I sat in my local sauna the other evening with my wife and a couple walked in, it was an aging expat and his lady-boy partner. Being in Thailand I didn’t give it much thought. Later on the lady-boy got up and went to the ladies changing rooms, and at that moment it got me thinking again on the subject of the third gender and the role they play in Thai culture.

When does a man become a woman?

Let’s not forget a lady-boy is a guy or as my friend puts it ‘a chick with a dick’. This guy, who for whatever reason, has decided to become a woman and although his id will say he is male in his eyes he is a female. Yet he can use the female changing rooms and shower with what still is the opposite sex. OK, he is attracted to guys – or at least I think how it works – but he still gets to shower and watch females get changed. It is a very grey line as if I donned a female wig and tried the same stunt I would get booted out the changing room and probably even arrested.

But as I watched him/her go to the changing room it got me thinking even more about the role of the lady-boy. Lady-boys quite rightly are accepted in Thailand, it is normal. In other countries this would not be the case and they would not be accepted, mocked and probably in some middle eastern countries put under lock and key at best. What a crazy and polarised world we live in.

38% of expats have had a sexual encounter with a lady-boy

What makes this all the more interesting is in a recent poll I carried out earlier in the year, which you can read here, 38% of the 300 expat foreigners polled said they had had a sexual encounter with a lady-boy. That is a huge number. It showed that when surrounded by lady-boys as a norm you don’t just tolerate, but actively engage with sexually. It breaks the mold of a conformist culture we are increasingly finding ourselves, and that has to be good news.

We can take it even further than that. The whole debate is much more than this. What is a male attracted to, well we are taught that this is the female appearance which – all though eras to make changes – is fundamentally built around the female shape. So, if a male turns his appearance into that of a female then the whole lady-boy thing gets very confusing. Men will be attracted to them, it is ‘natural’. Now when the lady-boy pushes the subject and flirts and acts like a lady it becomes more confusing.

So what are the rules? Who can we go with and not go with? Who makes these rules, is it society or should we be free to make our own choices – but then these choices are based on years of societal conditioning in the first place. You can now see how having lady-boys in a society stir up and change the unwritten rules and cultures of a particular country.

The subject fascinates me and not in the simple ‘that lady-boy who is a man is attractive’ but in the wider implications they serve on society. And I have to admit I think it is in a positive way in allowing us all to break free of conformity as it challenges the norms and status quo.


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