If you've ever visited Thailand then you will be in no doubt as to what a 'ladyboy' is. Perhaps you've attended a ladyboy cabaret show or visited one of Thailand's many walking streets in the evening, or you may have spent some time together at a bar enjoying a drink. Many of us though, fail to appreciate there is so much more to the ladyboy phenomenon than our western sensibilities allow us to.
Ladyboys are young men who turn themselves into women with the assistance of surgical enhancement, hormone therapy or simply by cross dressing. Ladyboys are a natural part of Thai culture where in fact they are on the verge of being considered a third sex. In some places they even have their own bathroom facilities.
Unfortunately in the minds of most westerners the ladyboys of Thailand have become synonymous with sex tourism, especially in areas such as Pattaya where the reputation of the ladyboy is synonymous with the area.
Otherwise known as kathoeys, ladyboys have a long history in Thailand. Culturally for a ladyboy, there are no real concerns with any 'backlash' as Buddhist culture is more concerned with what happens to the human spirit than what happens to the body, so as a consequence changing from male to female is not seen as a big deal the change is viewed as a normal part of the rich tapestry of life in Thailand.
Since the 1950's kathoeys have been more visibly present in films, music, on television and in nightclubs. In many villages, kathoeys are represented in beauty contests which are commonly held as part of local fairs, where the winner of the pageant attracts the admiration of the audience much like the winner of a regular pageant would do.
'Kathoeys' are well integrated into Thai society with many working for airlines, at cosmetics counters, in upmarket shopping malls,and even in prominent roles in the media, with many having great success on social media platforms. Thai society is very accepting of the phenomenon with some Thai women being little envious of their perfect figures and flawless skin.
However visiting tourists may sometimes be concerned or confused in discovering the 'girl' they are flirting with at the bar wasn't born a girl. To reduce the risk of this happening there are a number of clues for the amateur bar hopper to look out for including;
By western standards, Thai girls are not very tall however almost all kathoeys are taller than the average authentic Thai woman. It's not unusual to see a ladyboy measuring in at an average of 180cm or 5' 9".
As Thai ladies are shorter in height than men, their feet are proportionally small, much like the feet of a child. By looking at the feet and shoe size, can be a good way to identify a lady from ladyboy.
By observing the way her makeup has been applied, the way she walks and moves her arms and hands, including over enthusiastic flicking of the hair, a ladyboy can often be seen to mirror the over exaggerated movements of a catwalk model.
Ladyboys are often loud speaking in a high pitched, exaggerated voice. When annoyed or upset the drama becomes far more obvious. It's strongly advised against upsetting or arguing with a ladyboy as they can unleash a form of rage not witnessed previously to the inexperienced.
Much like overacting, the way a ladyboy dresses is usually in a much more flamboyant and overly attention grabbing way than most Thai women. Ladyboys demonstrate their supreme self confidence in the way they dress, move and act. Ladyboys love being the center of attention.
In Thailand, women and girls always wear a bra. If she does not, then you are in all likelihood in the presence of a ladyboy. In the rare event a ladyboy is wearing a bra, its use is to primarily contain temporary silicone enhancements to the breast/chest area which can be removed when not needed.
In many, if not most instances the tone and pitch of a ladyboy's voice is what gives them away. The pitch might sound higher than that of a male, however it may sound oddly unfamiliar to the novice thus causing confusion to the listener.
Not to be relied upon, the presence or otherwise of an Adam's apple is not a reliable form of verification as this part of the anatomy can be surgically removed.
By checking on the 'government issued' identity card is the only true way to validate the sexual identity of a ladyboy. In Thailand, this identity card reflects the gender of each and every Thai national at birth.