Ladyboys Loved and Lost

Among the more prurient fixtures in Western imaginings of Southeast Asia, none huskily bellow “Thailand” more than the broad-shouldered, hard-knuckled tempter/ess that is the Ladyboy. A less mystical, equally misunderstood, slightly more accepted, definitely more widespread, and absolutely more garishly dressed version of the Hijra, the Ladyboy presents the western male traveler not only with something relatively odd to look at and think about far too much, but an element of mortifying, masculinity-eviscerating danger.

Western models of manliness are not represented in this photo whatsoever

See what happens is, once a western male steps into Southeast Asia, right as rain, no matter the state of his charms, appearance, or finances, he suddenly becomes irresistible to every single woman around him! Due to the chaotically sexual, boozy, and always dimly-lit milieu of Bangkok, he throws caution to the fish paste-scented wind and finds himself groggily waking up nestled in the brotherly embrace of two curiously strong, hairless arms, with something firm prodding into his leg. At least, that’s like, that’s what Skyler’s cousin told us to watch out for, y’know? Cuz he went there for business or some shit.

Since you were bound to ask, our own experiences with the third gender were much like our experiences with the first two – in that nobody, no matter what they’re into or how they conceive of themselves, finds us attractive or wants to talk to us. So that made the transition pretty easy.

Still, this didn’t stop us from having numerous memorable and unsurprisingly bungled interactions with members of local Kathoey communities. Without doubt, it will take a lot of time, a deeper appreciation of difference, and an abandonment of the need to exploit others if we are ever to forget those good anonymous androgynous few who colored our travels. Take, for instance,

  • The two managing a Chiang Mai pharmacy where Steve had to buy antibiotics for a fungal infection, inquiring thusly:
    “Hey guys, do you have – {moment of recognition} oh… um… not…”
    “…Uh… sor-…”
    “Yes, sir?”
  • The Indian one in charge of the Krabi guesthouse Logan and Steve patronized, who obviously hadn’t had a chance to shave in a few days, but was generous enough to spend time explaining the layout of the town to them. They immediately forgot all this of course, and wound up three miles away, at a gun range, but no matter.
  • The prostitute one in Chiang Mai who, dispensing of all formalities, shouted simply, “I suck you?” repeatedly across the road at Devon and Logan.

And then of course, these ones.
(Photos courtesy of Lani Jaimes, from the Wildlands Trip.)

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About Steve and Devon

Yeah! We're the best!
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