Ladyboys: women of the future?

· 8 min read >

During my long stay in Thailand, I came into contact with a reality that is now radically intertwined in the Thai social fabric, that of ladyboys. These are transsexuals, men who are in the process of sex change. A process that is often not completed, but remains halfway through. It can be rightly argued that Thailand is the country with the highest number of transsexuals and where they are best socially accepted, although legally the government does not recognize and discriminate them a lot. The fact is that it is very easy to meet them in daily life, in shops, supermarkets, factories, offices, clubs; both in big cities and in the countryside. They participate in specially created beauty contests and often appear on television and in the cinema. But the most surprising thing is that they are often more beautiful than women!

I took my first trip to Thailand in 2014. At the time it was still extremely easy to recognize a ladyboy from a woman, although many men didn’t realize it until too late … After returning in March 2020 for 4 months, I have to say that the level of beauty has increased significantly. I have never been attracted to the category, although I have nothing against it, and had very few opportunities to personally meet a transsexual. After spending four months in Koh Samui (and a few weeks in Koh Phangan and Koh Tao), I happened to know several and I must say that this is a very interesting category, perhaps the most mistreated of all.

Monthana 'Jeen' Chuthatus
Monthana ‘Jeen’ Chuthatus


“The most beautiful woman I saw in Thailand was a man”



First, the Thai word for ladyboys is kathoey. However, the whole gay male world identifies with it (from transsexuals to gays who continue to dress and behave like men). For this reason, the English term ladyboy has spread throughout the peninsula as an identifier of the transgender category, also because kathoey was often used in a derogatory way as homosexuality was seen as a deviation from the norm if not even a disease (and in many cases, it is seen still so). But they, in the vast majority of cases, refer to themselves as women. They feel and live exactly like female human beings and are almost exclusively attracted to men.

The first ladyboys became popular in the 1980s, thanks to cinema, although they were initially portrayed as being unhappy and suffering from negative karma and often abandoned by their heterosexual partners. In the 90s, thanks to independent cinema, the figure of the ladyboy was enhanced and proposed in a beneficial version. In 2000 a film was released, titled The Iron Ladies, which speaks positively and enthusiastically about a real-life volleyball team made up of ladyboys. The spread, later, of queer culture with the related shows contributed to making them common if not familiar figures in the eyes of Thais.

Social life

Thanks to the spread and acceptance by the Thai society, ladyboys can perform the most diverse jobs. They are easily encountered in shops as clerks or supermarkets, beauty salons, massage parlours, offices and even in factories. Many work in night clubs for entertainment, others on television or in the cinema. Despite this, many turn to prostitution because discrimination is still present, especially from above; in fact, we do not find transgender people such as high-ranking officials, doctors, lawyers, scientists or teachers in state schools and colleges. Nor as executives in the corporate world. In short, the doors of government agencies and large companies are still closed to transgender women.

Ladyboys have many straight friends, mostly women, but not only. There don’t seem to be major discrimination from a friendship point of view. Often they gather together, renting a house or room to share, travel together or open a joint business. Many have boyfriends, be they Thai or foreign, and lead a very normal life. Others, a little more eccentric, work in night clubs, have a promiscuous sex life and are often victims of HIV.

Miss Tiffany’s Universe

Although full of beauty pageants dedicated to ladyboys, Miss Tiffany’s Universe is certainly the most famous and important. Born in Pattaya in 1984, it is held in May, once a year, and sees 100 transgender candidates participate. The Miss Tiffany’s Universe winner receives a trophy and crown, a Honda Jazz, cash prizes, jewellery and other gifts from sponsors. In addition to the overall winner, other awards include Miss Photogenic, Miss Sexy Star, Miss Congeniality, and Miss Popular Vote. Miss Tiffany’s Universe is the official representative of Thailand to Miss International Queen.

Ruethaipreeya Nuanglee, Miss Tiffany's Universe 2019
Ruethaipreeya Nuanglee, Miss Tiffany’s Universe 2019

How to become transgender

The process of changing sex in Thailand, as in many other countries, goes through numerous stages and needs various prerequisites. First of all, to undergo sex-change surgery, you must be at least 18 years old (and if you are under 20 you need parental consent). There must be obvious and officially recognized gender dysphoria, certified by a psychologist or psychiatrist. It is necessary to have taken female hormones for at least a year and finally, two months prior to the operation, a psychiatrist must confirm eligibility for the sex change.

