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quicken78
09-07-2004, 04:22 AM
I have just returned from an excellent, if slightly insalubrious weekend in Bangkok. Since it was my first time there, the people I was travelling with took me to the infamous King's Castle bar in Phat Phong.

Needless to say, it did not occur to me that all the 'performers' were actually men until my friends had let me embarrass myself by ogling over their apparently female bodies for about 45 minutes. As I am sure has been the case with many an unsuspecting traveller, I immediately went into denial and have not come out.

So I am now appealing to the SDMB for some enlightenment. Many of the 'perfomers' looked very masculine and it was easy to tell (once I had been told) that they were actually men. However, there were some that were impossibly female in shape, size, form and other bodily attributes. One of the 'girls' even volunteered to take off her skimpy thong, thereby demonstrating a distinct absence of 'maleness'. I was told stories about operations to remove these nuisance appendages, along with breast implants and rib removal ?!!!

My question is whether these sort of operations really exist and to what extent people really do go in order to change sexes (hormone treatment etc)? My suspicion is that there were some real women amongst the lady boys. Also, I find it difficult to believe that anyone would ever go to the lengths of having a rib removed.

My understanding is that the process of 'womanification' is extremely lengthy, painful and unpredictable. My Thai friend told me that they do this because they genuinely want to become women, not because they want to be part of some strange freak sex show in Bangkok. Is there a disproportionately large number of people in Thailand who not only have these urges but also actually go through the process of changing gender?

If there is anyone on this MB that has actually had sex with one of these people (intentionally or otherwise), I would be very interested to know whether there is any difference in the experience. This is not your average SDMB question, I admit, and it is wholly justified for you to create a new user name to reply to this thread.

Lamia
09-07-2004, 06:02 AM
Perhaps I am misreading the OP, but how could a globe-trotting man of the world be surprised to learn about the existence of transsexuals or gender reassignment surgery? Surely you don't need to go to Bangkok to discover these things. There are several "out" transsexual posters on this very board, and there have been countless threads dealing with related issues.

Oh, and it would not be "wholly justified" for anyone to create a new user name for this thread; it would be a violation of the SDMB member agreement.

jayjay
09-07-2004, 07:39 AM
This is not your average SDMB question, I admit, and it is wholly justified for you to create a new user name to reply to this thread.

It's actually quite a typical SDMB question, and I think you'd be surprised just how hard it is to embarrass a Doper to the point of even wanting to use a sock puppet, rules aside.

ShibbOleth
09-07-2004, 08:10 AM
Thai katoey are relatively well accepted in Thailand. This term can refer to both gay men and transgendered men. (It's not the term used for Gay or transgendered women, AFAIK. Gay women are called Tom, which is a derivation of "tom boy"). Anyway, transgendered men are also referred to as "the third gender".

Here's a link to a website run by a guy named Captain Outrageous (http://www.captain-outrageous.com/) who was interviewed by someone called Stickman (http://www.stickmanbangkok.com/interview/interview11.html). These might give you or others who are curious some insight into things.

Note: The first link is a front page with no nudity to a website that does contain nudity. Not positive this is okay, so it might get deleted. You can google: "Captain Outrageous ladyboy" and find the same result. The second linked site doesn't contain any nudity, although there is a lot of adult subject matter and a lot of stuff that is just about life in Bangkok.

Hemlock
09-07-2004, 08:38 AM
Reminds me of a thread I once started on whether I should tell a friend his 'girl' was really a guy. To my surprise (it ended up in the pit) lots of people felt strongly that ladyboys have every right to pull the wool over people's eyes.

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=106657

ShibbOleth
09-07-2004, 08:41 AM
Reminds me of a thread I once started on whether I should tell a friend his 'girl' was really a guy. To my surprise (it ended up in the pit) lots of people felt strongly that ladyboys have every right to pull the wool over people's eyes.

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=106657

I've always thought that anyone that was being fooled wanted to be fooled. Although there are a few that are damned hard to tell. BTW, Hemlock, I've been reading your diary lately and thoroughly enjoying it. Brilliant stuff!

DrMatrix
09-07-2004, 10:05 AM
This is not your average SDMB question, I admit, and it is wholly justified for you to create a new user name to reply to this thread.Moderators Notes

Creating a second user name is a violation of the rules. We will ban anyone who violates this rule.

DrMatrix - GQ Moderator

Ca3799
09-07-2004, 10:05 AM
And I always thought that there really were some women mixed in with the trannies just to keep you guessing.

