Transfit is a gym in Bangkok, Thailand, that has an all trans men work crew, one of the few in the world.
Its owner, 27-year-old Jyb, is a transgender male model and fitness instructor who hopes to share his training knowledge with others.
In Thailand, ‘tomboys’ — more commonly known as ‘toms’ — are people who are assigned female at birth but dress up in a more masculine fashion and usually date women.
‘A tom is a woman who dresses like a guy, cuts her hair like a guy and goes out with girls,’ Jyb says.
Many toms bind their chests to give a flat appearance. Most also prefer the ‘he’ pronoun. However, only some toms identify as men while many don’t.
Jyb revealed to PRI that some trans men and butch women had ‘felt awkward being stared at’ in mixed gender gyms. That’s why he set up Transfit in 2015, which carries the slogan: ‘Not Only Men Gain Muscles.’
At the moment, the workout facility has a relatively small membership of around 15.
‘We mostly train people one-to-one in private sessions, so we don’t have too many,’ Jyb shared.
As compared to its neighbouring countries in the Southeast Asia region, Thailand is known to be more accepting of LGBTQ culture and people.
Transgender people are regarded as the ‘third sex’ — a term Jyb himself uses.
Many Thai trans women who entertain tourists at cabaret shows are often referred to as ‘ladyboys,’ but in a colloquial, not derogatory, fashion.
‘In Thailand, acceptance for trans people has really shot up in the last five years,’ Jyb told PRI. ‘Of course, you have old-fashioned thinkers who still say it’s wrong. But very few people from the young generation think this way.’
There are also magazines in the country such as @Tom Actz that showcases tom celebrities and tom fashion while giving the latest updates on the community.
Last December, Jyb was the magazine’s cover model:
In the Thai society, women who date toms are called ‘dee,’ which came from the Thais’ pronunciation of the English word ‘lady’ as ‘lay-dee.’
Jyb described that a dee usually exudes ‘mainstream Thai femininity,’ with long hair, long lashes, wears make-up and so, and they often only date toms.
Tom-dee couples are a common sight in mainstream Thailand today. Romantic comedies featuring tom-dee couples are showing in the cinemas, and love songs by toms routinely play on Thai radio stations, reports PRI.
‘You see them everywhere,’ Jyb said of tom-dee couples. ‘They no longer have to hide in fear of society’s judgment.’