention organizing traditional class sessions for her female friends and engaging actively in many volunteer works. These participations earned her the role of the youth representative for the village. The early activities of community service and the affection from her fellow villagers would prove to be a crucial foundation for the future of young Nattakron.
Being the cream of the crop in education also earned Nattakron the praises of the villagers, not to mention her successful admission into the Bachelor of Social Work in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Chiang Mai University, a rare feat amongst the villagers.
It was at Chiang Mai University that she was reborn under the name ‘Nutchy’ Her university experience also instilled in her a new perspective on humanity: the belief that everyone is inherently good, and wrongdoing often stems from societal structures. According to Nichy, understanding the underlying causes and engaging in empathetic conversations with the wrongdoers is crucial. This approach opens avenues for addressing social issues effectively, moving beyond superficial judgments at an individual level.
In addition to her academic pursuits, Nutchy also actively engaged in various activities, notably serving as a mentor for the beauty pageant contestants, elevating their beauty in numerous stages. Nichy has always had a talent for this type of work since her childhood.
After graduating from the university, her life took various turns, ranging from being a research assistant to working in a subdistrict administrative organization. She eventually found employment in the spa business, where her career advanced, leading her to a prominent hotel and spa in northern Thailand.
Having led an eventful life and enjoying a satisfactory income, everything changed one day when a villager friend presented her with a thought-provoking suggestion: "Have you ever considered running for the position of village head? I think it suits you."
She recalled, "I pondered it for a while. I have always felt a deep connection to my San Khayom Village. Every family of villagers brought me up and fed me. As a child, I made a commitment that one day I would return to repay their kindness. Combined with the constant stream of ideas for societal development stemming from my Bachelor of Social Work, I decided to leave my stable-income job and applied for the position of village head."
Having played numerous behind-the-scenes roles to support others in winning, the time has come for Nutchy to win her own tiara. However, her stage was not the conventional beauty pageant; instead, it was the election of the village head.
Despite her unwavering commitment and determination, the voting results placed her as the first runner-up, trailing the winner by about twenty votes and falling short of securing the position of village head this time. However, Nichy displayed graceful acceptance and resilience. Post-election, she extended a helping hand in the activities organized by the current winner while simultaneously continuing her work in the spa business, one of the professions she excelled in.
As her life continued and her spa work went well, one day a villager brought up the election again, saying, "The current village head is resigning. Are you still interested in becoming the village head?" She took some time to contemplate and reflect on the proposition.
"Here comes the opportunity, but should I do it? Does my commitment still stand? In the end, I realized that my dedication to San Khayom Village remains unchanged, just as it was when I was a child," pondered Nichy as she contemplated the prospect.
Nutchy applied once again. This time, she found herself without competitors, leading to a qualification inspection that deemed her fit for the position. Consequently, she secured the role of village head.
However, Nutchy's tenure began in the challenging times of the 2020s during the COVID-19 pandemic. There was little time for celebration as a significant and demanding mission awaited her. Nichy had the responsibility of caring for the villagers of San Khayom Village, officially recorded at a population of 1,054 according to civil registration. Yet, there were an additional 300 hidden populations, mostly unregistered immigrant workers, bringing the total to 1,400.
"A village head's primary responsibilities are to alleviate suffering and foster happiness," explained Nutchy.
"During the COVID-19 pandemic, suffering was widespread and tremendous. The first essential policy was to establish a villager network for infection containment. There were numerous considerations, such as the caring method for the infected, determining the location of quarantine zones, and managing rationing and medicine distribution. It was imperative for everyone to actively participate in these efforts. Thus, the creation of a villager network became of utmost importance. Simultaneously, it was crucial for individuals to protect themselves from infection to ensure an ample workforce for caring for the infection. Through collaborative efforts across all sectors, San Khayom Village successfully managed to control COVID-19.”
An additional challenge arose as the village hosted approximately 300 immigrant workers, a vulnerable group with limited access to medical resources compared to the Thai population. Nutchy made great efforts to attend to this group of the population, emphasizing that, regardless of nationality, they were integral members contributing to the village's workforce, while highlighting that COVID-19 infected everyone, immigrants and Thai alike. Nutchy took pride in her mission of caring for these vulnerable groups with restricted access to medication.
Even though the villagers had been like family to her since childhood, Nichy sometimes faced comments questioning her capabilities based on her external appearance as a woman. Some expressed concerns that her feminine gender might hinder her effectiveness in her role.
According to the "Being LGBT1 in Thailand" survey conducted in 2018, the largest national survey on LGBTQI issues, findings indicated that 21 percent of transwomen reported frequent verbal attacks and a significant 61 percent disclosed experiencing discrimination in the workplace.