FriarTed
09-07-2004, 10:23 AM
OK, who else has "One Night in Bangkok" running through their heads right now?

"You'll find a god in every golden cloister
And if you're lucky then, the god's a she..."

elbows
09-07-2004, 10:57 AM
Thailand is one of the very few countries in the world, certainly alone in SE Asia as having never been colonized. They have never been subjugated, and, as a result never lost their sexual freedoms to an imposed British/Victorian/Puritan morality.

In my experience, the Thai's see a man working as an air traffic controller, as using his God given gifts - his brains, to support his family. They see an ignorant labourer who unloads rice all day, as using his God given gift - a strong back, to support his family. They see a beautiful woman, using her God given gift - physical beauty to support herself and family. They don't see any one of these as morally superior to another. In this, they stand not in judgement of another, (sounds almost Christian doesn't it?). Without that Puritan ethic prostitution carries no social stigma, a concept very, very difficult for westerners to get their heads around. But when it occurs prostitution becomes just another job, instead of a refuge for the damaged.

Please don't take this to mean I in anyway condone child protitution or any variation there of, nor am I trying to justify what happens in Thailand, there are indeed many many places where prostitution in just as it is in the west. But the OP seemed to want to understand a little of the back story. This is what I came to know after spending quite a bit of time in Thailand.

kimera
09-07-2004, 02:52 PM
Actually, if the surgery and hormones are started early enough, you can't tell at all. I've seen a lot of transsexuals in my day and there were many that I, a natural born woman, could not tell were transsexual and only knew they were because they said so. Furthermore, sex will feel just as normal as if you were having sex with a person born with the right parts.

http://www.cliphoto.com/social/harisu.htm
ttp://www.mm52.com/otheridols/harisu/index1.htm (http://www.mm52.com/otheridols/harisu/index1.htm)

Transsexuals have been a part of human culture for as long as we've had human culture. Before the new drugs they drank horse urine and primative sex-change surgeries were practiced. (I don't know if these are still practiced today in some parts of asia, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were.)

And I don't see what you should be embarassed about in falling for someone that wasn't born with the right parts. If she has a woman's mind and a woman's body, then she is the same as a person born that way. When you add intersexuals into it, it becomes quite clear that the modern distintion between male/man and female/woman is drawn far too sharp.

DocCathode
09-07-2004, 04:00 PM
Please note, I am not trying to insult, assualt or criticize anybody. I realize that most people are unaware of what words to use in this area.

Ladyboy and shemale are creations of the world of pornography and prostitution. They are generally considered to be very degrading and offensive.

Tranny is much like the words fag and faggot. It is viewed as offensive if used by any one considered an outsider. Some people don't mind if it is used by a person seen as a member or ally of the community. Additionally, the fact that it can be short for transsexual, transvestite, or transgendered makes its meaning unclear.

Re 'The performers were actually men'

I've explained this to other people before. I expect that some Dopers saw the OP and started a betting pool on how long it would be before I posted this. A male-to-female transsexual is not a man. She was born with a penis, testes, and XY chromosomes. However, she has a female brain. This is not just my opinion. Studies of sexual dimorphism in the human brain (specifically the termina strialis) strongly support (There is not yet enough evidence to say they conclusively prove. But, that point is not far.) this. If you were to wake up tomorrow to find your brain had been transplanted into a female body, would you just consider yourself a woman? Or would you would feel like a man trapped in a woman's body?

Sexual reassignment surgery (Note-Not sex change. That phrase implies that the surgery changes a man into a woman. Sexual reassignment surgery simply corrects a birth defect and clears up the mistake made in the gender box of the birth certificate) is expensive and complicated. It also helps prevent suicide, and makes life a lot safer.

I know little about rib removal surgery. I haven't really heard it linked to SRS before. Women of all varieties have been known to seek rib removal to improve their figures.

Now, I'll just wait to be snarked in TWS.

badbadrubberpiggy
09-07-2004, 04:29 PM
I've seen male transexual (specific example coming up) that I would not beleive were once female in body/appearance.

A few weeks ago, I ran into an aquantance (FOF) of mine at a bar. I spoke with him for a few minutes, knew that I knew him from somewhere, but couldn't place him. Once I recognized him, I could not beleive that the VERY attractive man I met was the still-rather-feminine-faced boy I'd met a few years before. And he was HOT, and not at all feminine when I ran into him recently. Hormones can do amazing things to the human body, especially when you do other things in conjuction with them. I learned from my friend later that he also works out a lot, to add some bulk to his frame. Also, he had facial hair - real facial hair, probably more than my own had-a-penis-since-the-womb boyfriend does (still love him, though!). In short, had I not met him before, I would NEVER, EVER, EVER (insert infinite EVERS) known that he did not always look like a he. In fact, if I had not seen for myself that he used to not be as masculine, I would have had a hard time believing that he was not a masculine woman to begin with (he wasn't, really).

