Human remix: Amazing transgender performer on "Thailand's Got Talent" (video)

Video Link. A version with English subtitles is here.

Above, Bell Nuntita, or in Thai, Nuntrita Khampriranon, on the "Thailand's Got Talent" TV show.

I will refrain from including any spoilers in this blog post, but just stay with it. The performance is clever and beautiful. Thailand is a country with many problems, but it's pretty awesome that a moment like this can happen in popular culture there, with applause and acceptance.

Make sure you see her message to her father, the last 45 seconds or so of the video clip. And you just *try* not to cry while you're watching that.

(Via Andrea James)


  1. Whenever I see the word Thailand anywhere on the internet, my mind goes straight to a podcast from the “Ask A Pilot” guy where he talks about flying with some of his colleagues, Americans who were entrusted with the lives of hundreds of passengers on a daily basis and in charge of multi-million dollar jet aircraft who thought that Thailand and Taiwan were the same place.

  2. Meanwhile, in 1998, Dana International won Eurovision. Granted, the US still has a long way to go. The only transgender celebrity that comes to my mind here is Wendy Carlos.

  3. She’s cute and obviously has quite the vocal range. She could be a big hit in the West. Her looks and voice would attract pop appeal and her gender identity and probably tendency to annoy puritans would give her publicity and alternative cred/appeal.

  4. I watched the original Thai video, and teared up when the hosts gave her the hugs at the end.

    Then I went and watched the subtitled version, and now the waterworks are in full force.

    Holy cow.

  5. her name is still “bell” in thai! the second name you provided is her birth name, but most thai people don’t use their given first name in day-to-day life.

    this is actually a fairly common trick in transgender (krathoey) performances in thailand; singing both parts of a duet, or male/female medleys, etc. here’s one that was really big last year: sung by mum laconic.

    of course this one is in a different league, with the surprise factor & all!

  6. Very talented and wonderful. This made me happy! :3

    …just another example of gender binaries and gender roles being irrelevant in the macro view of things. Art is art!

    1. Well, the special quality of her performance of the song is that she was able to portray both gender binaries in terms of singing.

      Its like she has a superpower that the cis-gendered lack.

      1. Yeah. I never thought I’d say this of a pop music performance on a talent show, but it’s pretty subversive and fabulous to be able to take the tropes of the cissupremacist gender binary and break and reconfigure them like that – and on a national TV show, no less!

        The video’s actually really problematic (as I’ve laid out in my novel-length sooper serius not-replying-to-you post), but awesome regardless.

  7. I’m still tearing up.thank you for posting this.What a hard life this sweet person has had.And what a beautiful voice..

  8. Hey – happy Transgender Day of Visibility, everyone!

    It can be a powerful thing to see a fellow transgender person making her way in the world; as much as we suffer, the narrative around what it is to be trans can be heavily associated with memories and experiences of pain and oppression, which is both dangerous and unfortunate. We’ve got the rest of the world to tell us that being trans is undesirable, a defect, a flaw. It’s important to remind ourselves that we are not the bullshit that is constantly foisted upon us; we all have power inside of us, and some of us have even been able to release that power in damnation of the odds. If this singer were cisgender (non-trans), I’d probably write the video off as just another shitty talent show. It doesn’t matter, though, that the setting makes me uncomfortable, or that I find the music bland; knowing the fire that she went through to get to that stage, and still every day making my way through that fire myself, watching friends stumble through, it’s important just to be reminded that there are trans people out there being really fucking good at something, and getting applauded for it. Hokey? Maybe, but true.

    It angers me that being trans is considered such a spectacle; it seems sometimes like a trans person can only ever be well-known for being trans – or for being the TRANS this or the TRANS that. Those who do “make it” in the conventional sense have to make it in a world built by cisgender people in ignorance of (or bigotry towards) our existance, and the terms of those conventional kinds of success are harsh; one must be “passable” – i.e. look/sound/act like what cis people think a cis person should look/sound/act like – and be willing to expose oneself to vomit-inducing, withering amounts of transphobia, sexual objectification, exotification, ignorance from those who “mean well,” etc. One must be able to endure being considered not serious, tabloid fodder, a sort of sideshow freak. One must endure being framed in a gender culture and gender language dedicated to persistently upholding the myth of a gender binary – masculine, heterosexual, dominant men on one side of the unbridgeable chasm, and feminine, heterosexual, submissive women on the other. One must, of course, identify as binary – as either a man or a woman; as unseriously as all trans people are taken, genderqueer and other non-binary-gendered people (such as myself) are respected even less. One must be willing, to some extent, to sacrifice dignity and put oneself on display as an Exotic Trans Person.

