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Transgender Muay Thai Fighter

Updated: Feb 15

With the dream of becoming a complete woman someday, Somros Polchareon takes up Muay Thai (Thai boxing) as a career, in the hope it will pave her way to complete physical transformation as a woman after her boxing career is over.

Stage name as Nong Rose, son of a rice farmer from Phimai, a small town in rural Isaan, Rose always felt like a girl and started dress like one at the age of 14. She believes in equality but sadly transgenders still have to work harder to prove they are no less than anybody else.

Jogging in the streets of a small village in Chachoengsao Province.

She is the first transgender fighter who made it to the ring at Bangkok’s famed Rajadamnern Stadium, winning two matches in a row, establishing herself as a role model to other transgender fighters in Thailand.

She loves pink, believes it empowers and boost her confidence and she is so brave as to proudly go fighting in the arena wearing red lipstick and a colorful sports bra.

Nong Rose will always put on her make up before training and fights. Here in the photo with a close friend, also a transgender fighter.

First time I met her was a few months back at a training camp in Chachoengsao, where she was training with a fellow transgender fighter and a few others. Fighters need minimum of 3 weeks intensive training to get ready for a fight.

Unlike other training fighters, Nong Rose and her friend are wearing their professional red shorts and sports bra, red lipstick and all, in order to emphasize their femininity.

I knew she was tough and strong but it was only a few months later that I got to see her in real action at her home town Phimai, where she was received as a celebrity.

On location at local Temple Fair in Phimai, Rose prepares for the fight with the help of her trainer. Getting a massage, a short meditation and a prayer.

A small straw mat on the ground, a simple preparation set up by the edge of the Temple compound.

Trainers rub Eucalyptus oil on Nong Rose skin to warm up her muscles.

A short prayer before fight. Rose lights up an incense stick and pray for success in the fight. She then put it in the ground as an offering to the spirits.

Posing for a photo opp in front of the big event poster.

Waiting by the stage to her cue, surrounded by fans and well wishers.

And it's show time!

Cruel as it may seem to foreigners, Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand. It is famous world wide as a super Martial Arts and Thai people are proud of it.

Nong Rose performs the traditional dance on stage before fight begins. She takes her time while her opponent has to watch and wait.

The fight is on, it's not going to be easy.

The use of elbows is a powerful weapon and is allowed in Muay Thai.

Muay Thai fights in rural Thailand are brutal and highly dangerous. Fighters will do whatever they can to win, as this is their chance to get out of poverty.

Both fighters are in a bad shape towards the end of the fight.

It was a tough and brutal fight. Her opponent was equally strong and didn't seem to give up easily. Both fighters were bleeding and trainers did their best to revive the exhausted fighters between rounds. There was no knock out and at the end of the fight we all waited for decision by the judges, which finally gave victory to their own Nong Rose by just one point difference.


A portrait of the winner. Not as pretty as she was before the fight, no lipstick now, some blood still on her face and swollen nose. Price of victory.

It takes a lot of courage to be a Muay Thai fighter. To do it when you are a 'Kathoei' (Thai word for the third gender) you have to be even stronger and braver. Nong Rose proved she's got what it takes, she is a real winner.

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All images © 2018 Noah Shahar

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