Ladyboys — What You Don’t Know

The following essay by our Bangkok correspondent H. Numan is a somewhat different reprise of a topic he posted on a couple of years ago.

A note from the author on the photo below: “Both people are reporting for the draft, but the monk has a much better chance of having to serve (shows in their faces).”

Ladyboys — what you don’t know

by H. Numan

This is a very popular topic among our extremely progressive f(r)iends: there are no genders. Gender is just a concept. You feel you are a woman? Well, that makes you a woman!

Sheer ranting nonsense, of course. There are only two genders: male and female. Mother nature works with just two genders. At least, in mammals. Plants and many non-mammalian species have a few more options. We humans aren’t plants, even if you feel you are. That makes you completely bonkers, but that’s a different topic.

In Thailand there are a lot of ladyboys, which makes me to a very limited extent a bit of an expert. So let’s look at how it works in Thailand, and by extension in most other nations.

Let’s start off with men who feel they are women: transgenders, as they are known in the West. We have a lot of them in Thailand. It was one of the first things that struck me as totally different when I arrived here. Nobody even blinks an eye.

I happen to live next door to the most prestigious mall in Thailand. The perfume and beauty departments employ lots of those kathoeys. That’s the Thai word for ladyboy. If you visit Thailand, consider visiting Alcazar Cabaret in Pattaya, which is world-famous. Almost as good is Calypso in Bangkok. I really recommend both.

All the girls you see — and they are truly stunning — are men. No women participate in these shows. Don’t worry, nothing naughty happens on stage. It’s not suitable for very young children, but if your kids are over 12? Go for it! They will love it.

I met an older ladyboy who is a famous TV star. We even had two of them working in my company. No big deal here. Some schools build special bathrooms for them. In university they wear (when allowed) girl’s uniforms. Sometimes in high schools too. In Thailand all students wear uniforms, from kindergarten up to and including university. I wonder what our progressive college brats think about that one: wearing a uniform in university. Or getting report points for behavior and properly being dressed. Not something that would go down well in Berkeley, I assume.

I’m actually surprised progressive activists never point out Thailand to show how well a society can function with transgenders. Which shows they don’t know anything about it. If there is one country were transgenders are almost fully accepted, it is Thailand. By far the majority of transgenders are men. There are a few girls who dress and behave like boys (we call them toms or tomboys), but not a lot.

But there is a very dark side to being a ladyboy. Something you almost never hear about. That is the suicide and mortality rate. More than 40% of all ladyboys commit suicide. I’d say from personal experience the suicide rate is far higher than 50%. Nearly all ladyboys I met in the past are long dead. Those who didn’t commit suicide very often died of diseases.

You see, when a young boy decides he wants to be a girl, he starts taking ‘the’ (anti-conception) pill to get female hormones. To promote breast development, a more feminine appearance and a smaller penis.

Ladyboys of all ages tend to stick together. The older boys get the pill for their younger friends in pharmacies. You can’t buy the pill here when you are underage. They don’t take one pill daily, but whole strips of them. Like, 20 or more in one go. Every day. For the rest of their lives. I don’t think I have to tell you that this is extremely unhealthy and hazardous. With guaranteed nasty long-term effects.

Now, when you are young, you are invulnerable. You won’t die, that’s what old geezers do. Not you. Every teenager thinks that way. So did I. But it never lasts. Once you are a couple of years into adulthood, you have probably had to a few brushes with death yourself, been to several funerals, and you slowly start realizing that life is finite. It’s not a coincidence that life insurance and pension plans do not sell well in the age group 18-25 years, and progressively better above that.

We — most of us anyway — also realize not only that life is finite, but also beauty. A women over 40 can spend as much money and effort as she wants on it. She ain’t 20 anymore, and it shows. It is simply a fact of life. I can’t say I’m happy seeing less hair on my skull, but what can you do? Can’t glue it on. Stapling hair back on hurts. Don’t want to wear a wig. So I grin and bear it. Little as I like it.

