'What is a Ladyboy, anyway?' some might say, but if you have been to Thailand before the chances are you already know the answer. Whether it’s from watching the extravagant dancing beauties in a cabaret show or even from a personal encounter, a ladyboy has many different names and guises: katoey, transgender, transvestite or cross-dresser - someone who is so feminine on every level that it becomes almost impossible to tell.
'Katoeys' are very well integrated into Thai life, with many working for airlines, on the cosmetics counters at upmarket shopping malls, as stars of cabaret shows and even in prominent roles on television. No-one looks down on them, and some Thai women are even a little envious of their perfect feminine figures and faces. However, visiting tourists are always concerned about the embarassment of discovering that the girl they end up flirting with wasn't born a girl. To reduce that risk, we've drawn up a simple guide of things to look out for.
Of course many girls in Thailand would tick some of the boxes below, but very few would actually tick them all!
- Too Tall:
Generally Thai girls are not very tall, but almost all katoeys are taller than average, with heights of 180cm not being unusual.
- Too Feminine:
Look at the way she uses make up, the way she walks and moves her arms or hands, especially over-enthusiastic hair flicking - as if she is walking on a constant catwalk.
- Overacts and Overreacts a lot:
Way more than necessary, often loudly in a high-pitched, exaggerated voice. It gets even worse when she's annoyed or upset, so we strongly advise against starting an argument!
- Exaggerated feminine shape:
This again is not an absolute rule but too big and often provocative is a good indicator.
- No Bra!
This is always interesting - In Thailand, girls always wear a bra! If she doesn't, especially when combined with points 1 and 4, you are probably talking to a katoey. Obviously, this usually won't apply to those working in shopping malls, etc.
- The Voice:
In the majority of the cases, voices - even trained voices - are still what gives many katoeys away. The pitch might be higher than men's voices but it somehow sounds odd.
- Adam's Apple:
This is a tricky one as Adam's Apples can be surgically removed.
- The Dress Code:
Just like the overacting, the way a ladyboy dresses is usually a lot more flamboyantly than most girls, demonstrating the supreme self-confidence which katoeys often have.
- The Elbows:
One of the most unclear indicators, supposedly men's elbows are more square than a girl's.
- The Final Check:
The ID card - no matter how feminine you are or if you use the ladies bathroom, even after a sex reassignment surgery, your ID will still show your birth gender.