Ladyboys and Kathoey – Everything you wanted to know but were too afraid to ask!

The ladyboys of Thailand

Many people confuse this term with men that are now women in every sense of the word but this is not the true meaning of the term.

ladyboys does not have all the physical workings of a female and while they may have some parts or features of a female through surgery or H.R.T (hormone replacement therapy) they still usually have the original genitalia. This part of a ladyboy may never change or may go through the final step of surgery at some point but at that stage the ladyboy ceases to exist and a Transsexual is born.

A transsexual is a person of either gender that has decided to fully transform themselves into the opposite gender. By fully transform I mean everything right down to the lower regions. In this day and age with the breakthroughs in medical abilities and technologies it is now possible to convert physically into the opposite gender through sex reassignment surgery.

Gone are the days where a person believing they were born into the wrong sex had to stuff their bra with socks or tape down their breasts with duct tape. Everything can be removed or added and while it is physically easier to transform a male into a female by removing parts it is also now possible to transform a female into a fully anatomically correct looking male by adding parts.

Thai ladyboys

To undergo full gender reassignment surgery though takes time and patience and of course lots of cold hard cash.

Another point of confusion for those not in the know is the term transvestite (tranny) or cross dresser, this term is given to people that for either sexual reasons or comfort reasons like to dress in clothing of the opposite sex and is usually more practiced by men than women. A transsexual tends to be more private and may only ever dress up in the privacy and seclusion of their own home and in most cases the transformation is kept a secret that in many circumstances not even a partner will know about. Many a marriage has come to an end due to an unsuspecting wife finding a strange pair of lady’s underwear in the husband’s sports bag or behind the wardrobe. Sometimes it’s easier for the guy to admit to an affair than to having the urge to dress up as a woman.

Then there is the Drag Queen.

This refers to a man that merely dresses as a woman in order to do a show or performance. They are not transgender women by any means. Many of these Drag Queens are heterosexual males with no interest in becoming the opposite gender and to them it’s merely a job. Others are part of the gay community and dress to attract attention or to get a message across and also to earn money in the club scene.

Drag Queens have become a huge part of the gay scene and regularly perform at Gay Pride festivals and other LGBT community events.

Ways to spot lady boys in Thailand

If you are one of the thousands of men visiting Thailand in the hope of finding one of these amazingly pretty “women” and becoming romantically involved with them then the only problem you will face is actually the opposite of everyone else. You will need to be able to differentiate between the beautiful ladies and the equally beautiful lady boys.

You see, Thailand’s culture also socially accepts ladyboys much more compared to other countries in the world. Ladyboys who come to live in Thailand get sexual reassignment surgery and move on to live long, simple and fulfilling lives with all the freedom and opportunities that everyone else has. For this reason, you’ll find them just about everywhere in Thailand although, you may have a hard time spotting some.

With the face of a model and a body built for sin the professional ladyboy is undetectable from a regular woman. That is of course in every way but the meat and two veg down in fun town.

Many have taken a beautiful woman back to their room only to get romantic and find out all is not as it appeared and this can lead to some very embarrassing situations or in some cases a violent outbreak as the guy feels violated. It’s always best to ask out straight (pardon the pun) before you choose to get more intimate with someone you suspect may be not who they appear to be.

Now if you’re thinking to yourself “ladyboys? How hard could it be to spot a ladyboy? I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to see the difference immediately!”

Let’s find out.

Look at the picture below, and tell me which among these is a ladyboy?


Not that easy is it?

So trust me, when I say they could be very, very hard to spot, especially with how good the surgeons are nowadays. Many times you often can’t tell the difference between a ladyboy and a real woman! And you’ll be shocked to hear this but I’ve met lady boys who are actually prettier than real women! And like I said if you’re okay with dating a ladyboy then more power to you! But if you’re not into that kind of stuff then you’d better check this out! I know many a guy that has gone to a bar in Pattaya’s Walking Street and met the “Thai girl” of his dreams only to get back to his room to find “she” is the “girl” of his nightmares so just be careful or those Thai girlfriends you dream about could have more testosterone than you do, Remember, you are there to meet Thai girls not wake up beside a jock in a frock.

