The Real Thing
Les Boys do cabaret
Les Boys are glad to be gay……
Dire Straits: Les Boys
That old Dire Straits number about a transgender bar in Munich, Germany, rings through my ears as I write, and an iconic and gritty piece it is. But the lyrics are not entirely true; les boys are definitely not gay. At least the ones in Thailand aren’t. And the same goes for the rest of South East Asia in my experience.
Thailand is well known for its welcoming smiles, great cuisine, superb winter climate, lovely beaches, beautiful women and riotous naughty night-life. It's also known for its kathoey, or lady-boys.
Thai lady-boys range from the incredibly beautiful, such as you find in the cabaret shows with their superb figures, lovely faces and sweet smiles, to the hard bitten and often repulsive (and dangerous) drag queens who ply a sordid life of street walking prostitution in the seedy areas of Bangkok and Pattaya. And in between those there is a mixed bag of lovely to less so.
I have met and known many ladyboys over the years. I have ladyboy friends. I move easily among them, and I'm at ease in their presence. And consequently they confide in me. I was once the only man in the company of eighteen at a party. We drank and teased each. And some were “big girls." Unnerving? A little, but I survived the encounter, and unscathed I should add.
But they got no gun now
….it's all in fun now
Lady-boys have been the referred to as the third sex and I buy that description. They are not homosexuals. Gay men are men who like other men. Some kathoey are, in fact, transsexuals; men who yearn to become women. True kathoey, however, want to be women, but not completely. They indulge in hormone treatment which develops their breasts, increases the volume of their hair and feminizes the texture of their skin. They may also undergo surgery for Adam's apple reduction and to correct and alter other features. But, they hold their hand at “genital re-assignment.” The “big surprise” between their legs is something they wish to keep as it makes them unique; it puts the “boy” in lady-boy.
For transsexuals however, this phase is a stop on the way. They are just passing through; a work in progress. They seek and eventually undertake, the full monte of sexual re-assignment. True kathoey don't want to go this far and so they keep their “guns.”
One thing lady-boys and transsexuals do have in common is that, owing to the cocktail of hormones and drugs they ingest, they are exceptionally highly sexed which explains why so many work in the sex and adult nightlife industry as escorts and hostesses and such; they like the sex. Of course, the financial remuneration is an added bonus, icing on the cake, especially in the case of transsexuals seeking genital reassignment, as such surgical procedures are seriously costly.
So, one may ask; what kind of man goes with these ladies of the third sex? It would be too easy to dismiss them as perverts, latent gays and odd balls. But from my experience they are normal red-bloodied males who like a little spice, a little touch of kink. They range from single to the married, the curious to the committed, and the timid first timer to the junkie. I do know of two men who left their wives for ladyboys.
Take Ian, a British chap I knew. Ian was an ex Parachute Regiment macho character; a man's man you might say. At thirty six, he looked like an all-in cage fighter. It was while girl hunting in bars in Birmingham, England, that he connected with an English lady-boy and caught the bug. Then he came to Thailand and flipped out completely. He comes often now to Thailand, for the girls and the lady-boys.
Can I be fooled? Never, I used to say; no way. I believed that no matter how perfect they seemed, no matter how beautiful, I would always detect a tell, some little thing. Others could be fooled, but not me. But that was before I spent a long weekend at Barry's house in Jomtien, Chonburi a few short years ago.
Barry is an Australian friend of many years. And his wife Koy is as delightful as she is lovely, and a wonderful cook to boot. Barry met Koy in Phuket when he was well into his fifties, and she was twenty two. They had recently bought a new house in Jomtien complete with swimming pool and it’s there I headed after he invited me down. What a place. A big five bedroom, two storey place, beautifully built and furnished and situated on a quiet, tree lined cul-de-sac a short walk from the beach. The swimming pool was superb in both its dimensions and style. A grass roofed bamboo bar sat at the deep end, and nearby, Barry had installed an out-back style barbecue outside the house kitchen.
On my second day, after an afternoon’s bar hopping, we got back to his place to find Koy cooking up supper on the barbecue. But she was not alone. She’d brought a friend along and introduced her to me as Pip. Standing five foot two and weighing in at around forty five kilos, Pip was ravishingly beautiful. Her eyes flashed, and a wide smile crossed her face on greeting me; she obviously liked me. Barry gave me a wide smile and a knowing wink.
We repaired to the bamboo bar by the pool with a bottle of Chivas scotch, glasses and a bucket of ice. “She’s lovely, isn’t she that Pip?” he said.
“Yes, she is,” I agreed.
“It’s your lucky day, sport. According to Koy she’s a horny little devil: and I think she has the hots for you,” he grinned.
“That’s fine with me, Barry,” I said, allowing a shit eating grin to spread across my face.
We discussed many things while we drank, and the girls cooked. But as Barry had just returned from a trip to Australia, his first trip home in years, the conversation turned to that. He’d spent a month there visiting family and friends. He filled me in on some of his antics over there. “I drank too much, of course,” he growled. “I think I was hammered every night.”
“Did Koy enjoy herself there?” I asked.
“Are you kidding?” he laughed. “Much as I’d like to, I couldn’t take her. She’d never get a visa. She doesn’t even have a passport.”
I was puzzled. I knew lot’s of Thai girls who had passports. And I knew two who’d been to Australia with their guys and I told Barry that.
“Of course you do,” he said. “I know several myself. Koy could get a passport, but the problem is the birth certificate. It shows that she…..” he paused and gave me a long serious stare. Then he smiled. “I thought you were an expert,” he said.
“Expert?” I laughed. “Barry, I’m not following this; expert on what?”
He laughed. “You really didn’t know, did you? And after all this bloody time.”
Baffled, I shook my head. “Know what?”
“I was about to say that her birth certificate shows she’s actually male, and that information would be placed on any passport info.” He stared at my incredulous expression. “Koy’s a guy,” he said.
“You’re joking,” I managed, panic setting in.
He laughed and shook his head. “No,” he said, firmly. “She’s a lady boy.” And, as Barry is the quintessential macho-man with two ex-wives and seven offspring, you can imagine the shock I felt.
"Koy's a lady boy," he repeated. "But she's the best damned girlfriend I've ever had.” His infectious grin returned as he enjoyed my shocked look. He bantered on, but I was tuned out. I was staring over his shoulder at Pip who had once again appeared at the barbecue after briefly disappearing. She’d taken a shower and changed her clothes. Her hair was wet and shiny. Now wearing close, body hugging cut-off jeans, her full breasts thrust provocatively against the restriction of a tight t-shirt; she looked as sexy as any woman I’d ever known. She had a drink in her hand. She smiled and waved her free hand when we made eye contact.
Barry followed my gaze. “She is lovely, isn’t she,” he said. He then turned to face me. “So, you’re not the expert I thought you were. Never mind,” he chuckled. And seeing my agitation he slapped me across the thigh. “Don’t worry, sport,” he said. “This is your first time. But believe me it only gets better. And as you’re about to discover; girls may be fine, but you can’t beat the real thing.”