Why So Many Ladyboys in Thailand? – A few Facts First
Wow, lots of Ladyboy talk on Stick’s site these days. I am certainly not an expert but I do have a few gay friends and a ladyboy friend of my Thai girlfriend lived briefly with us in Singapore. She was a very pretty pre-op who had a sponsor in Sweden. Sometimes we would drink a few beers together. I was pretty stupid about the third sex back then and maybe I still am. But here’s what I do know.
Let’s start with a few well established definitions.
Homosexual: Someone who has always felt a sexual affinity for others of the same gender. Males are usually called “gays” and women are usually called “lesbians.”
Transgender: Someone who has always felt like they were born into the wrong gender. They have a sexual affinity for others of the same gender but for a different reason. In Thailand, men are called “ladyboys” and women are called “toms.” In America, the slang terms are “shemales” and “bull dykes.”
Bisexual: Someone who is sexually attracted to both genders.
According to my gay friends, gay men consider themselves men, lesbians consider themselves women. Both want to be sexually with other like-minded people of the same gender. They may be attracted to “straights” of their own gender but know that a liaison is probably impossible so why bother. They are not attracted to transgenders because they look and act too much like the opposite gender. These are generally the rules except for those relatively few who experiment with different combinations, like bisexuals. Or others who discover later in life they aren’t who they thought they were. There is no definitive time, but usually it happens early in a person’s life. As to the theory that gay men become ladyboys to attract more men, it simply has no basis. Ask a ladyboy who they would rather be with – straight men or at least those that behave like straight men. Who do gay men want to be with? Gay men. It has nothing to do with getting laid but everything to do with who they are attracted to. I will acknowledge, though, that when money is involved these rules may not apply at all.
What are people called who are attracted to ladyboys and toms? Stick postulated that these men are gay and he may be right. There have been a number of submissions on this and the authors seem to consider themselves more bisexual than gay. I think it’s important to note that men who like ladyboys don’t like gay men. But there is a group of straight people that periodically go with ladyboys. Again, lots of stories on Stick’s site from guys that have tried ladyboys, enjoyed it, and then went back to girls. These guys are probably more curiosity or thrill seekers than true bisexuals. But some straight women go with toms for various other reasons, like shelter, protection (angry boyfriend) or even as a surrogate family. On my last trip to Thailand I met a couple of rich toms, very nice people, who appeared to have a number of straight women under their wing. I suspect, much like Thai women who glom onto rich men, they’re getting some financial benefit from the relationship.
Why are there homosexuals and transgenders and bisexuals? Scientists have always believed there was a genetic link but then there have been identical twins where one is homosexual and the other is not. Recent studies suggest that homosexuality is linked to epi-marks – extra layers of information that control how certain genes are expressed. These epi-marks are usually "erased" between generations except with homosexuals. Their epi-marks can be passed from father-to-daughter or mother-to-son. This could explain the observed familial inheritance of homosexuality and its low concordance between identical twins. That’s the latest theory. The fact is no one is really sure of why LGBTs are the way they are, but they damn sure didn’t “decide” to be that way as many Bible-thumpers will tell you.
Why are there so many ladyboys in Thailand? This question implies that there are not just as many ladyboys (proportionately) in the rest of the world. Survey data suggests the percentages for all categories of “sexes”are relatively consistent in every country. Thailand happens to be one place where ladyboys feel free to be who they are out in public. In other countries they do not, so they hide in the shadows and it seems like a very straight society. You also have to consider migration patterns. Percentages may be the same at inception, but change a lot later on. If I’m a Saudi Arabian ladyboy I sure as hell am going to find a new country of residence – fast. Over time, in countries where homosexuality and transgenders are freer to be themselves, there will not only be more but you will see more. Those not lucky enough to move around will suffer in silence behind closed doors.
In the 80’s and 90’s San Francisco, especially the Castro district, was known as the homosexual capital of America. Everywhere you went during this period, you saw openly gay people. If you asked them where they grew up, many replied from someplace other than California. Today, Castro is a shell of what is was back then. Mostly because of AIDS but also because many homosexuals and lesbians have more personal freedom in the places where they grew up. I do not know of any openly transgender person where I live, so I suspect they live a much more secret life. America, unlike Thailand, does not have professions where transgenders can openly work, so I am not sure what they do.
But if you spend most of your time in Bangkok, or Pattaya, and the bar scenes there, you might think that a large percentage of the Thai population is LGBT. Instead, you’re seeing the result of a LGBT migration to places where they can work as themselves. Once I get out of these areas I rarely see a ladyboy. If I do, it’s probably a travel office or behind a makeup counter, but even then it’s nothing like Bangkok. But I do see more toms in the hinterlands of Thailand and America than ladyboys. Why is that? I really don’t know but I suspect they are more tolerated than ladyboys in Thai society.
Would I ever go with a ladyboy? I have been very curious since meeting my beer-drinking ladyboy some 10 years back. Then there was the close call with a ladyboy in KC3 where I was minutes away from bar-fining her until I discovered my mistake. I am only curious because many straight men say it is the best sex you will ever have. I guess under the right circumstances I would, like being totally horny and no comparable woman in sight. Even then I suspect that like Stick, once the towel is pulled away and I realized what was coming next, I would chicken-out.
In America, there is great angst within certain groups who believe this new openness is actually creating more LGBT people. This is complete baloney, of course, as history is ripe with LGBT characters. What we are seeing today is what has always been there. How many are there? Estimates are all over the map so no one really knows. But does it matter whether there are 10% or 50%? I for one am very comfortable with my sexuality such that meeting someone different doesn’t cause me to break out into a rash. And like Stick says, “live and let live” is the best way, or “mai bpen rai” as the Thais say.
I really do believe now that guys who like ladyboys are just another flavour of gay. As per my recent column about getting a massage from a Thai ladyboy, when a ladyboy is massaging you i.e. very close to you, there is almost nothing feminine about them! It is a man with changes to their appearance, a man dressed as a woman! I'd say 95%+ man and 5% woman.
Since writing that column I have received a number of emails from guys who go with ladyboys who were most indignant at the conclusion I drew that guys who go with ladyboys are gay. What I find most interesting is that these guys appear to see being labeled as gay as some sort of insult! I have never thought there was anything wrong with being gay (or liking ladyboys for that matter), but amongst the ladyboy lovers there would appear to be a great resistance to being termed gay. I go back to what I said in the article, while some ladyboys may look nice at a distance, up close they are unmistakably a man dressed as a woman….and to me that makes a man who likes ladyboys another flavour of gay.