That is something ladyboys find very difficult to accept. For them it’s actually far worse. Their (very) unhealthy lifestyle comes now to haunt them. With compound interest. I’ve seen a few ladyboys who were probably over 50, and that was a scary sight, to say the least. Think ‘ugly on steroids’. Or in their case: super ugly on female hormones. They looked like really old men, with very bad skin, dressed in cheap skirts with way too much makeup on. It doesn’t happen very often, but I have really felt pity for them.

Ladyboys all want to be not just women but beautiful women. Some succeed quite well. However, beauty never lasts. You can postpone the inevitable a few years at best. Sooner or later old age will catch up. That’s something many of them can’t handle. Hence their insanely high suicide rate. I can’t give you valid statistics, so let’s assume “only” 35% or maybe even 25% commit suicide. That’s still a crazy high figure. A population group with a two-digit figure suicide rates needs to be institutionalized, not idolized. As I said, I think the suicide rate is probably higher than 50% which makes them better at it than kamikazes.

When you get older, your health goes down the drain, too. That’s when swallowing the pill in dangerously high dosages comes back to haunt them as well. Those cute-as-a-button lady-looking boys of 12-14 years don’t worry about their health. Swallowing the pill as if it were Oreos every day of your life is postponed suicide. So is cramming Oreos in those amounts, but with far fewer side effects. Just heart disease and diabetes. These kids get far worse diseases later on in life.

That’s not all. With regard to transgenders, Thailand is light years ahead of the world. True enough, most parents aren’t exactly thrilled if their son announces he wants to be a ladyboy. But they rarely stop them or even more rarely forbid it. If that’s what they want, that’s what they can do. Society as a whole more or less thinks the same. Buddhism is pretty easygoing here.

However, that doesn’t mean to say everybody approves and cheers them on. Bullying in school is the least of any ladyboy’s problems. (One of the reasons why they tend to stick together.) Nothing to do with discrimination; kids who intentionally stand out that much run the risk of being bullied anywhere. In this case by both boys and girls. Not every girl is happy to see boys wearing skirts in their bathrooms. Even here.

Once they finish school, real life and their real problems begin in earnest. Try to get a job — good luck with that! Thais don’t mind ladyboys, but that doesn’t mean to say they are queuing up to hire them. The general attitude is: you are a kathoey? Excellent. Hope you get a job somewhere else, because I sure as hell am not going to hire you. Good luck and goodbye!

Not all ladyboys end up in prostitution and crime, but many do. Dutch readers may want to have a look at This is a site that translates current Thai news into Dutch. Almost every week it has a few articles about ladyboys on it, because they are at that time in the news. For each happy piece of news, there are at least 20 pieces of crime reporting involving ladyboys.

Not many get a decent job, like working as a shop assistant in a perfume shop or as a hairdresser. Let alone a well-paying job. That kathoey TV personality I met is a rare exception. Now, that’s here in Thailand where society pretty much accepts ladyboys. I know of no other society on earth that goes that far. Even the most progressive universities in America have some serious catching up to do here. Let alone the rest of society.

Mind you, I’m not advocating that at all. I accept ladyboys and have worked with them. Without any problems. But that is as far as my tolerance goes. And, I think, that’s as far as the baht goes for most people. Discrimination? Far from it. Just a personal preference. Not preferring to hire mentally deranged people is not discrimination.

Because that is what those people are: seriously mentally deranged. Look at it this way: when a man goes to a psychiatrist and asks him to amputate his arms or legs because he somehow doesn’t want them, that person is seriously ill. It’s an existing mental illness that goes by name of apotemnophilia. Any doctor worthy of the title would immediately institutionalize that person or start treatment to cure him of that dangerous desire.

Now, if a boy or a young man (usually) goes to the same shrink with the request for heavy medications and castration to become a women, that sick person all of a sudden gets all assistance to be castrated. By the very same doctor. Why? Because it’s currently fashionable. No other reason.