  1. Watch out for the Adams apple
    A ladyboy’s Adams’s apple is one of the best, simplest and easiest ways to spot a ladyboy. Although there are procedures in sexual reassignment surgery to remove the Adam’s apple (as in the photos above), a pre-op ladyboy’s Adam’s apple will most likely be the best way to detect him/her. Simply observe their neck and see if there is a protruding Adam’s apple. If there is, observe for any masculine facial features. So just remember, if you don’t want Adam, watch for the apple. 😉

  2. Overly feminine behaviour
    In my experience, I’ve found that most ladyboys tend to exaggerate typical feminine behaviours to give off a more feminine impression. I suppose this is because they are very aware of their physical appearance and know that it plays a big factor in their lives. Spending a long time in the bathroom and looking at themselves often in the mirror is a trait shared by regular women, but ladyboys tend to do it to excess.You will notice this as well in their subtle actions such as walking. Regular women don’t put much effort or time into how they walk. They just walk as naturally as they can. Ladyboys, however, will try to sway their hips from side to side as much as they can to appear more feminine. It’s almost like they’re walking on the ramp of a fashion show all the time.

    Regular women also don’t adjust their hair as much as ladyboys do. Regular women simply adjust their hair when they have the time but they usually focus on more pressing matters first. Ladyboys often adjust their hair much more often in order to look more feminine.Dressing style is yet another aspect you will also immediately notice with the ladyboys. Regular women often pick simple (although not all) and realistic clothes while most ladyboys choose to wear very hot and revealing clothes in order to look more feminine.

    In short, as far as their physical appearance is concerned, the most common give away for me is the excessive swaying of their hips while walking or adjusting their hair every few minutes. Put another way, regular women don’t try to be pretentious to prove to anyone they’re women. Ladyboys do.

  3. Other masculine features
    Do your best to observe their shoulder size. Their hip size plays a big role as well. And although all of these factors can easily be hidden through sexual reassignment surgery and proper dieting, many still have masculine features obvious enough to be detected. Remember though that many Thai ladyboys have a small petite frame so big hips or broad shoulders aren’t always present. For the ladyboys that aren’t Thai, the ones that come from other countries well, usually the stubble and beer gut is a giveaway.

  4. ID please
    All Thai citizens are required to carry a government-issued ID with them at all times. So when in doubt, simply and casually ask for the girl’s government issued ID and verify the Title mentioned along with the name. This is actually the only fool proof2 way to determine if a person was naturally born male or female. The three titles that are commonly used on the ID cards are Mr (นาย), Mrs (นาง) and Ms (นางสาว)As of this writing, (early 2017) the title as mentioned on the ID card (or the passport) is the Title as it was assigned at birth and cannot be changed under prevailing Thai laws. Even though this was challenged many times, it never made into a new law. So while it is possible to have a new ID card issued with a new photo of you in the new female avatar, the title as mentioned on the card cannot be changed and will continue to be as it was at the time of birth.

  5. Just ask!
    While this might seem a bit embarrassing and too confrontational, this is often the simplest and best way to know if a person is a ladyboy or not. Asking them upfront is usually not as hard as it seems and both ladyboys and regular girls often don’t take this the wrong way. Ladyboys usually admit who they are when asked because of how accepting the Thai society is of the entire transgender community regardless of ones sexual orientation or gender identity. If you really can’t tell whether the girl you like is a ladyboy or not then this is probably your best bet.If you just can’t bring yourself to directly ask someone, consider taking help of other Thai people around you. There is a good chance they already know or are better are spotting a ladyboy or have over the years learned to ask the concerned person discreetly without making it embarrassing or awkward for anyone. Be careful though as some Expats may like to have a little fun at a newbies expense and may not tell you straight away that Brenda is actually Bob.

    While it may seem like a lot of work trying to check if your girl is a ladyboy, it’s worth doing because transgender people in Thailand are very pretty, to say the least, and are often very adept at hiding their true genders. But more importantly, it would be impossible for a ladyboy to bear children which would become an issue if you plan to start a family with her.

How to back out from tricky situations?

As I have mentioned before, the lines between a regular woman and a ladyboy are often blurred here in Thailand. And it’s not uncommon for people to find themselves in a situation where they make a move on a woman only to realize she isn’t. If you’re a straight person, such a situation could result in a range of emotions rushing through you. Your emotions could vary from mild embarrassment to utter disgust depending on how far you went.

If you ever find yourself in such a situation, the first thing you need to do is stay calm and collected. I cannot stress this enough. I’ve seen people overreact and totally lose control of themselves making the situation worse. So take a few deep breaths, and use the sandwich method to break it to her (The sandwich method is where you layer bad news in between good news):

  1. Compliment her on how beautiful she looks. This is really important. After all, you did mistake her for a regular woman, didn’t you?
  2. Apologize to her for the misunderstanding.
  3. Explain to her how this isn’t your thing. Be careful with your words here. You don’t want to say things that could end up offending her, making the situation go from bad to worse. It’s likely at this point that she will go one of two ways; she will either get up and storm out or have a laugh and try to convince you to give her a try as you may be surprised. Just remember this is Thailand and nobody will judge you if you decide that this person is the one for you.
  4. Buy her a beer, shake hands or give her a kiss on the cheek. You need to embrace the openness and freedom that the country has to offer.
  5. Move on.