Nutchy experienced similar discrimination. When initially taking the role of village head, there were numerous doubts voiced by villagers, questioning whether her gender as a woman would be a disadvantage in her role as a governing body. Concerns were raised about her ability to apprehend criminals, detect substance abuse, handle forest fires, and maintain the community forest. Nutchy addressed these doubts by fostering understanding and proving her capabilities. She established a collaborative network that included both villagers and government officials to demonstrate her commitment and competence.
Concerning the village's security, Nutchy fostered strong relationships with the police to ensure the well-being of the villagers. Additionally, she encouraged community members to actively participate by sharing information and being vigilant for each other's safety. Nutchy's approach to village development aligns with one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG11: making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Notably, her efforts correspond to SDG11.3, which emphasizes the importance of participatory development in settlements—an aspect that Nutchy has consistently prioritized.
Nutchy consistently encountered challenges related to her gender, particularly being perceived as weaker due to her collaborative approach. When addressing issues, Nutchy's method involved initiating dialogues with those causing trouble to identify the root causes before formulating solutions. This approach, influenced by her education in social work, aimed to eliminate true pain. However, some interpreted this as a lack of decisiveness on her part.
Furthermore, Nichy dedicated herself to rehabilitating the mental well-being of various groups, including immigrant workers and women who had experienced serious accidents. Her approach, which is inclusive to emotional states, led some to perceive her as placing excessive emphasis on emotions, in contrast to the more direct and confrontational principles associated with male leaders. Some assumed that this mannerism, stemming from her feminine behavior, might make her appear weak. However, her three-year track record ultimately demonstrated that her gender, amiable-oriented work method, and open-minded attitude had a positive impact on the village's improvement.
Nutchy's mission as the village head extends beyond the alleviation of suffering; it also encompasses the fostering of happiness and serving as an inspiration, particularly for the village youths.
Nutchy's ascent to the position of village head was made possible by a community that provided opportunities for children to express their opinions and engage in various activities. In reciprocation, Nutchy has returned the favor by enhancing public engagement, creating platforms for villagers and youths to voice their opinions, and collaboratively contributing to the development of the village.
In this village, all youths, particularly girls and those identifying as LGBTIQ+ are encouraged to express their opinions. Recognizing the significance of providing opportunities for individuals who may have faced exclusion from leadership activities in other areas, Nichy believes that enabling girls and LGBTIQ+ children to voice their ideas and participate in the development of their villages is crucial for inspiring them.
I collaborate with the girls and LGBTQI+ children," Nutchy smiled as she shared photos of the girls, “We provide them with opportunities, embrace their ideas and identities, and encourage them to express themselves appropriately. Initially, this will inspire them to contribute to the village. Once they realize they can be valuable contributors, the girls will become more confident and prouder of themselves. This newfound confidence and pride make them more enthusiastic about engaging in various activities in the future," she explained.
Nutchy firmly believes that a community without the power of its youth is a place without the possibilities of development. The development efforts must focus on understanding the youth, and the key to achieving that understanding is to listen to them as much as possible. Nutchy sees her current role as passing on her tiara to the next generation,
Collaborating with the new generation is akin to co-creating a dream world. Nutchy’s dream world is one where everyone accepts different opinions, and there is no prejudice based on gender, sexuality, attire, or behavior. It is a world characterized by empathy.
“I believe that, despite differences in opinions, by avoiding prejudices and biases, there will be no violent conflicts. This understanding is the key for people to foster empathy and work towards collaborative solutions,” expressed Nutchy.
Taking on the leadership role as a transgender individual serves as a testament to others that, irrespective of gender and sexuality, anyone can be a capable leader. individuals, whether youths, women, or members of the LGBTIQ+ community, have the potential to actively participate in leadership roles across various sectors. Despite the challenges faced by women and LGBTIQ+ individuals related to attitudes, societal structures, and some laws, societal efforts aligned with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5—encouraging policies for gender equality—can contribute significantly to reducing discrimination based on gender and sexuality. Nutchy's activities in her village align seamlessly with the objectives of SDG 5.
“Ma, I realized I want to be a village head just like you,” shared one of the LGBTIQ+ students with Nutchy during her lecture at a school.
This statement affirms that not only does Nichy's role as a village head demonstrate her capabilities to the villagers, but it also serves as an inspiration for children like her. It has led her to envision herself working for the betterment of society and has opened numerous possibilities for her future vocations, despite being an ordinary individual often marginalized by society countless times.
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