A man is a man, but if he works on it, he can pretend being a woman. A very beautiful women, possibly. Physically he remains a man (less some parts, sometimes). There is nothing he can do about it. I’ll illustrate this with an example: some artists are so good in playing a certain character the audience associates them completely with it. For example Peter Falk played Inspector Columbo so well, no matter what other character he played afterwards, he was always seen as inspector Columbo. But he wasn’t. He was Peter Falk. Not Columbo and even less an inspector for the LAPD.

In Dutch we even have a word for it: “het Swiebertje-effect”. Joop Doderer was a famous Dutch actor who play the role of Swiebertje, a lovable tramp in a hugely popular children’s TV series in the 1960s and ’70s. He played this character so well it seriously hindered his career afterwards. So much so that he had to leave TV behind him, and started stage acting only in serious plays. One day he was performing as King Lear in Shakespeare. To his utter chagrin, when he appeared on stage as King Lear, the entire audience spontaneously got up, applauded him, and sang ‘Daar komt Swiebertje!’ (Here comes Swiebertje; the theme song of the series). Funny to us, but for that reason he left the country to live and act in America until Swiebertje was somewhat forgotten, many years later.

He wasn’t Swiebertje — he couldn’t be. That was a fictional character of a lovable tramp living somewhere in the period 1890-1910. All he could do was play it so well people mistook him for his character.

And that goes also for ladyboys and transgenders. They aren’t women; they simply act as such. Physically they are and remain men. If they opt for operations (remove the flute and install a letter box), castrated men. Allowing those sorts of actors to perform as women in sports matches isn’t a sign of enlightenment. It’s cheating. Hiring them for the sake of gender equality is not cheating. It is modern left-wing activism at work.

— H. Numan

23 thoughts on “Ladyboys — What You Don’t Know

  1. The former head of Gender Reclassification – or whatever they call it – at Johns Hopkins refused, in the end, to accept any more patients. He said the boys/men suffered from a deep need for exhibitionism and instead should receive intensive psychotherapy, not organ removal or hormones.

    If the MtW guys continue to show up in women’s sports, women will quit competing. They know they can’t win.

    No parent should be so laissez-faire about their child’s destiny when they know their adult children will end up with stunted lives and suicide. I’d be willing to fight for mine.

    Gays and lesbians are another proposition entirely; they’ve existed in cultures at about two percent since time immemorial and deserve consideration. [As have schizophrenics existed in the same numbers, though they don’t belong in the same category].

    The current polymorphous perversity with further fragmenting of sexual identity is narcissistic at best.

    Great essay as usual, but you didn’t mention the child prostitutes that swarm the streets; the ones European men go on junkets to find.

    • Paul McHugh, former chief of psychiatry at John Hopkins:
      “The most thorough follow-up of sex-reassigned people—extending over thirty years and conducted in Sweden, where the culture is strongly supportive of the transgendered—documents their lifelong mental unrest. Ten to fifteen years after surgical reassignment, the suicide rate of those who had undergone sex-reassignment surgery rose to twenty times that of comparable peers.”
      Such horrendous clinical outcomes are being ignored apparently.

      Meanwhile unlike the number of ladyboys in Thailand, Scotland is emerging as an unlikely hot-spot for ‘transboys’ – “in the last ten years the number of adolescent girls wanting to transition has increased by over 4000%”.
      An unusually critical article in the Glasgow Herald notes the “potentially authoritarian and censorious dynamic of this movement” and that “whereas past struggles for equality have faced the wrath of the powerful, the trans issue is not only being supported by state institutions it appears to be being pushed by them.” It concludes:
      “Where those in authority should be projecting a cause and a set of beliefs for young people to embrace or to fight against we find nothing, nothing that is, except for the confused and intolerant cult of diversity.”

      • “He said the boys/men suffered from a deep need for exhibitionism and instead should receive intensive psychotherapy, not organ removal or hormones.”