Most of the time, breaking away from such a situation really shouldn’t be an issue provided you don’t make a fuss about it. Like I’ve said earlier, most of them are nice people and understand it’s not for everyone.

One final nugget of advice before we wrap this up.

As I already mentioned, most of them are nice friendly people but….. And it’s a big but (if you will pardon the pun) do not get into a fight with a ladyboy. They are after all born with the body and strength of a male and when you combine that with the hair pulling, biting and long finger nails that a woman throws into the mix there will only be one outcome.

I hope that gives you a fair idea of the ladyboys of Thailand and helps you navigate your way to or around them depending on your personal preferences and life choices.

And oh, if you’re still wondering about the picture above, well, all of them are ladyboys! Photo credits Miss Tiffany Universe 2016 contestants.

1 The term Kathoey1 is not a polite term to use, even though they use the term among themselves. In a way, its similar to how in the United States, some African Americans use the N word themselves. We recommend the term phuying kham phet which roughly translates into “born male at birth but identify themselves as female in adulthood”
2 People are known to use fake ID cards to misrepresent themselves, especially in the red light districts. So exercise proper judgement before accepting it at face value.

Psyche and gender identity of ladyboys

There is a huge argument occurring all over the world between parents, doctors, psychologists and pretty much anyone with an opinion as to when a person should be able to decide if they want to change their gender or when a person truly knows and can understand the effect it can have on them.

For example, do you think a preteen should be able to choose to live as the opposite gender to the one they were born as?

Do you think that they can mentally process the effects and consequences of that choice?

Should parents stop their children from even discussing the situation or just dismiss it as a phase?

Well here is the problem, if a child truly believes they have been born into the wrong body and you dismiss their concerns or try to argue to the contrary then it’s possible that child will succumb to serious issues later in life.

Many psychologists will tell you that to suppress emotions and feelings can have a detrimental effect on a person’s life. It can lead to depression and a huge range of mental and physical ailments such as schizophrenia. Children can become closed off to the world and feel that they just don’t belong. Some can self-harm and in extreme cases can self-mutilate as they try to escape the body they have been given.

So, when is it time to give in to a young child’s demands and feelings?

Do you continue to sweep the issues under the table and hope it goes away?

Do you humour them and let them dress up and just pray that they don’t want to go outside?

You want to protect your kids, right? But what if the very thing you are trying to protect them from is the very thing that they need to do in order to protect themselves?

Here lies the problem and all I can say to you is maybe if you find yourself in that situation just try to be a little understanding and not just dismiss things immediately.

I am no therapist but, in my experience, ordering a child to stop doing something just make them want to do it even more and making something a nasty little secret and something to be avoided at all costs usually ends in things like unplanned pregnancy or someone with an alcohol addiction.

The facts are that many kids that feel strongly about gender identity will find a way to do what they need to do so supporting them surely is the best thing for them?

Also remember though that dressing up and role play is a natural part of growing up for many kids so just because little Stephen shows up wearing heels and a dress does not make him a potential ladyboy.

A brief look at the origins and evolution of the ladyboy

Gender has always been an issue for change. Going back through the decades to Shakespearean times men often dressed as women to perform on stage. Joan of Arc dressed as a man to lead the French army into battle as the job was not something regarded as suitable for a woman.

Everyone knows the story of the Greek God Hercules, who is known in mythology for his amazing strength but I bet none of you knew that he was also a cross dresser?

After murdering Iphitus, Hercules was ordered into the custody of Omphale, Queen of Lydia and daughter of King Iardanus She made him dress as a woman while he worked for her on menial tasks like holding her yarn while she knitted.

Cross-dressing celebrities like Bruce Jenner, an Olympic gold medalist and ex-husband of Kris Jenner/Kardashian and father to Kendell and Kylie Jenner which in case you live in a bubble and didn’t know are related to Kourtney Kardashian.

Bruce now divorced has gone on to receive full sex reassignment surgery and now goes by the name Caitlyn Jenner, has had her own reality TV show in America and lives her life as a transgender woman.

Then there was Robert Durst, the famous real estate heir that was arrested in 2002 for murdering his neighbour. At the time of his arrest he had been living as a woman and going by the name Roberta.

Even Fred Flintstone, Barney Rubble and Bugs bunny have been known to dress in drag so it’s not a new thing and as the years go by it becomes more and more acceptable but unfortunately not everyone feels that people with gender issues deserve to be treated as “normal” people.

