Are Ladyboys Gay? + #freebookgiveaway

June 23, 2012 at 4:29 pm 8 comments

Her white hair stood out in the sea of gray-haired dirty old men. I know, I’m stereotyping – not all the men in Pattaya were dirty and old. Some were dirty and young. Some were middle-aged and mostly clean looking – though who knows what was going on in their heads. It’s hard not to stereotype when you are people watching. I did plenty of people watching on Walking Street in Pattaya, along with my friend Carol and her white hair.

Carol is a very well-put-together woman with many grandchildren. She works and travels with Prisoners for Christ and has seen her share of the darker side of life. This was her first time seeing up close and personal the profession she’s only heard about from inside a jail. She was shocked. If her hair hadn’t already been white, I wonder if it would have turned white after our first night on Walking Street. She didn’t want to go back.

The things we saw in Pattaya are more than I could describe in a simple blog post, especially on Walking Street (the infamous and elaborate Red Light District in Pattaya). But, I will try to give you a few snapshots of some of the things we experienced.

The Men

  • Dirty Old Men: Yes, there were many gray-haired older men. I’m sure some of them were sweet old men just looking for companionship. But I’m also sure there was a fair share of dirty old men who’ve been coming to Pattaya year after year for a good time.
  • Dorks: Another demographic was the awkward middle-aged man. There was just something about him that indicated his lack of social prowess – maybe it was the large-rimmed glasses, the pants belted a little too high, or the stuttering and stammering. They usually traveled alone.
  • Wolves: They travel in packs and the packs come in various shapes and sizes. The bachelor party pack, the business junket pack, the Middle-Eastern macho-man pack. I’ve heard these “packs” often share – 1 or 2 females hired for the whole group.
  • Neophyte: These were the really young ones. Some didn’t even look old enough to drink legally. There were a few father-son teams – probably on “coming of age” trips.
  • Tomcats: Sometimes solo, sometimes with a friend, these guys were aggressive and often tattooed and flat-topped. They had muscle, and you could tell they weren’t afraid to use it.
  • Pimps: The dealers standing in the middle of the road hawking the wares, showing off lists of “menu items” for the Go Go and other places that were a few steps off the beaten path. The were undiscriminating, shoving the list in everyone’s face including mine.

The focus of our trip was not on the men – though we couldn’t really avoid them. Case in point: on our last day on Walking Street, a large and very drunk man tried to buy one of the ladies on our team. At first he wouldn’t take no for an answer, but after two of us rushed to shoo him away he finally gave up.

The Women

The women on Walking Street were an entirely different story. I was surprised by how many tourists of all shapes and sizes filled Walking Street. We even saw some family groups with young children strolling along! While the streets were filled with all sorts of people, the bar stools were usually occupied by men, with occasional women scattered here and there. We were some of those scattered women. And as I noted in last week’s post – we weren’t there for the sex.

We visited quite a few bars and encountered many very lovely women – or at least they all appeared to be women. But not all of them were born female – an those were the people who interested Carol the most – the ladyboys. We learned about them early in our trip and were taught how to pick them out in a crowd. I didn’t list them under the category of men, because, well, they are ladyboys and they are a common sight not only on Walking Street but in the stores in the malls, the restaurants on the streets, the hotel staff and other shops and businesses in Pattaya, Thailand. I’ve heard that many aspire to the most famous job a ladyboy could get – dancing at Tiffany’s and competing in the Miss Tiffany’s Universe Beauty Pageant.

Ladyboys are are born male, but most internally identify with the female gender. Some undergo hormone treatment starting at a young age – before they transition into manhood. They often opt for cosmetic surgery and many aspire to and obtain gender reassignment surgery. Ladyboys are becoming more accepted in Thai culture and are often called kathoey. According to The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality on Thailand, “Thai people mainly see the kathoey as either the ‘third gender,’ or a combination of the male and female genders.” But many ladyboys, especially those who have undergone complete gender reassignment surgery, consider themselves female. Even some who have yet to complete the gender reassignment see themselves as female and most refer to each other using feminine terms.

We visited Tiffany’s one night just after the show was letting out and were able to see some of the most popular ladyboys in town. The cabaret performers pose for pictures (and tips) with the patrons after the show. Many of the patrons are farang (foreigners) and are willing to pay a pretty penny to have their picture taken with these rare beauties. One of our new ladyboy friends came with us and was thrilled to have her photo taken with her role models. We tipped well. I was most interested in the shoes. My second daughter has been known to buy what my husband calls “Herman Munster” shoes. They are all the rage here in Thailand, especially with the ladyboys. I don’t quite understand why, since many of them are already six feet tall or taller!