    The narrative of surprise that’s used here plays, unfortunately, into a really negative and dangerous – sometimes deadly – stereotype about trans women – that they’re “really men” or “girlboys” who trick innocent heterosexual men into thinking that they’re “real women.” This is known as “trans panic;” it has been used, in one case successfully, as a legal defense argument by men who flew into a rage and injured or killed trans women after discovering they were trans. It’s a double-edged sword – employers, the government, and society in general demands that we be either a man or a woman – not all of us are either of those things – and demands that we pass, which not all of us can. They demand that we change our bodies to be like cisgender and cissexual bodies, and that we make our trans-ness invisible, that we assimilate. Then, we go out into the world at large, whether to date or just to go about or daily business, and we’re objectified, exotified, misgendered, and subjected to the rage – and sometimes violence, rape, murder – of people whose own gender and sexuality insecurities are brought to the surface by our very existence. We’re told to hide and conceal, and then punished and attacked for hiding and concealing, because so many cis people feel that what we’re hiding and concealing is the “fact” that we’re “not really men” or “not really women.”

    All that being said, there’s a real subversive power to using that trope for positive ends. So it’s not all bad – it’s dismantling the master’s house with the master’s tools, to be sure, but powerful nonetheless.

    TL;DR – rock on, awesome-voiced trans sister!
    Oh, and happy Trans Day of Visibility. :3

    1. The above novel-length post is my creation, by the way; I forgot to log in. Sorry about that. :D

    2. You know, I was bummed when I watched the English version to hear the stereotypical and lame narrative of the judges, about “trickery,” “deception,” surprise. I guess Thailand is no fairy tale for trans folk, either. But there are some really beautiful elements in the video, as you note, namely the strength of spirit of the performer.

      1. Thailand certainly *isn’t* fairytale land for trans folk, no – but it is one of the less terrible places to be trans (in some respects, for some trans people), at least, which is good in itself.

        And hey, thanks for reading my dissertation! :D

      2. From the judges’ body language and expressions, it’s pretty clear that the ‘deception’ and ‘trickery’ accusations were made fairly playfully and not totally serious in tone.

        Kind of a ‘ha ha ha you fooled me’ rather than a ‘I thought you were a woman and you made me gay so DIEDIEDIE’.

        1. Yes, I realized that when I saw the video, and wrote my comments. Doesn’t change the validity of my observations.

  9. Having just returned from Thailand I got the sense transgenders are relatively more accepted there. By the accounts I heard from guides it’s estimated that they make up some 15% of the Thai population.

  10. One of the most startling things I saw in this video is that J.Lo is moonlighting as a judge here and appears to speak Thai fluently.

  11. why did she give away the chance to switch to her female voice again to close the number?

    she can perform duets without having to share the pay. and she can sing, and so can he.


    1. I love the idea of a “female voice” and a “male voice” – “love” as in “I think it’s ridiculous and it makes me laugh.” Does that mean that trans women – or cis women – with low, husky voices have “male voices,” that their vocal chords are somehow gendered male? Does that mean that trans men – or cis men – who have higher, softer voices have “female” vocal chords? And, you know, since I’m genderqueer, what gender is my voice? Do I have a “genderqueer voice” because I’m GQ, or perhaps a “male voice” because I was assigned male at birth, or…?

      I’m just askin’. :D

      1. In cultural perception low voices are associated with masculinity and high with femininity. Of course that isn’t always the case in reality. There are men with high voices and women with low.

        Irregardless of the individual’s actual sexual orientation, being a male with a high voice can lead to teasing and accusations of being gay or effeminate by other males. Anyone who’s attended high school has probably seen it happen.

        Of course it’s all bullshit and in an ideal world such preconceptions wouldn’t persist. On the other hand if most of the women you meet have higher voices than most of the men you meet, your brain will naturally associate a particular type of voice with a given gender.

        Tonality in voices differ by culture however so what is considered a masculine or feminine vocal tone varies globally.