Now while cross dressers, Transsexuals and various other gender terms are well known all around the world, the term ladyboy or Kathoey is synonymous with Thailand

Chris Beyer (of Johns Hopkins University is the author of War in the Blood (1998)

He wrote about the Northern Thai acceptance story which presents us with a background into the origins of the Kathoey
(The Thai word used to describe a ladyboy) and the transgender people

“The great mother created three beings, the first man, the first woman, and the first kathoey. The kathoey was
jealous of first man’s love for his wife, and killed her to have first man for his own. Because the kathoey was also
male, the marriage with first man was childless. The great mother killed them both and started again, creating second
man, second woman, and second kathoey. This time the second kathoey felt his male energy, and was jealous of the
man. He killed him, but wanted to live with the second woman as a sister, not a wife. Again, the union was childless
and again the great mother killed them both. When she created third man, third woman and third kathoey, she pulled
the third kathoey aside and told him that he must let the man and woman live together and produce children so that
creation could go on. The kathoey would have a special role, but had to accept this marriage. The kathoey agreed,
and the Lanna people came into being, filling the valley with their offspring.”

Social interactions with Kathoey in Thailand

The word Kathoey is of Khmer origin and is used in Thailand when talking about ladyboys so remember the term as it will be useful for you if you want to meet a ladyboy and even more useful for you if you don’t.

Be careful though as even though Thai ladyboys may refer to their peers as Kathoey they do not like to be referred to as these themselves and sometimes calling them a Kathoey will result in a torrent of verbal abuse and possibly a slap in the face.

When most of you hear the term ladyboy you will do one of several things.

You may snigger or laugh at the term and find it something of an oddity. I mean how can someone be both a lady and a boy that’s just silly right?

You may get angry due to religious reasoning or personal issues.

You may feel disgust because that’s how you have been programmed to feel.

You may feel embarrassed because to you it’s not normal and something that is not comfortable for you to talk about.

You may feel sad because you feel sorry for them.

You may feel happy because you believe everyone should be treated the same and as such you are happy because the person has made a decision to be happy in their own skin.

You may feel ambivalent because you don’t really know much about them or just don’t really care.

You may feel pride in someone that has the courage to be different.

You may feel confused because you don’t know anything about them.

Or, you may even feel excited as perhaps this topic is something of personal interest to you?

Which one is you?

Why would you react like this?

If one of your friends or family told you they were experiencing gender issues and wanted to live as a person of the opposite sex or wanted to move to Thailand to undergo surgery how would you treat them?

The reason I mention Thailand regarding treatment is that its acceptance and ability to perform gender reassignment surgery has become world famous. More and more people fly into Bangkok every day to have some form of surgery performed on them.

Anything from cheek bones to foot shaving and of course should they choose to go full on they can have total gender reassignment surgery too. After that they can relax in the comfort of a tropical country where nobody will judge you for being who you are or who you want to be.

Life and lifestyle of ladyboys

So, is Thailand a seedy haven only visited for sex tourism and hedonistic delights where men go to find a Thai woman for the night?

Definitely not.

Of course, if that is your pleasure it can be found in Thailand but it can also be found in most countries across the globe yet Thailand gets a lot of bad publicity and grief for providing this to tourists, grief that most other countries do not get.

Travel to Amsterdam and you will find the Red-Light District full of women ready and willing to sell you your fantasy. It is also the home of the Hash Cafés, places where you can legally get access to marijuana and happily smoke or eat it in a hash brownie at your leisure for all to see and nobody will give you a second look.

How about Las Vegas in good old USA, once there you can gamble to your heart’s content then hire a lady of the night to party the night away with you.

Let’s not forget Prague which has been hugely especially popular for stag night parties and has its place in history firmly stamped with the lady of the night seal of approval.

So why is it that Thailand has such a bad reputation and receives such bad publicity when it comes to the sex industry?

Could it be jealousy that they are such a genuinely accepting country or is it simply that the Dudley Do Gooders like to pick on Southeast Asia? Who knows but one thing is for sure Thailand is far ahead of the world when it comes to Gender acceptance and maybe that is something the rest of the world should admire and talk about how accepting the Thai society is towards the transgender community instead of acting like gossips.

Many are content being mixed gender or may have breast implants and facial reconstruction surgery that will change their nose or cheeks to make them appear more feminine and also things like butt implants and Adams apple surgery to remove the protruding neck evidence of being a male.

Many will learn to speak in a higher pitched tone and most will change the way they carry themselves and walk so they can mimic how they feel a regular Thai woman would walk and talk.

Wiggles and giggles

When an attractive woman walks into a room what is the first thing most men will do?

Or for that matter it is also something quite a lot of women do too but for a different reason.

Most men will look up at the woman’s chest or down at her behind. It may not be politically correct but it happens none the less. This is the first step in the mating process for a man or the first step in the judgmental process for a woman.

