We recently viewed the film, Beautiful Boxer, in class and it presented a very interesting portrayal of an example of what life can be like from childhood to adulthood for a transgendered person. It put a face to the internal and external struggles that many gender variant people may have to live with throughout their lives. Set in Thailand, the film follows Nong Toom, a person who was born male, but from an early age had a desire to live life as a female.
The first time we see Nong Toom begin to realize his true identity was when he sees beautifully made up female performers onstage at a fair he attends with his mother, father, and younger brother. He disobeys his mother and leaves the main area to spy on the women putting on their makeup. Nong Toom is fascinated by the beauty and grace that he sees and from that moment on he begins to realize that his true desire to express his inner femininity is hindered by the fact that he was born male.
At first his mother and father do not accept his behavior and they hope that he will eventually outgrow it. When he does not, the two decide that they must do whatever they can to protect him. A poignant scene in the movie is when Nong Toom is beat up by his younger brother. Their mother hears of the fight and screams for her cane. We assume that the younger brother that will be punished; however, Nong’s mother starts to beat him instead for losing the fight. She later apologizes, but tells Nong Toom that he should always have the ability to protect himself because she will not always be able to.
Later, we see Nong Toom as a young man who is depicted in the film as effeminate. He still has a strong desire to become a female; however, living in a poverty-stricken part of Thailand, his dream was more of a fantasy than a reality. His main friend is a girl and he does not get along with the other male teens as well as his younger brother does. Thus, when Nong Toom is mistakenly picked to fight a boxing match, everyone is surprised when he agrees to do it. After a shocking win, Nong Toom learns about the prize money that can be won by boxing and he decides to give it a shot so he can save up enough money to pay for sexual reassignment surgery.
Nong Toom heads to a boxing training camp for young men who aspire to become champions. At first he feels like he doesn’t belong there; however, he proves himself worthy by showing fierce determination and spirit. He soon begins winning all of his matches and makes his trainer proud. One day, he is caught with his coach’s wife putting on makeup and his coach decides to make this his gimmick. Thus, all fights after this he wears makeup and even kisses his much larger opponent after his first match in this persona. However, although Nong Toom is being able to express himself in a better way, he still desires to become a woman and loses a lot of the respect because of others’ ignorance he once had. He is ridiculed by his teammates and is ostracized by the fans.
In the end, Nong Toom realizes that the only way to be truly happy was to give up boxing and finally become a woman. He saves up enough money to have the sexual reassignment surgery and gives up boxing to fulfill his ultimate dream.
The story of Nong Toom is extremely inspirational. She was not afraid to go against what society was telling her to do and to follow the dreams in her heart. She publicly bared her soul and in the end won the ultimate fight: the fight to become the person she truly felt on the inside.