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A transgender Thai model says she was denied entry into the United Arab Emirates because her passport identifies her as a man.
Rachaya Noppakaroon detailed the “nightmare” she endured last week along with her team of 14 people as they tried to get to Expo 2020 Dubai, where she was set to appear at a Muay Thai demonstration.
“They told me that they will send me back to Thailand,” Noppakaroon recalled in a lengthy Facebook post Wednesday. “The reason is because I’m a woman but I’m a man.”
Noppakaroon said her visit to the world fair was scuttled at Dubai International Airport despite possessing all the necessary travel documents — including her passport, visa and proof of vaccination.
“They asked me to go to a room and asked me why I was a man,” Noppakaroon said.
Some nine hours later, Noppakaroon — who was the runner-up in Thailand’s 2014 Miss Tiffany’s Universe beauty pageant for transgender women — said she was ultimately denied entry into Dubai by immigration officials who made her sit in a men’s waiting room.
“I showed my work in Thailand to show that I exist,” Noppakaroon said of being interviewed by an airport official. “But he didn’t really care and was more interested in sex. He asked if I had done it all. I answered everything. He asked if my boobs were big or small.”
The United Arab Emirates criminalizes homosexuality and makes it illegal to be transgender. “Unnatural sex with another person” is punishable by up to 14 years in prison throughout the Middle Eastern country, according to its criminal code as cited by the UK-based Human Dignity Trust.
An emotional Noppakaroon, of Bangkok, later returned in “tears” to Thailand, where she had to quarantine, but said she didn’t fault airport immigration workers for her agonizing experience.
“We don’t blame Dubai employees for this (but we’re angry),” Noppakaroon wrote in her post. “We blame Thai law if they look down on us and many people who have to face problems like us. I hope they will see that it’s something that needs to be fixed.”
Two days after her viral post, Noppakaroon shared an image of herself in happier times.
“If life is a struggle, let’s have a smile behind it,” a caption read.