(Ladies at this point you may want to disagree with me but deep down you know for most of you I am right on this.)

The man will be thinking wow I would love to get to know the woman better and may depending on the situation or his confidence level make a move to approach the woman.

A woman however on seeing the attractive female will sometimes start to judge her and may start asking themselves or their friends things like” who does she think she is?” “Why would she wear that dress?”

They may think the woman is nothing more than a gold digger out to take a man for everything she can get. (I will go back to that one later)

So, going back to the chest and the behind, what do men look for in these two regions of the body that they hold in such high esteem?

Well the wiggle of the bottom is for many the beginning of the end. Once the woman walks past with the perfect wiggle that’s the man hooked. They become transfixed on the movement as it becomes almost hypnotic in its sway.

Now put yourself in the mind of a young male wanting to be that female and you will start to understand the Thai ladyboy. They too have seen that wiggle and have watched the movies from the West where the super model shakes her behind and all eyes fall on her. Even in cartoons like Who framed Roger Rabbit you can see the effect that Hollywood portrays when a female struts her stuff.

I am not saying it is right but you can’t deny it is there and it is a powerful thing.

So how better to learn something than to watch it over and over and emulate it. Or in the case of many budding ladyboys why not take it a step further and make it more distinctive and noticeable?

This is where the exaggerated wiggle comes into play. Many ladyboys believe that more is better and try to go that one step beyond what they see in the movies or the music industry.

They can spend months trying to perfect the wiggle and once it’s perfected they then exaggerate it.

Now to you and I many times this can just look ridiculous and is usually the tell-tale sign that the “woman” you are looking at is not really a woman at all but to them it’s all part of the illusion.

Another reason for the exaggerated wiggle is a little more extreme and shows you the determination that a ladyboy has and also the measures they are willing to take to perfect the illusion. Often, they will squeeze their oversized feet into stilettos that are several sizes too small for them which can cause deformation and for obvious reasons can make it very difficult to walk hence the odd over exaggerated movement.

Many Western women complain about having to wear perfect fitting Christian Louboutin designer shoes for even short periods of time but can you imagine wearing cheap shoes three sizes too small and having to do that for the entire day while standing for hours on end?

Maybe now you can see why some of these ladyboys are angry or aggressive.

Excuse me while I clear my throat

Next up is the voice.

Belle Nuntita – Thailand’s Got Talent 2011 Audition

This is an easier part of the illusion to carry off and most times you will never be able to tell by the voice if the ladyboy is actually a male or a female.

The only give away here would be the Adams apple and any boy that grows one of these is already at a distinct disadvantage if they feel the need to change their gender or to even just be a performance artist or drag queen.

To alter this the male would need to go through very painful surgery called Chondrolaryngoplasty.

This procedure is done under local anaesthesia to sedate and keep the patient relaxed. The plastic surgeon then places a small horizontal incision along a natural skin fold in the neck to expose the tracheal cartilage then proceeds to shave down the tracheal convexity. The patient can sometimes be discharged on the same day and come back for a follow up after roughly a week.

Types of “ladyboys” in Thailand

There are four main types of “ladyboys” in Thailand.

The performer/sex worker

This is the one that takes the wiggle to the next level and works it like Beyoncé on tour. They will practically hit everything within swing distance with their swagger so don’t look at it too closely or you may end up with a black eye for one or two reasons.

The first being that the swagger may just act like a swinging punch bag and you will get hit on the back swing. The other reason of course is that some of these ladyboy performers are not the friendliest people in the world and may just take a swing at you if you cross into their personal space too often.

This type of ladyboys are the one that many people will warn you about if you mention that you are thinking of visiting Thailand. They are brash and rude and are not afraid to get into a fight if they feel the need. You’ll find them aplenty as the local ladyboy bars, Nana plaza or any of the red light districts in Bangkok and Thailand. Some of them are taking a long list of supplements and drugs to enhance their appearance and some of those pills and potions may not always be of the legally prescribed variety and can have serious effects on the personality and emotions of the user. Now before you think that these are bad people let me explain why they do what they do.

Imagine being so poor that you can’t even afford a proper meal.

Now add to that the feeling that you are not the person you were born as. You feel trapped inside the wrong body with no way out. You can’t afford a lipstick never mind a costly procedure to change your entire physical being. What do you do when you are desperate?

Well desperate times call for desperate measures and that’s what many of the performer/sex worker ladyboys do what they do. Unfortunately, as I already mentioned, they don’t always raise enough money for legitimate medication etc. which leads to the erratic behaviour and dangerous actions that they have become known for.

Often these ladyboys will become thieves and can work in teams to steal your belongings.