So, while some of the performers you saw may have had female bodies all their lives, most probably didn't, and got that way through hormones, surgery, and dedication.

Polycarp
09-07-2004, 04:34 PM
Very nice job, Doc C!

Now, would you or someone familiar with Thai culture address one question relative to the OP issue -- I was under the impression that effeminate-appearing Thai men performed in such circumstances in much the same manner as (but with much more social acceptance than) "drag shows" -- for them, it's a living for which their appearance suits them, not necessarily a statement of their sexuality, gender role, gender identity, or anything else. Is this accurate as regards at least some of the people described as "Lady Boys" (which I concur is derogatory, at least in our view, though I gather that in at least some cultures it's a quasi-literal translation of a non-derogatory term; whether this is true in Thai I have no clue).

ShibbOleth
09-07-2004, 06:43 PM
Polycarp, "ladyboy" is not a literal translation of the Thai katoey*. It only means, AFAICT, "transexual" or "transvestite". It is commonly used by non-Thai speakers in Thailand, and does not (necessarily) have a negative connotation.**
There are many katoey that live and work in normal jobs. I have not heard of any feminine males that work in Cabaret Shows (the name one would normally find in Thailand for fairly non-sexual floor shows), but that doesn't mean that they can't exist. Being feminine is also very acceptable in Thailand, regardless of sexual orientation. I would say that most Thai men are somewhat more feminine, or better said, have some traits that Westerners would associate with femininity, than men in most countries. There are still plenty of ubermacho guys around to compensate, so like all generalities it's definitely not true of everyone.

*There are several alternative spellings of katoey. I'll check with the missus on the root derivation of this word tonight.
**There are a number of katoey that turn to street crime and prostitution, which are not socially acceptable and so there can sometimes be negative connotations in this regard. Also it's doubtful that any Thai woman would be flattered if mistaken for a katoey, or any Thai man would want to be called katoey, so it's not exactly a word thrown out lightly in a social setting by anyone with tact.

BaldTaco
09-07-2004, 07:13 PM
elbows,

Prostitutes have been looked down upon since long before the Puritans, though possibly not with the vigour introduced by Christians. India was heavily colonized, but has substantial transgender cultures. What's interesting about Asia is not the prostitution, but the predominance of transgender, transsexual, and transvestite prostitutes.

Slight Hijack: Does anyone know of bars like this that exist outside of Asia? Montreal or Amsterdam perhaps?

Colibri
09-07-2004, 08:25 PM
Being feminine is also very acceptable in Thailand, regardless of sexual orientation. I would say that most Thai men are somewhat more feminine, or better said, have some traits that Westerners would associate with femininity, than men in most countries. There are still plenty of ubermacho guys around to compensate, so like all generalities it's definitely not true of everyone.

A friend of mine, a biologist from Belgium, lives in Thailand and is married to a Thai woman. He told me that he thought that in general the degree of sexual dimorphism between men and women in Thailand was much less than is found among Europeans and Africans. Men on average are more slender and less muscular, and have less facial and body hair (the latter of course being true of many East Asians) and women have relatively smaller breasts and narrower hips. I can't vouch for these observations myself, though I thought it was interesting that my friend's impression matched your own.

Lamia
09-07-2004, 11:29 PM
Now, would you or someone familiar with Thai culture address one question relative to the OP issue -- I was under the impression that effeminate-appearing Thai men performed in such circumstances in much the same manner as (but with much more social acceptance than) "drag shows" -- for them, it's a living for which their appearance suits them, not necessarily a statement of their sexuality, gender role, gender identity, or anything else. Is this accurate as regards at least some of the people described as "Lady Boys" (which I concur is derogatory, at least in our view, though I gather that in at least some cultures it's a quasi-literal translation of a non-derogatory term; whether this is true in Thai I have no clue).I've never been to Thailand, but here in Japan there's a grand tradition of cross-dressing entertainment that continues to this day. There's kabuki of course, but also a kind of mock-traditional cross-dressing comedian, and cabarets rather like the one in the OP. These are often referred to as "new half" (as in "half man, half woman") clubs. I'm a little unclear as to the precise definition of the expression "new half", but it seems to include M-t-F transsexuals, drag queens, and effeminate gay men. Other Japan-based Dopers may be able to explain this better than I can.

