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Dearest friends, readers and travellers with a sex life. It seems you have some questions about ladyboys, Thailand’s elusive third sex. I have family in Thailand, and will be living there myself within a month, so I and my various sources will attempt to answer your questions.
Ladyboy is a broad term – referred to as “ka-toi” in Thailand. From a gay man who walks or talks in a “feminine” way, to a transvestite, all the way through to a transsexual. Unlike in the West, these are not feelings first felt or admitted to around puberty – boys as young as 5 or 6 want skirts and dolls instead of pants and toy guns.
A ka-toi is not a gay man who has chosen to be a ladyboy. It is a catch-all term for a man who is gay, and more like a woman than a man.
Most still have the “full set”, yes. However, many have had breast implants, and some have had a sex change operation.
Ka-tois are what the West would define as gay, and almost always marry men who define themselves as straight.
Ka-toi is not exactly a “culture”, any more than male or female is a culture. It is a third sex, and is accepted as such even in schools.
Being gay is widely accepted in Thailand, allowing ka-tois to dress, walk and talk as they please.
As many ka-tois are as feminine and as stunningly beautiful as any woman, it is often difficult to tell them apart. Suffice to say for every ladyboy who passes you in the street, there could easily have been ten others you didn’t notice at all. The “culture” is really no more than non-ka-tois’ obsession with what is in another person’s pants.
(Please feel free to comment below if we cannot tell from your name what is in your pants. We’re really very interested. Be as specific as possible, please.)
(I am, of course, joking.)
The official head count is not readily available, but it is estimated that roughly 10 per cent of the population is gay or ka-toi. The percentage of gay people and ladyboys seems to be significantly higher than in the West – or perhaps, the percentage of those willing to admit to it is higher.
Some argue Thais have a genetic predisposition to homosexuality, others point out the West probably just has more closet cases.
Ladyboys do not have to endure the kind of abuse they would expect on the streets of a typical Western town – such as shouts of “faggot”, death threats, beatings, or homophobic terms baked right into the language they speak. If they get a second look, it’s more likely for the same reason a woman does.
Unfortunately, no. There are idiots and bigots everywhere, and even the Land of Smiles has its share. Although being homophobic is not something a person would be happy to admit to belligerently and loudly in a bar like a flop-bellied, uneducated half-wit, there are plenty of ways in which ka-tois are treated as second class citizens. For example: which bathroom or changing room do they use? Often they change with the girls, but sometimes they are forced to seek out “ka-toi” bathrooms and changing rooms, of which are much harder to come by than male or female.
Some ka-tois tell stories of incensing their fathers with the news that they sleep with men, and have endured violent reactions.
Job opportunities are few. Despite the wide acceptance of the third sex, getting a job can be extremely difficult, as there are few genuinely gay-friendly companies in Thailand. Consequently, many are forced to go into the sex industry.
However, money is not always necessarily made as a straight up cash-for-sex transaction. Some ka-tois go in for “sugar daddy” work – they work in bars and have a number of boyfriends who send them money each month.
Homophobia is rife throughout the world, therefore the mass tourism in Thailand drags the prejudices of the many to the ka-tois’ doorsteps. Even Googling “How many ladyboys are there in Thailand?” brings up the result, “How much does a ladyboy cost in Thailand?”
No, they are just the most accepting. People in other countries may feel and behave the same way as ka-tois in Thailand, but have to hide it for their own physical and mental safety.
They don’t choose it, at all, any more than I chose to be female or you chose to have eyes.
They are simply not hiding it.
They are what they are.
They’re on the right track, baby, they were born this way…
(Sorry, readers. Why can I never resist?)
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