Pickpockets are prevalent in certain Thai ladyboy areas so it’s always wise to be extra careful if you are in a situation where the ladyboy is getting overly friendly or if they try the bump and grab method which is basically the old trick whereby a thief will pretend to trip or maybe they will act drunk etc. to enable them to bump into you while quickly stealing your wallet or phone before disappearing into the nearby bar.

Again, this type of ladyboy is not indicative of every ladyboy but unfortunately bad news and sensationalism sells and you will always hear the bad and negative stories about Thailand but rarely hear the good ones.

I have spoken to hundreds of ladyboys from all walks of life over the years and I can say without a doubt that the majority of them are caring, polite, decent human beings that are either doing what they do through the need to provide for themselves or through the need to be comfortable in a body they believe is not what they should be occupying.

The faker

The Faker as I commonly refer to them as is the guy that has no interest in changing gender and just masquerades as a ladyboy for fun. These guys are often gay men or bisexual and dress up to find a boyfriend or to get attention.

They usually have money and don’t need to find someone that can take care of them. These guys dress up for thrills and laughs. They enjoy acting as the female for role play etc. and to them it’s more about the sex and is a desire rather than a need.

Many will spend a lot of money on accessories such as high end fake breasts and clothing to help them conceal their man parts.

These men don’t make up a big percentage of the Thai ladyboy scene but they do exist and are of interest to some Thai men.

The model/performer

This section of the ladyboy population grows by the year and is by far the biggest money maker and attraction for Thailand.

These are the elite, the cream of the crop.

These are the ones that spend thousands of Thai Baht every year on their appearance in the hope of landing a top prize in one of the many festivals or a cabaret show or if they are really lucky they can go on to win a competition like Miss Tiffany’s Universe or Miss International Queen.

Following from that they usually gain celebrity status and go on to star in movies or get positions on Thai TV shows.

Winning one of these titles in Thailand is as big as winning a Miss World crown and takes huge dedication and work to even gain entry.

These competitions are open to both pre-op and post op transsexuals and many dream of entering but often they don’t make qualification stage as they don’t have the resources to become the best in show for want of a better term.

These competitions are huge spectacles and many are televised and can pull in massive viewer numbers and of course this can mean massive revenue for all involved.

If you have ever seen one of these shows you can’t help but be impressed by the glitz and glamour of it all. It can be very easy to forget that these “women” are for the most part not actually women at all in the true sense of the word.

There are red carpets, flashing lights, camera crews and celebrities all on hand to provide the public with a dazzling show of sparkling ball gowns and long legs.

Ask any guy if he can spot the difference between one of these “Thai women” and a regular one and he will say of course he can but in truth if you presented him with a room full of women and told him to find the performer its highly unlikely that he will be able to choose correctly.

These performers are amazing. They have spent their entire lives in preparation for these events and cabaret shows and nothing is left to chance.

From the perfect costumes to the smooth legs. From carefully formed eye brows to clever concealment of their manhood (if still present) these women mean business and nothing will stand in their way.

The hair and makeup have to be perfect, the walk has to be to super model standards and every action is scrutinised by the panel of judges only waiting for the girls to make a mistake.

Just like the Miss World competition this one has several categories. There is the ball gown section where the ladies present themselves in the most flamboyant of costumes full of sparkling sequins and bright colours. These dresses can cost more than the average Thai could earn in a year and are often hired and sometimes if the entrant is really lucky they have an aunt or friend that is a seamstress and can work magic with material bought through the year in installments and finally brought together before the big day in the hope that it will be good enough to impress all the judges.

The gowns are often accompanied by extravagant head wear full of swooping feathers and gem stones. A Peacock would be very proud if they had a tail as amazing as any of these contestants.

Then there is the tiara, a sparkling center piece that takes pride of place on the head. Again, these can sometimes be minimalist but often they are more gaudy than glamorous but this is the way of the pageant and when someone goes big it’s just a matter of time before someone else goes bigger or goes home.

Next up is the swimwear section.

Miss Tiffany’s Universe 2017 – SWIMSUIT – Beauty Pageant

This sees all the girls parading around the stage in their best swim wear. This is where the true professionals shine and is where clever concealment and severe discomfort comes into play.

The swimsuits don’t cover much and if a contestant wants to win this section could make or break their chances.

I have been to many of these competitions and it is a t this point in time I usually choose to do some crowd watching.

It’s fascinating to see the mix of reactions from all the different people in the audience.

The faces of wonder and awe, the faces of surprise and fascination right down to the faces of disgust and shock. Some people find it hilarious while others find it distasteful but no matter what people think one thing is for sure, this is entertainment and people are definitely entertained.

