Beyond some cheek-pecking and low-intensity hand-holding, public displays of affection are well-understood to be taboo in this kingdom.
Although that’s been gradually changing in recent years with more open affection shown between couples, even same-sex couples, footage posted last night of a meltdown on public transportation shows not everyone is ready to accept these shifting mores.
Instead of going ignored in unhappy silence, a gay couple making out on the BTS were subjected to a volley of verbal abuse and scolding recently in a vocal debate about changing values.
In the footage, a kissing couple is deeply rejected by two cultural conservatives, one woman and one ladyboy, who shout at the tom-dee couple and order them to end their makeout session while the rest of the train has the usual response: acting like nothing is happening.
Here’s how the conversation goes:
Woman: Oh, I’m sorry. This is a public venue. Aren’t you shameless, snuggling up to each other like that?
Tom: So if you see farangs doing that, do you yell at them too?
Woman: Then it’s the farangs’ business.
Tom: So why do you discriminate?
Woman: Well, they don’t do it on the BTS. I don’t discriminate. Thai tradition, you know. I warned you because I want the best for you.
Rejecting the logic that only foreigners are off the hook and can do whatevs, the tom tells the woman to keep her lecturing to herself.
Tom: Thai tradition what? Use that at your home.
Woman: Other people have been trying to tolerate your actions. But if you’re shameless, please proceed!
Tom: If I wasn’t, would I be here?
The argument continues with the tomboy’s lover insisting it’s her private business while the conservative woman insists she’s not being psycho – just expressing her offended values.
Everything ends when a nearby ladyboy steps in.
“You are shameless!” she says to the tomboy. “You snuggle each other, and you keep scolding this woman. Even though you’re a tomboy, you have to be polite. Have you read what people say online? They all condemn people who display public affection!”
The ladyboy then takes a my-way-or-the-highway approach and challenges the tom to a fight, prompting the couple to exit the train.
There’s some lessons here on coping with shifting values and norms, but let’s not forget the wisdom of “get a room” if you want to avoid harassment, because people are gonna mind your business.
Meanwhile, if you’re comfortable pushing boundaries and risking conflict with a kiss, don’t be surprised when you end up on the internet.