        Over the decades I’ve met dozens of transsexuals. And one of the most noticeable traits that distinguished them from real women was how alienated they were from their fake breasts. Sometimes the only obvious sign that someone was a male-to-female transsexual was the alacrity with which “she” got out her breasts in public for a laugh. I’ve never encountered a real woman who would do this, and I’ve met thousands of real women.

        Years ago the conclusion that my gay friends and I came to was that the people who were brazen transsexuals were exhibitionists first and foremost and their “sex change” was only a vehicle for this. That exhibitionism was the condition which needed treatment. It’s salutary to hear that some medical professionals are now saying the same thing.

        • It’s salutary to hear that some medical professionals are now saying the same thing.

          He’s not just a “medical professional” – this psychiatrist came to his conclusions based on many years of clinical practice dealing with the very “community” who came to him seeking transformational body change, no matter how fake it was.

    • Thanks for the link..had a good chuckle..but that thing as a barbers shop receptionist ?..would have to win the Darwin award for a bloody brilliant business move.

  2. Many thanks for an excellent article. Full of new information (for me, at any rate) and common sense. The one thing that surprised me was the influence of Theravada Buddhism. It does provide an easy-going cultural background so deviant people are accepted, but is also insistent about the fact of change and decay; that good looks and good feelings are transient and conditioned. Perhaps if those ladyboys focused more on that aspect – or more people pointed it out to them – they could save themselves a load of grief and regret.

  3. They were also quite prevalent when I lived in Thailand 1975-78. The danger was that an unssupecting foreign guy would have sex with them. I remmeber seeing a Dutch tourist in a bar playing around with one without knowing. He found out when his wandering hands hit paydirt. Then they all stormed out. iT WAS HYSTERICAL.

  4. There are not two genders, at least not in English, which has three. There are two sexes. That is a biological fact. To the extent that there might be a third, it could be described as ‘people (or critters) with something wrong with them’. Even with chromosomal anomalies, however, people tend to fall on the male or female side of the divide, and there are some few people with abnormalities of plumbing that have them wrongly classified at birth. All this ‘gender’ talk probably began by people who were too precious to say ‘sex’, but has morphed into ‘gender is a social construct’ and ‘gender is fluid’. My answer: gender is grammatical. Sex is biological. Everything else is ideological claptrap.

  5. I just got back from spending a few weeks with mostly gay individuals. I went to a “drag brunch” where everyone got drunk and the “queens” performed. I was amazed at how beautiful these men were, and athletic!
    I won’t tell you what I was doing there… I will say they didn’t serve iced tea at the bar…
    The men around me having found out I was from the US wanted me to speak “New York”! I did my best cwoffee, New Yook and Long gisland imitation that I knew.I even held out dollar bills, to my friend’s encouragement, to the drag queens.
    It was much like the time I went to Chippendale’s, got drunk and forgot that I had invited people over for dinner in the 70’s.

    • Long time ago I watched a documentary about ladyboys with a colleague. Who was a former marine. “Well, it makes sense,” he said.
      That’s not what I expected of you. Do explain.
      “Okay. Who are the best known fashion designers? Men or women?”
      Men, of course.
      “Who are the best cooks?”
      Men, I think.
      “Who are the best music directors?”
      “So why wouldn’t the best women not be men?”

      • I agree with you. I’d say men were ahead of the game in many ways, but remember that xx is the default chromosome and that boys lag behind girls in development all the way to adulthood. Boy babies have a higher mortality rate and men don’t live as long.

        But as you probably would, I’d prefer to be on a deserted island with a male of the species in preference to a female. They are generally better company and less prone to pouts, in addition to being more adept joke-tellers. Plus they can lift heavy stuff and open jars.

        I’ll take either Shakespeare or Churchill.

        • I’d suggest Beethoven, but he was better at loving humanity than dealing with actual people (though he did have what we’d call an abusive childhood).