An English-speaking Japanese friend of mine confessed that she was rather confused as to whether there was any difference between "new half" and "gay"...upon which another English-speaking Japanese friend scolded her for using a derogatory expression like "new half". I'm sure there are straight men working as cross-dressing entertainers of various kinds, and I don't think anyone questions the sexuality of kabuki stars. However, I get the feeling that people would assume that any man performing as a woman in a "new half" cabaret wanted to be a woman or was gay (and a lot of Japanese people don't distinguish between the two).

I don't believe "new half" applies to lesbians or cross-dressing women. I've never heard of Takarazuka Revue (http://kageki.hankyu.co.jp/) performers being called "new half". The Takarazuka Revue is billed as being more like kabuki, with performers of one sex in all roles, just with only actresses instead of only actors. The actresses go through some of the most rigorous performing arts training in Japan, and the organization is careful to preserve their rather old-fashioned image of feminine virtue and discipline. I'm sure there must have been a few lesbians to come through the ranks over the years, but AFAIK none openly.

Interestingly, the main audience for the Takarazuka Revue is young heterosexual women, many of whom have huge crushes on the male personas of their favorite stars. It seems to me that in Japan it's considered within the realm of normal heterosexual behavior to feel attracted to someone who looks like a member of the opposite sex, even if you know they're anatomically of the same sex. You're allowed to enjoy the illusion without worrying about it reflecting on your sexual orientation. People who exhibit a preference for cross-dressing entertainment may be considered a little weird (almost every woman I know has said she doesn't get the Takarazuka fangirls, because "I like men who are really men!"), but the Takarazuka fangirls mostly focus on the fantasy man rather than the real actress behind him. Mainstream society seems fairly accepting of this sort of thin.

I'm sure there are men who go beyond fantasy and have sex with "new half" performers or prostitutes, but I don't have any idea how this is looked upon by society. Most Japanese people I know do not speak openly about their sex lives, so I think you'd be expected to keep anything exotic to yourself and everyone else would do their best to turn a blind eye. This is just my guess, though.

KellyM
09-09-2004, 01:55 AM
The term "ladyboy" is dangerous to use outside of southeast Asia. While I understand that this is a commonly accepted term in southeast Asia, it will be seen as offensive to transsexuals outside that area and you should never use it to refer a transsexual anywhere else if you do not wish to cause offense. It is generally viewed (correctly or not) as largely equivalent to "shemale" in terms of connotation and associated opprobrium.

Another problem with southeast Asia is coerced reassignment (which ties into sexual slavery, also a rampant problem in southeast Asia). There are many rumors of young boys who, having been sold into slavery, are chosen by their owners to be made into women because their owners feel that this is the most profitable course for them to take. That sexual slavery exists in southeast Asia is not disputable. That forced reassignment occurs is not reliably proven, but you will find that this topic is incindiary with transsexual groups.

Finally, Thailand has a very sexually stratified society, and if you are a "lady boy" you have a very limited selection of "acceptable" occupations. It's nice that there is a place for transsexual women in Thailand, but that place is very narrow and if your temperament leaves you unsuited for those occupations you will not be comfortable. Of course, cisgendered women have much the same problem there, since the range of acceptable occupations for women is also rather narrow.

Miller
09-09-2004, 03:59 AM
KellyM, what does "cisgendered" mean? I haven't heard that term before.

KellyM
09-09-2004, 08:08 AM
"Cisgendered" quite simply means "not transgendered". I believe the term is borrowed from organic chemistry.

aegypt
09-09-2004, 08:41 AM
"Cisgendered" quite simply means "not transgendered". I believe the term is borrowed from organic chemistry.
Isn't "cis" a Latin root that means "on this side of"?

As in the Roman province of Gallia Cisalpina, "the part of Gaul that's on this side of the Alps"?

grimpixie
09-09-2004, 08:50 AM
I believe the term is borrowed from organic chemistry.Indeed so - to distinguish between molecules that have the same atomic formula, but the different arrangement of the atoms gives them different chemical properties. "Trans" molecules have the active atoms on opposite sides of the bond, while "cis" molecules have them on the same side:
Cl H
\ /
C=C
/ \
H Cl trans-dichloroethene

Cl H
\ /
C=C
/ \
Cl H cis-dichloroetheneGrim

grimpixie
09-09-2004, 08:57 AM
Isn't "cis" a Latin root that means "on this side of"? Which is (I guess) where the chemists got it from...

Grim