Seniority Order Tradition Unity Spirit — SOTUS — is a system of social hierarchy.
The ugly side of SOTUS is where some university organizations use intimidation, force and punishment, whereby senior students mentally abuse junior students into submission to authority.
#อกทกทับแก้ว is not a top-trending hashtag and most people don’t actually know what it means.
It stands for “Katoey Organization of Tub Kaew.”
Katoey is a slang term that applies to transwomen.
Tub Kaew is one of the two campuses of Silpakorn University, located in Nakhon Pathom Province. Silpakorn is one of the top universities in Thailand, with the main campus in Bangkok.
The organization allegedly tries to force all gay and trans students of all five faculties to join.
According to those we talked to, one of the organization’s rules is to force all members to wear women’s clothes. It doesn’t matter if you’re a trans, who would wear women’s clothes anyway, or a gay man, who usually does not wear women’s clothes.
Another rule involves language. It doesn’t matter if you are a gay man who doesn’t say “ka”, has never said it and will never say it. As a member, you must say it.
You would also have to call your seniors “เจ๊” (big sisters).
Forced to come out
The boyfriend never outed himself during his time at school, and so he was not a target for recruitment.
However, according to @icechitsu, the two took graduation portraits together and @icechitsu posted the photos on his social media account.
When members of the organization saw the photos, trouble began.
For the past six months, @icechitsu said they have been harassed by members of the organization, because they disapprove of how his boyfriend kept his gender a secret during his times at school.
When @icechitsu posted about the problem on social media, he received threatening messages such as:
“If you don’t shut up, we would come see you in person.”
“Would you like to know what real harassment is like?”
According to @icechitsu, one of the methods for recruiting members is where the organization targets “suspected” gay students and tries to out them.
“I’ve seen screenshots of a Line group chat where they share photos and names of freshmen [who might be gay],” he said.
“They would then send someone from the organization to investigate.”
The victimization of Lily
A former student, Lily studied at the Faculty of Arts and was a member of the organization.
“I had to join,” she said. “If I didn’t, the seniors said the trans outside of the university would attack me.”
“‘This province is barbaric’, they would tell us,” said Lily.
“If you’re not tough, you won’t survive here. You have to become a member, otherwise you would have to hide.”
Intimidation is an effective way to coerce freshmen to join.
According to Lily, those who don’t want to join are threatened that they will be socially outcast and are barred by the seniors from participating in school activities.
They are forced to keep their heads bowed, wherever they walk past a member of the organization.
New gay or trans students, arriving in a province they are unfamiliary with, separated from families and friends, are vulnerable targets. Many, like Lily, joined simply out of fear.
Initiation process involves breaking you down mentally and spiritually.
According to Lily, for the entire first month of her school experience, five evenings per week, she would be screamed at by the seniors repeatedly and routinely, as they stripped away any shred of self-worth she might have brought with her to the school.
One tactic is to condition her into receiving orders.
Lily said they would shout things like, “I told you not to behave in a certain way and you still did! Why did you do it?!’”
“When the ordeal was over, they would pat my head and stroke my back, saying you’re our little sister now, sorry little sister,” she said.
How long has this tradition and organization been around? Lily said she once asked a former student 10 years older, who said that it was even before her time.
In her third year, Lily decided to leave the organization.
She sent a letter to her faculty to explain her problem and request permission to no longer be a part of the organization with four other faculties.
The request was granted and so Lily turned the organization’s branch in the Faculty of Arts into an LGBTQ club that focused on artistic performances.
While faculty support enabled her to do this, the organization did not take it kindly.
She and members of her club were constantly harassed by the senior members of the organization.
Her juniors would be made to kowtow and wai. They suffered insults and degradation. Lily herself was harassed routinely for having left the organization and for not “teaching her juniors proper manners.”