As the girls parade across the stage everyone is rooting for their favourite. The contestants put on their best smile but deep down you know they are just praying to the glitz gods that one of the competitors will trip or fall over and with 8-inch heels believe me this happens on a regular basis.

Its car crash entertainment at its best but the show goes on and the embarrassed contestant ever the professional will always pick themselves up brush themselves down and start all over again.

Finally, it’s time for the part of the show that will momentarily take the focus off the body and move it to the voice and the mind.

For some contestants this is the chance for them to show that not only are they a pretty face and a beautiful body but they are also intelligent human beings with ideas and dreams just like anyone else.

Of course, though just like any Mega show back in the States there will always be one or two fumbles and a few nerves which will ruin the chances for a few of the contestants but for most they get their message across and depart with a pretty smile and a swoop of the hair.

Once the parading is over then comes the judging. This is the moment they have all been waiting for and is very tense as this decision while it may be just another job for the judges it can change the lives of anyone that is crowned.

Then with a drum roll the winner is announced in reverse order from third place to first. There are tears of joy and tears of sadness as ladyboy after ladyboy and transsexual after transsexual slowly realise that their chances are getting slimmer. Then finally it’s down to that one place. The one announcement that will mean a future of glitz and glamour or back to the drawing board to start preparing to do it all over again at the next competition.

The winner is announced to rapturous applause and you don’t have to look too closely to see some jealous eyes piercing the winner like daggers but still they clap and cheer and congratulate.

Then head back stage to peel off the tight high heels and even tighter dresses to relax for a while before becoming just another village “boy” chasing a dream.

For the winner comes the spoils and many will travel around the world entering international competitions but none will forget their roots and like most family orientated Thais they will take care of mum and dad by sending money home.

This is the way it is in Thai culture. Unlike in the West where it is assumed that once the parents have raised their kids as best they can the children will then leave home and move on to their new family. Alas once they marry it is rare that western offspring will ever give money or support to the father and mother that brought them in to the world.

This is the complete opposite for Thai people. It is considered shameful to cut yourself off from your parents and it would be very rare for a Thai child not to send money home if they became successful enough to be able to do so. In fact, many children will send money even if they can’t afford to do so.

In the West parents may not always be so supportive of a child that wants to live as the opposite gender although thankfully that out-dated way of thinking is slowly changing as we evolve and become more accepting of change.

In Thailand however, gender issues are an acceptable way of life and it’s not unusual to have at least a few ladyboys in the village and usually there are many.

Many will stay in the village and can only dream of a better life. Fortunately, though it’s no big deal for a male to dress as a female here and often you will step into a 7-11 to be greeted by male wearing makeup and acting feminine.

You will also see them in many department stores working as regular women. This is the great thing about ladyboy’s life in Thailand. It’s just normal and why shouldn’t it be?

I mean who better to sell you makeup then someone that has to use it every day to conceal and transform themselves from one gender to another?

They enjoy life and don’t let people’s opinions get them down. Of course, even in the most accepting of countries there are still a few people that will judge but they are the exception to the rule in Thailand and not the other way around like in many countries.

It’s not just in work that you will see ladyboys. You will see them in school too. Now I know the thought of that is probably horrifying to many of you but schools in Thailand do not discriminate between genders and people are free to be who they want to be. Most schools will have a ladyboy contingency and for those of you that think all ladyboys are angry aggressive thieves you only have to see these kids to realise that couldn’t be further from the truth.

They are happy intelligent fun-loving kids with hopes and dreams for the future. Sometimes that future will lead to fame and fortune but more often it will lead to just a regular life with a regular job but like all kids they just want to be happy and have fun and a great example of this can be seen in a great video that went viral on YouTube a while back (The video which we linked here has since been taken down from Youtube).

It was a video of a school beauty pageant featuring student males dressed as ladyboys in North-Eastern Thailand and received 2.5 million views, over 57,000 likes and 34,000 shares in its first few weeks online.

The Needer

The final type of ladyboy in Thailand I would categorize as the Needer.

This is the one that absolutely and without question needs to be a ladyboy. In their mind they were born in the wrong body and cannot function happily as they are. They cannot afford surgery so must use what they can to change to who they believe they are. This can often lead to depression and sometimes in extreme cases can end in tragedy with some committing suicide.

They try to make the best of a bad situation but looking in the mirror just reminds them that they are not meant to look that way. Some Needers will move to the tourist areas and become the type of ladyboy I mentioned above (the Performer/sex workers) these are often the ones that resort to crime and will do anything they can to be a woman. Often, they will get mixed up in drugs and one lethal drug in particular called Yabba.

