Ladyboys and Thailand

I had a comment on a post I published recently about time Gaun and I spent with a ladyboy friend, and it was such a great insight into a couple aspects of farang life in Thailand, which is the theme of this group, that I thought it deserved a more comprehensive reply. I am in no way having a go at the guy who posted it, as from one point of view it is a totally legitimate question. The comment read:

Why did you think it was necessary to announce this woman's gender orientation to a bunch of strangers on the internet? Did you ask her permission to do that?

Part of the post that kicked this off. This is Sammi and Gaun. We were at a temple ceremony and Sammi was there and wanted to see our gardens afterwards.


There are two aspects to this question that I want to address, as both are important.

Firstly, in a broad sense, this question is one 100% asked from a western viewpoint. From 'our' society's outlook it is absolutely spot on and there is no way I would take the same approach as I did on this occasion. However. it is that same western mindset that I would put at the top of the list of dangers as to why many farang end up disliking Thailand, and I'd like to expand on that statement.



My advice to anyone thinking of living here successfully is to abandon your concepts of how things are done or viewed 'back home' wherever that might be. The simple fact is that Thailand is Thailand and not home, and 70 million Thais aren't going to change to meet your expectations of how life should look or work.


Me, Sammi and two of the ladies from her village enjoying a cold brew.


You can apply this to all sorts of aspects of everyday life here, from the bureaucracy, driving, social standards and ladyboys! I recommend that you don't encounter a situation in Thailand and then immediately fall back on an automatic, ingrained response based on your experience from another country. It will drive you crazy. I have one friend in Thailand who comes to mind, and his response to many issues is to tell you what would happen in Australia. Who cares, and what relevance does that have to living in Thailand? If you want things to look and behave like Australia or any other country, then the best option is to live there, not move to a foreign country.


Going back to my wedding to Gaun, this ladyboy is applying the makeup to my daughter Peng.


The best approach to a successful life here, and I speak from experience as I regard my life here as well lived, is to get involved in Thai life as an observer and absorb the realities of the way things are done and the attitudes of society rather than fight the experience. Sure, you don't have to become separated from your beliefs just to fit in, but don't try to impose them or apply them on vibrant new life you have chosen to be involved with.


And to a good friend from Australia who came over with her husband for the wedding.


Secondly, back to ladyboys. Australia and other western countries are obsessed with sexual orientation and fitting-in, mostly based on Christian moral standards, which often exclude rather than include. Thailand is different, being delightfully open and accepting. It is one of the great benefits of living here. They even accept us!


The beautiful and sweet ladyboy who owned the wedding shop and did a lot of the makeup and all the hair. My brother and Sam, his wife on the left and my good friends Saskia and Gaz on the right.


Ladyboys are a totally acknowledged and generally accepted part of society here and instead of hiding that orientation behind a cloak of western hang-ups, ladyboys are mostly embraced and involved in the same way as anyone else. Ladyboys are not just the tourist view of them as an additional option in the bargirl scene, but have an everyday role in society. You will meet them everywhere doing normal things like working in shops and offices. They may be dressed as girls, but sometimes aren't. I remember meeting one in Global House, a DIY shop, and she was in uniform but with lipstick and bright red sequinned shoes Try that in Bunnings, for the Aussies out there.


Another ladyboy friend of ours called Amy


Ladyboys often have high levels of creativity, so you'll find them in businesses like hairdressing and makeup as well as wedding shops. Two ladyboys were responsible for all the costume selection, hair and makeup for my wedding to my wife Gaun in 2014 - see photos.


This ladyboy enjoys showing off with outrageous makeup and clothes at Bun Bang Fai festivals in her village and the main street procession in Si Bun Ruang. Shy of her orientation, she ain't.


They will also be key to the street parties you might have been involved with if you lived here in 'normal' times pre-covid. When a moo ban (village) puts together a dance group as a contribution to a festival, it is the ladyboys that will be typically mostly be involved with costume design and makeup as well as organising the dance routines. If you go to one of these events you will often find the village group being led by several ladyboys because they are the ones who know the dance steps best!


The same lady in a different situation.


You will have a range of ladyboy attitudes to their place in society and how they present to the world. At one extreme are the wild ones you will see in the bars of coastal tourist areas, right through to those that want to be totally discrete and accepted as a lady.

In the more open examples I have found that ladyboys are proud of what they are and you will find that that pride is often shared by the society they live in. The two ladies who were with Sammi, the ladyboy who triggered this post, were super pleased to have such a beautiful ladyboy and said so. Ladyboys are keen to be seen as beautiful as a woman and will make extra efforts in their presentation. That's' not done to be discrete but to gain attention (a general observation and there will obviously be exceptions).


A street party in our village pre-covid days.


So, finally in the case of my posting photos of Sammi and referring to her as a ladyboy. Sammi is a friend and I know that she is accepting and pleased to be recognised as a good-looking ladyboy. To not take photos and share would be the insult. She is a member of this group and has acknowledged the photos, so I was in no way going behind her back. She also posted those photos on her own FB page, so that's a statement in itself. Gaun is totally accepting of my photographing Sammi, and indeed remarked several times just what a pretty ladyboy she was.


This ladyboy lives in our village. Another street party situation.


This has been another of my rambling responses, but I felt that it was a useful opportunity to share my thoughts, and that's all this is about two aspects of the country where we have chosen to live.


And finally, this youngster born a boy has known that she wanted to be a ladyboy from a very early age. The desire to be other than as born is not developed later in life. In western society, this aspect would be suppressed and hidden. Therapists would be paying for their BMWs. How much better is this scenario? Love it.


Thanks for reading.


Tony

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