  6. I was in Thailand in the early 1990’s, and understand much of what was said in the article. However, I’m not so sure that I’d say Thai society is “cool” or “accepting” of deviance: they, and other places in the Far East, are just a lot more subtle about their rejection and contempt for it. People often see the kathoey as entertainment for the “farang” (Westerners). I also heard the term kathoey uttered as a term of contempt. That the kathoey have trouble finding jobs speaks volumes.

    Even when it comes to other forms of deviance, Thailand really isn’t “cool”. After all, the editor who outed former prime minister Moom Rachawong Kukrit Pramoj at bisexual went to jail for doing so. As for the sex industry, it’s ubiquitous; but people do not really accept or even respect sex workers. Indeed, one of the draws for ethnic Chinese and European sex tourists is that the exploitation, abuse, and suicides of sex workers ends to be seen as just another fact of life–and Buddhist piety allows people to think that the degradation and abuse suffered by the sex worker is simply part of her/his kharma.

    While we’re at it, Buddhism doesn’t have an exactly high view of womankind. Even sitting on a seat once used by a woman or receiving an item directly from a female hand, even his own mother, is seen as highly polluting to the phra (monk).

    I also never saw an old, or even middle-aged, kathoey while in Thailand. I did see one in the States–and that eunuch in drag was simply an eyesore.

    Having also lived a good number of years in Taiwan and in China, and having a decent working proficiency in spoken and written Chinese, I’ll hazard a guess that any culture touched by Buddhism, of either the Thorawadi or Mahayana kind, seems to possess a certain tolerance for all kinds of sexual and other sordidness. But this doesn’t mean that they truly accept it.

    • Is this Buddhist tolerance for homosexuality derived from the yin-yang idea of the interrelationship between the feminin and masculin aspects?

      I am confused as to why you say Buddhism has an aversion to women. Where does this sexism come from.?

      • Homosexual behavior is condemned in the Vinaya (a sutta on monastic discipline), at least for monks. This is what is used in the Theravada Buddhism of Thailand. Indeed, any sensuous pleasure is seen as a hindrance to enlightenment. This may explain the aversion to women in both Theravada/Thorawadee and Mahayana (China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Viet”it includes Chan/Zen) traditions. In all of these traditions, the ideal human is a celibate male who has put away all desires; hence the probably origin of an aversion to women.

        The yin-yang (阴阳) idea is Daoist, not Buddhist.

        Further, on another pet practice of the immoderate Left, abortion, Buddhism on its home turf sees it as a horrible way to take a life.

  7. Ladyboys are something between gays/homosexuals, sex workers/prostitues and drug addicts. Their life endurance could be short, but not that shorter than many other whores and prostitues.

    A part from this going under surgical treatment just for own personal ego and dissatisfaction with own shallow external appearance is insane. And there far too many who think the body is like a cloth to change.

  8. It struck me that the biggest fans of kathoey shows in Thailand were Western tourists.

    For the record, my consular experience in Bangkok turned me into a thoroughgoing prude. The average white or black American male who ended up marrying while in Thailand seemed to grab the first prostitute in the first bar. Since, at the time, a history of prostitution was something that could bar someone from the US, I had to conduct several interviews with the beneficiaries, since obtaining INS waivers were part of the process. It struck me that a lot of the women were not exactly “bad girls”, but members of the lowest levels of society who were either tricked or sold (by their families) into the sex industry. For these women, marrying a thrice-divorced, boozy _Farang_ loser was better exit from prostitution than being used up and hopelessly diseased at age twenty-six and throwing herself in a canal.

    I was particularly disgusted by the tourists who, knowing they were riddled with HIV/AIDS, were out for a last fling with partners as young as they could find them; all while telling themselves they were “helping poor people.”

    My guess is that in the West, sexual “liberation” will be such only for a relatively small group of wealthy and powerful males, and for others, it will be merely exploitation. Note the case of Obama donor Terry Bean and some of his shenanigans, or the Frank Lombard case of a few years back. Perhaps one reason why the Left loves Islam so much is because it’s also a sexually exploitive religion.

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