I was whisked off to Thailand when I was barely 2 weeks old to meet my grandparents and relatives. From infancy, I was being exposed to familiar sights of Thailand like monks in saffron robes, temple pagodas, spicy Thai food, clogged monsoon drains and fields of prostitutes everywhere! I had never seen any ladyboys (English) or Kathoeys (Thai) in my life which was a surprise discovery in my later years. They didn't grow overnight and mushroomed in the city but I was too naive and young to differentiate them between a real female and ladyboys!
In Malaysia, we have so many Malay 'Ah Kua' and they look so damn fugly that even any street dogs could bark out that it was a Man! I am sure all of you have heard of the pretty ones in Thailand esp those in cabaret show business. It was a shame that I came to know the Thai ladyboys' existence from my own Malaysian friends.
It is very entertaining to watch live cabaret shows like this when you visit Bangkok, Pattaya or Phuket. My sister argued that the best shows were at the Alcatraz in Phuket but instead, I voted Calypso in Silom, Bangkok. You should be the judge and tell me please!
These transsexuals take great pains to give their best dance performances or singing impersonations! With their heavy make-ups and dazzling costumes, they could be on par with those live shows in Paris - Crazy Horse Saloon or Las Vegas! They could cleverly impersonate Marilyn Monroe, Liza Minelli and even belt out Frances Yip's "Shanghai Beach" song.
Tanyarat Jirapatpakorn was crowned Miss International Queen 2007 for transsexual beauty pageant in Pattaya and flanked by the runner ups from Philippines (L) and Brazil (R)
Singapore had recently joined ranks and held their own Tiffany Queen pageants too. The response was too overwhelming, as reported in news!
So sweet and feminine?? I have seen many of these shy males with natural thin and slender hands, legs, fingers and curvy bodies. They don't even resemble much of the masculine gender. What has gone wrong with nature, I asked?
A very popular band of Thai ladyboys - "Venus Flytrap" which has a very huge following of fans. (L-R) Amy, Taya, Bobo, Nok and Gina.
The most successful and internationally recognized ladyboy is Nong Toom who emerged as a champion Muay-Thai boxer. His struggles since childhood as a transsexual was made into a very touching true-story movie - "Beautiful Boxer" and it was shown during the Cannes Film Festival.
"The Iron Ladies" was the funniest Kathoey comedy movie I ever watched! You are guaranteed to laugh hard and roll on the floor, if not I will refund your money!
The main reason Thailand has so many ladyboys is due to its Buddhism culture which places a high value on tolerance and partly their 'mai pen rai' (never mind) attitude to everything. Using the notion of 'karma' some Thais believe that being kathoey is the result of transgressions in past lives, concluding that Kathoey truly deserve pity rather than blame.
I bet that you're not aware that some schools in northern Thailand have installed toilets for Kathoeys only! They placed a door sign showing a "Male" icon wearing shirt! Well, I don't discriminate them at all but often tried to understand their general feelings, plight or sufferings through observations.
Are the Kathoeys' existence by choice or not?
We must always love and respect all beings be it animal, kathoey or spirit.