Ladyboys — What You Don’t Know


The following essay by our Bangkok correspondent H. Numan is a somewhat different reprise of a topic he posted on a couple of years ago.

A note from the author on the photo below: “Both people are reporting for the draft, but the monk has a much better chance of having to serve (shows in their faces).”

Ladyboys — what you don’t know

by H. Numan

This is a very popular topic among our extremely progressive f(r)iends: there are no genders. Gender is just a concept. You feel you are a woman? Well, that makes you a woman!

Sheer ranting nonsense, of course. There are only two genders: male and female. Mother nature works with just two genders. At least, in mammals. Plants and many non-mammalian species have a few more options. We humans aren’t plants, even if you feel you are. That makes you completely bonkers, but that’s a different topic.

In Thailand there are a lot of ladyboys, which makes me to a very limited extent a bit of an expert. So let’s look at how it works in Thailand, and by extension in most other nations.

Let’s start off with men who feel they are women: transgenders, as they are known in the West. We have a lot of them in Thailand. It was one of the first things that struck me as totally different when I arrived here. Nobody even blinks an eye.

I happen to live next door to the most prestigious mall in Thailand. The perfume and beauty departments employ lots of those kathoeys. That’s the Thai word for ladyboy. If you visit Thailand, consider visiting Alcazar Cabaret in Pattaya, which is world-famous. Almost as good is Calypso in Bangkok. I really recommend both.

All the girls you see — and they are truly stunning — are men. No women participate in these shows. Don’t worry, nothing naughty happens on stage. It’s not suitable for very young children, but if your kids are over 12? Go for it! They will love it.

I met an older ladyboy who is a famous TV star. We even had two of them working in my company. No big deal here. Some schools build special bathrooms for them. In university they wear (when allowed) girl’s uniforms. Sometimes in high schools too. In Thailand all students wear uniforms, from kindergarten up to and including university. I wonder what our progressive college brats think about that one: wearing a uniform in university. Or getting report points for behavior and properly being dressed. Not something that would go down well in Berkeley, I assume.

I’m actually surprised progressive activists never point out Thailand to show how well a society can function with transgenders. Which shows they don’t know anything about it. If there is one country were transgenders are almost fully accepted, it is Thailand. By far the majority of transgenders are men. There are a few girls who dress and behave like boys (we call them toms or tomboys), but not a lot.

But there is a very dark side to being a ladyboy. Something you almost never hear about. That is the suicide and mortality rate. More than 40% of all ladyboys commit suicide. I’d say from personal experience the suicide rate is far higher than 50%. Nearly all ladyboys I met in the past are long dead. Those who didn’t commit suicide very often died of diseases.

You see, when a young boy decides he wants to be a girl, he starts taking ‘the’ (anti-conception) pill to get female hormones. To promote breast development, a more feminine appearance and a smaller penis.

Ladyboys of all ages tend to stick together. The older boys get the pill for their younger friends in pharmacies. You can’t buy the pill here when you are underage. They don’t take one pill daily, but whole strips of them. Like, 20 or more in one go. Every day. For the rest of their lives. I don’t think I have to tell you that this is extremely unhealthy and hazardous. With guaranteed nasty long-term effects.

Now, when you are young, you are invulnerable. You won’t die, that’s what old geezers do. Not you. Every teenager thinks that way. So did I. But it never lasts. Once you are a couple of years into adulthood, you have probably had to a few brushes with death yourself, been to several funerals, and you slowly start realizing that life is finite. It’s not a coincidence that life insurance and pension plans do not sell well in the age group 18-25 years, and progressively better above that.

We — most of us anyway — also realize not only that life is finite, but also beauty. A women over 40 can spend as much money and effort as she wants on it. She ain’t 20 anymore, and it shows. It is simply a fact of life. I can’t say I’m happy seeing less hair on my skull, but what can you do? Can’t glue it on. Stapling hair back on hurts. Don’t want to wear a wig. So I grin and bear it. Little as I like it.

That is something ladyboys find very difficult to accept. For them it’s actually far worse. Their (very) unhealthy lifestyle comes now to haunt them. With compound interest. I’ve seen a few ladyboys who were probably over 50, and that was a scary sight, to say the least. Think ‘ugly on steroids’. Or in their case: super ugly on female hormones. They looked like really old men, with very bad skin, dressed in cheap skirts with way too much makeup on. It doesn’t happen very often, but I have really felt pity for them.

Ladyboys all want to be not just women but beautiful women. Some succeed quite well. However, beauty never lasts. You can postpone the inevitable a few years at best. Sooner or later old age will catch up. That’s something many of them can’t handle. Hence their insanely high suicide rate. I can’t give you valid statistics, so let’s assume “only” 35% or maybe even 25% commit suicide. That’s still a crazy high figure. A population group with a two-digit figure suicide rates needs to be institutionalized, not idolized. As I said, I think the suicide rate is probably higher than 50% which makes them better at it than kamikazes.

When you get older, your health goes down the drain, too. That’s when swallowing the pill in dangerously high dosages comes back to haunt them as well. Those cute-as-a-button lady-looking boys of 12-14 years don’t worry about their health. Swallowing the pill as if it were Oreos every day of your life is postponed suicide. So is cramming Oreos in those amounts, but with far fewer side effects. Just heart disease and diabetes. These kids get far worse diseases later on in life.

That’s not all. With regard to transgenders, Thailand is light years ahead of the world. True enough, most parents aren’t exactly thrilled if their son announces he wants to be a ladyboy. But they rarely stop them or even more rarely forbid it. If that’s what they want, that’s what they can do. Society as a whole more or less thinks the same. Buddhism is pretty easygoing here.

However, that doesn’t mean to say everybody approves and cheers them on. Bullying in school is the least of any ladyboy’s problems. (One of the reasons why they tend to stick together.) Nothing to do with discrimination; kids who intentionally stand out that much run the risk of being bullied anywhere. In this case by both boys and girls. Not every girl is happy to see boys wearing skirts in their bathrooms. Even here.

Once they finish school, real life and their real problems begin in earnest. Try to get a job — good luck with that! Thais don’t mind ladyboys, but that doesn’t mean to say they are queuing up to hire them. The general attitude is: you are a kathoey? Excellent. Hope you get a job somewhere else, because I sure as hell am not going to hire you. Good luck and goodbye!

Not all ladyboys end up in prostitution and crime, but many do. Dutch readers may want to have a look at This is a site that translates current Thai news into Dutch. Almost every week it has a few articles about ladyboys on it, because they are at that time in the news. For each happy piece of news, there are at least 20 pieces of crime reporting involving ladyboys.

Not many get a decent job, like working as a shop assistant in a perfume shop or as a hairdresser. Let alone a well-paying job. That kathoey TV personality I met is a rare exception. Now, that’s here in Thailand where society pretty much accepts ladyboys. I know of no other society on earth that goes that far. Even the most progressive universities in America have some serious catching up to do here. Let alone the rest of society.

Mind you, I’m not advocating that at all. I accept ladyboys and have worked with them. Without any problems. But that is as far as my tolerance goes. And, I think, that’s as far as the baht goes for most people. Discrimination? Far from it. Just a personal preference. Not preferring to hire mentally deranged people is not discrimination.

Because that is what those people are: seriously mentally deranged. Look at it this way: when a man goes to a psychiatrist and asks him to amputate his arms or legs because he somehow doesn’t want them, that person is seriously ill. It’s an existing mental illness that goes by name of apotemnophilia. Any doctor worthy of the title would immediately institutionalize that person or start treatment to cure him of that dangerous desire.

Now, if a boy or a young man (usually) goes to the same shrink with the request for heavy medications and castration to become a women, that sick person all of a sudden gets all assistance to be castrated. By the very same doctor. Why? Because it’s currently fashionable. No other reason.

A man is a man, but if he works on it, he can pretend being a woman. A very beautiful women, possibly. Physically he remains a man (less some parts, sometimes). There is nothing he can do about it. I’ll illustrate this with an example: some artists are so good in playing a certain character the audience associates them completely with it. For example Peter Falk played Inspector Columbo so well, no matter what other character he played afterwards, he was always seen as inspector Columbo. But he wasn’t. He was Peter Falk. Not Columbo and even less an inspector for the LAPD.

In Dutch we even have a word for it: “het Swiebertje-effect”. Joop Doderer was a famous Dutch actor who play the role of Swiebertje, a lovable tramp in a hugely popular children’s TV series in the 1960s and ’70s. He played this character so well it seriously hindered his career afterwards. So much so that he had to leave TV behind him, and started stage acting only in serious plays. One day he was performing as King Lear in Shakespeare. To his utter chagrin, when he appeared on stage as King Lear, the entire audience spontaneously got up, applauded him, and sang ‘Daar komt Swiebertje!’ (Here comes Swiebertje; the theme song of the series). Funny to us, but for that reason he left the country to live and act in America until Swiebertje was somewhat forgotten, many years later.

He wasn’t Swiebertje — he couldn’t be. That was a fictional character of a lovable tramp living somewhere in the period 1890-1910. All he could do was play it so well people mistook him for his character.

And that goes also for ladyboys and transgenders. They aren’t women; they simply act as such. Physically they are and remain men. If they opt for operations (remove the flute and install a letter box), castrated men. Allowing those sorts of actors to perform as women in sports matches isn’t a sign of enlightenment. It’s cheating. Hiring them for the sake of gender equality is not cheating. It is modern left-wing activism at work.

— H. Numan

1 Comment

  1. “There are only two genders: male and female. Mother nature works with just two genders.”

    No, no, no, no, no! There are NO genders in English. Except for pronouns, where there are three. Nature has no gender at all, only sex.


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