      2. You’ve probably heard or read her stuff before, but if you haven’t, check out Judith Butler. I’ve only just been introduced to her work, but she makes some fascinating arguments, one being that a persons gender is constructed from the performance of that gender, rather than simply their birth biology.

        1. I’m quite familiar with Judith Butler, yes – and quite sad she’s leaving us in the San Francisco Bay Area to teach at Columbia. If her writing style were at all comprehensible, I might even *enjoy* her. :V

          As someone who’s always experienced gender as shifting, unstable and indeterminate, I was never exactly bowled over with shock and amazement by the argument that gender is socially constructed. She was my introduction, though, to the idea that sex categories are constructed as well, and to the whole concept of gender performativity.

      3. I have to respectfully disagree, in particular, to the comment about the gender association of voices. I’m not going to bother with qualifying myself by listing off how many LGBT people I know or have friended on Facebook. It doesn’t matter. I don’t hate, and I’m not hating. I DO see what you’re saying, and to a certain extent I’m on your side.

        However, the idea that it’s somehow fallacious thinking to consider deeper voices more male-like and higher voices more female-like… I’m not sure that’s incorrect. Sure, it’s more cisgendered to think of it in those terms, but I can hardly think of it as erroneous. Where it becomes incorrect would be to discriminate against someone because their voice doesn’t appear to match their perceived gender; whether or not you decide to like or hate someone based on their voice matching their apparent gender.

        Typical speech patterns would fall on these lines, and I wouldn’t consider somebody morally wrong or discriminatory if they heard a deep, low voice on the telephone and expected there was a male on the other end of the line (or vice versa.)

  12. AnjaFlower, beautiful post. Thank you! For what it’s worth, this cis-gendered person doesn’t care what the contents of your pants OR your chromosomes are, period. Obviously, it’s none of my business, and I don’t care if you show up in my bathroom or get married or adopt. The notion that there are only two sexes (or two genders) is obviously flawed, and the sooner society gets over it, the better. Can’t happen fast enough for me.

  13. The way that Thais feel about transgender folk (“ladyboys”) is incredibly complex… yes they’re widely accepted (though not by everyone) as part of normal life, and yes they still get teased (and often much worse than the joking seen here).

    The teasing, though, is different than the teasing and abuse that “different” people get in the west. It’s more like the kind of teasing that western people do to people who are the same as them – jewish people making jokes about jews, blacks making jokes about blacks, etc. – sometimes these are quite offensive, but it’s not seen as derogatory if you’re making fun of yourself.

    It’s not quite the same, but that’s the general idea – they’re teased as if they were one and the same as the person doing the teasing.

    That said, Thais (and many other Asians) are often intensely racist, even against other Thais who come from different regions (not unlike e.g. white people being racist against the Irish back in the day). It’s definitely not a happy place to be “different” in any way, and the darker your skin, the worse off you are.

    To put it simply: transgender people are way, way more accepted than people with dark skin – even just dark-skinned Thais.

    Also, someone mentioned it already but to give her name and then give her name “in Thai” like this is really strange… both of the names are hers, and neither are “in Thai” which would require Thai script. Everyone – literally everyone – has at least one nickname (usually provided by the family after deciding their “full” name) and full names are rarely used, even often in more official situations.

    I’ve been to Thailand quite a bit, my fiance is from there, and I could make out about a third of what they were saying – more in the song itself, since the lyrics are simple and the words come more slowly :) I spent most of my time there with Thai people from all walks of life (from hill tribe villages – where my girlfriend is from – to the relatively upper class at the university where I was doing research), and not anywhere near touristy areas. However, I am not Thai (or Asian at all) myself, I’m from the US descended from England and Germany. I feel quite comfortable making the observations I offer above as being pretty well true, but I wanted to make this disclaimer just to be clear I’m not really an expert or anything.

  14. I was impressed that the judges and hosts referred to her as she with dignity and honor.

    The song she sang made me think if she was singing to herself, which made it extra poignant.

  15. Except that third judge I will own, was a bit of a nimrod with the ‘I knew something was wrong’ crap.

  16. everybody has two or three different voices.
    look in google how to do it. is trick in your vocal cords.
    you can change the “timbre” of your voice.
    many bisexual or gay men do it.

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