The thing that surprised me the most about many of the ladyboys we met and those we saw in the pictures of Miss Tiffany’s Universe Pageant was how beautiful they are. I mean, seriously beautiful. I’ve met my share of transvestites when I lived in NY and these ladyboys were nothing like them. I think one of the biggest reasons for the differences is that many of the transvestites I met in the past had transitioned to manhood and then decided to cross-dress. I think I’ve only met one transgender woman in my life (before going to Pattaya) and she had transitioned after becoming an adult male. Perhaps one of the reasons the ladyboys are so successful at looking like females is that they transition while they are still boys. I imagine some of them transition later, and some transition in varying degrees. Our friend told us that by age 12 she knew she wanted to be a ladyboy and that by age 15 she started hormone treatments. She is a lovely person. She doesn’t consider herself gay – she considers herself a woman who likes men.

It’s amazing to see what medical science and a bit of creative make-up can do to transition a human born as a male to become a female in so many ways. This brings into question my beliefs about what it means to be male and female. I’ve already been wrestling with many questions about gender identity and how it is tied to our biological sex. This experience just adds a whole new layer of complexity. What if we could change our sex easily – would we and should we? What does it mean to be male or female – is it purely based on whether we have XX or XY chromosomes? What part do we play in determining our sexual identity? What role does society play? What role does science play? This leads me to a whole new set of questions about genetic engineering and intersexual conditions. If we could decide the sex of a baby before they were born, would we/should we? What do we do with the people who are born with intersex conditions (possibly 2%) – who decides what gender they should be? Should we wait until just before puberty to involve them in the decision? What about all the people who are born one sex but identify with the opposite sex’s gender identity? Are some people actually born gay? What is the role of gender identity in our understanding of what it means to be human and reflect the image of God? When we get our new bodies, those eternal bodies (1 Cor. 15:35-58), in the coming kingdom – will we be sexed? If we live forever in the coming kingdom, will there be any more need for sexual intercourse and reproduction?

I know, you’re probably not wondering about those things. But just in case you are, I’m inviting you to read some books with me this summer. And I’m giving away three copies of each to a few who are interested. Just sign up to receive monthly updates and I will select six winners to receive their book of choice. Here are the choices:

Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community by Andrew Marin Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Communityby Andrew Marin


The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are by Jenell Williams Paris The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Areby Jenell Williams Paris

Next Friday I will select six winners who have signed up to receive monthly updates and contact them via email to make their book selection. I will also be posting book reviews of the books. If you are selected as a winner and want to submit your own book review, I will post your book review here as well. Thank you for choosing to read my musings about sex and sexuality. It’s much more fun to think about these things with others.

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I Hired a Prostitute, but We Didn’t Have Sex You Make Me Wanna Be BRAVE!

8 Comments

  • 1. pathquest  |  June 25, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Thanks Elizabeth for your contribution to this discussion.

    • 2. Elizabeth Chapin  |  June 25, 2012 at 4:43 pm

      Mark, thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • 3. pathquest  |  June 27, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Elizabeth, I used to be one of those men who bought into the party line – that marriage and sexuality is between a woman and a man – and that everything else is a sin. I was being challenged by my seminary colleagues to think more deeply on this issue. At the same time I was frustrated that many of the young adults in my ministry context were having random sexual encounters of all kinds. During this season, I met my new neighbors, a former Episcopal priest and his gay life-partner. These two men have been faithful to one another in love and friendship for 24 years. All these things converged to disrupt my party-line thinking.

    Your blog adds further content to help me as I wrestle with this complex issue. I am intentional about this word ‘complex’ because if you buy into the party-line mentioned above – there is no complexity. It seems that in every case, deep theological reflection reveals a complexity to each human topic, behavior and condition.

    These Ladyboys seem to have a cultural component that helps them facilitate a positive identity – whereas those in other cultures (like ours) young people wrestling with their gender do not.

    • 4. Elizabeth Chapin  |  July 5, 2012 at 10:07 am

      Thanks for bringing up the complexity of these issues. I hope we can learn to become more comfortable with complexity.

  • 5. Jon Stovell  |  June 28, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Elizabeth, thanks for this; much appreciated. I haven’t time to interact in any detail now, but I did want to point you to at least one resource that may help you regarding the question of sexuality at the resurrection. Cherith Fee Nordling, “Being Saved as a New Creation: Co-humanity in the True Imago Dei,” in What Does It Mean to be Saved: Broadening Evangelical Horizons of Salvation. John G. Stack house, ed. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002. She may have written more on the subject since.

    • 6. Elizabeth Chapin  |  July 5, 2012 at 10:09 am

      Jon, Cherith and I discussed this briefly at SVS. Thanks for the reference to her written work on the topic. Maybe we can do a panel on it at SVS next year…

  • 7. Celia  |  July 1, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Elizabeth, your writing is beautiful and thoughtful, and I’ve read Jenell Williams Paris’ book and can very highly recommend it to any of your readers! So glad to run across your blog.

    • 8. Elizabeth Chapin  |  July 5, 2012 at 10:10 am

      Thanks Celia! Glad you visited my blog and recommend Jenell Williams Paris’ book. I’m enjoying it so far. I will be writing a review on it later this month.

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