Yabba is a combination of methamphetamine (a powerful and addictive stimulant) and caffeine. It is commonly referred to as the madness drug and is the scourge of Southeast Asia. Easily available and hugely addictive this is one drug you do not want to mess with for two reasons.

One: as I already mentioned is that it is highly addictive and can cause serious rage issues along with the feeling of invincibility. Many times, the user will feel and act out with unnatural strength.

Two: It’s highly illegal and if you are caught buying it or using it you could be spending the rest of your life at the Bangkok Hilton. For those of you that have seen the movies based on Thailand’s prison system and its war on drugs don’t think for one second that the movies are just being sensationalist for entertainment purposes. This is real life and many Farangs (The Thai name for foreigners) have come on holiday here only to enjoy themselves a little too much and to never see home again.

Police stings operate everywhere and it’s also not unusual for a Farang to be helping the Thai police in return for a shorter sentence for their own illegal dealings. So, if you think that average Joe Smith is just being a friendly guy offering to help you get high in the local nightclub then think again.

Be warned…. Do not do drugs in Thailand (or anywhere else for that matter!)

A word of caution

As there is a growing number of men in the world with a preference for Transsexuals and where better to come to find fun or maybe even love than the world’s leading country for acceptance of gender reversal.

Be careful not to fall for the Gold-digger though. These come in all shapes and sizes and all genders.

The Gold-digger is a term used for anyone that is using you to get to your money and it’s not always easy to spot one straight away. The Gold-digger can play the long scam. They can wait for weeks or even months before reeling you in and when they strike its already too late as they will have you so loved up you will say yes to practically anything they ask.

Soon you will find yourself paying for everything from that new pair of oversized shoes to a new iPhone.

As the relationship progresses the demands can turn to houses and cars and for the ladyboy the top prize of course will be if they can get you to pay for surgery.

You will be made to believe that this is being done for you to give you the perfect woman (sometimes that will be the truth) with the gold-digger that will be the start of the end.

After the boobs and the face will come the rest of the body in a never-ending money pit of surgery to become the person they always wanted to be and in the end for some as soon as they have achieved perfection you will become surplus to requirement and you will find yourself waving goodbye to the person you helped to create.

I am what I am

As Gloria Gaynor famously sang,

“I am what I am

and what I am needs no excuses”

In Thai society nobody has to make excuses for their sexual orientation or their gender identity so if you come to the land of smiles looking for love or companionship be it with a man, a woman or a combination of both you can be assured to find what you are looking for.

Thailand is a country with plenty to offer and can be a world away from the seedy side you read about back home. It’s an amazing country with amazing people and like most people they are just trying to make a good life for themselves and be happy.

They don’t judge and hope for the same in return.

Remember, the life of ladyboys can change in a heartbeat so if you ever meet one try to make it a change for the better. Everyone deserves to be happy and who knows maybe one the ladyboys you meet today could be the partner you are happy with tomorrow.

5 thoughts on “Ladyboys and Kathoey – Everything you wanted to know but were too afraid to ask!”

  1. Totally nailed it with this. Especially number two.

    Also love how you warn people how not to be fooled but at the same time reminded people to be accepting of others and not judge them for being what they are. You’re a good dude, my man.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, glad you liked the article!

      They are just trying to find happiness in their lives and go through a lot of societal pressures, the least we can do is be nice to them.

  2. Brilliant article and exactly what I wanted to hear. You describe Thailand as I experience it and it’s refreshing to read something other than the myth of a “ seedy gold digging country “. I came here specifically to meet a “ ladyboy “ . We met online and chatted for over 6months before we met. She’s a professional and has worked in her field for almost 14 years. She’s intelligent, industrious and a wonderfully loving and humorous individual. I’ve never laughed as much with any other partner before.
    Her family are wonderful and it’s no wonder she’s a great person as this family are of the same ilk, great manners, brilliant work ethic and proud to be Thai. I am fortunate to have met her and her family and the many lovely friends ( gay, straight or otherwise) I have been introduced to.
    Again, a fantastic and well thought out article Sir!

  3. Hi, i am a mature aged straight guy and just wish to thank you for your insightfull article. I spent 10 days in Phuket and had a great time and even saw the Simon Cabaret show, while waiting for the return trip i was asked to go to a couple of different shows in Bangla Road and had fun in a different way. Boy they are very straight forward Girls and very friendly as some parts of my body found out. Unforunately i was unable to forefill my quest because of my personal mind game but now that i understand more after reading your article i am planning another trip for a month to Phuket and Bangkok. thank you .

  4. So honest and well written thanks for treating them as humans like everything in the world there’s the good the bad and ugly… you covered it well family poverty the wanna bees religion culture … i hope you will open peoples eyes… simply thoughtful and brilliant. X

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *