Somros “Rose” Polchareon is a 19 year-old Muay Thai (Thai boxing) champion. Rose is a trans woman and a fierce competitor in a sport that is a sacred part of Thai culture. Traditionally, women are not allowed in the fight ring. But as a male-bodied person the rules of competitive Muay Thai allow Rose to become successful and earn money for the surgeries that will give Rose the body she needs to live a complete life.
Rose is not the first Thai trans woman boxer to use her winnings to finance sex realignment surgeries. In 1999 (when Rose was about 3 years old), Parinya “Nong Toom” Charoenphol was a nationally famous boxer who used her prize money for surgery. Nong Toom’s life is dramatized in the film Beautiful Boxer (2005).
Thai boxing transforms the body into weapons to fight an opponent, but it is more than a sport: Muay Thai is part of Thai national identity. Rose and Nong Toom used Muay Thai to achieve their identities and transform their lives within Thai culture.