Legal limitations

Not being recognized as a third sex, nor even the change of sex, in Thailand, those who undergo the process will not be able to change their data on the identity card, and those who manage to do so face major bureaucratic and legal difficulties. First of all, to change the data it is necessary to have done the complete operation, something that few undergo compared to the number of Thai ladyboys. In 2007, the Thai National Assembly discussed allowing transgender people to legally change their name after undergoing a sex change operation.

Male-to-female transgender government employees are not granted the right to wear female uniforms to work after the operation and must still perform military service. Specific cases of inequality include a hospital that refused to allow a transgender woman to remain in the women’s ward, even though she had undergone sex reassignment surgery. Thai law currently does not recognize same-sex marriages, civil partnerships or domestic partnerships. Despite the lack of formal legal recognition, same-sex Thai couples tend to be tolerated publicly, especially in urban areas such as Bangkok, Phuket, or Pattaya. Therefore, even adoption in gay couples, or in which one of the two is gay (therefore also transsexuals) are not allowed.

Ladyboys nowadays

Based on the people I met on this trip, I have to say that I have noticed a certain difference compared to six years ago. Many of today’s young ladyboys, girls in their 20s, find themselves an envious female body. In fact, with the consent of their parents, already at the age of 8-10 they begin to take female hormones. This means that, when they grow up, they develop those physical characteristics typical of women: absence of Adam’s apple, very few hairs, soft and smooth skin, a small natural breast, a feminine voice, long, silky and shiny hair.

The penis, which almost all have because the sex-change operation is extremely expensive and delicate, remains small and unused. It has no erection and very rarely ejaculates (always in a flaccid state). The sex they practice is, therefore, mainly oral and anal. They are usually ashamed of their organ, they cover it even during the sexual act and do not want it to be touched. Clearly there are those who, having started the process in adulthood, have all the features of the case and use it even during sex. But the tendency is to start the process young and then not use it.

The third sex and future sexual evolution

“In life, it doesn’t matter who you go with, but who you come with”


Consumption sex

We have been living for several decades in a society where sex is often experienced for consumption, with its drawbacks and benefits. Now anyone, in almost all parts of the world, can go out on the street in the night and pay a prostitute or slip into a massage parlour of dubious reputation. Just as a girl can open Tinder or go to the disco and after an hour find herself between the sheets of a stranger. Given the tendency of society to have less and less time and more and more hurry, to want everything immediately and simply and without complications, sexuality is also adapting to these standards. But we know, although the sexual revolution has facilitated approaches, dealing with the female sex continues to be a challenge for men. A comparison that fewer and fewer males want to live, preferring to withdraw into a single life based on easy sex.

Ladyboys as perfect women

I would like to premise that the following are my personal considerations not supported by any specific study. We are experiencing more and more cases of infertility and there are many couples who make use of the treatment systems offered by specialized clinics. Furthermore, in 2018 in China there was the first (known) case of conception with DNA manipulation (link). With the evolution of genetics, in the coming decades, we will likely see procreation as an act exclusively done in the laboratory, in which the sexual act will lose its supremacy in favour of a safer and more controlled process. Moreover, thanks to the experiments on stem cells, it seems it will be possible to implant a uterus in the body of a man.

Treechada Poyd Petcharat
Treechada Poyd Petcharat

In the face of all this, who will want to bother spending months of their life courting a woman, with all her peculiarities? When can you have a ladyboy who is more beautiful than the average woman in most cases, does not have the “problem” of menstruation, cannot inadvertently get pregnant and also always wants to fuck? Because the ladyboys, in this, maintain the male promiscuous mentality; they tend to always be horny and ready for sex after five minutes of you talking to them. Not only that, but they are also looking for you, they pursue you, they want you. Obviously they are not all like this and it is not good to generalize, but there is a trend in this direction. After all, the chromosomal structure is the male one.

Uncertain future

Compared to a few decades ago, there are many more cases of gender dysphoria and bisexuals. Some might argue that before they were kept under wraps and are now finally coming out of the closet, which may be true. The fact is that humanity is facing major changes also with respect to sexuality, seeking new paths, answers and new identities. For traditionalists it is bad, for progressives it is good, the fact is that it is one of the challenges of this millennium, like it or not. More and more couples who do not want their children to have defined sex until they are the ones to choose it once they are adults, not caring about the chromosomes. Whether it is right or wrong is hard to say. What we are witnessing is the dissolution of the roles and values ​​that have shaped our society for centuries, leading to widespread confusion worldwide. This is reflected in the difficulty in creating families and in social relationships, especially with the other sex, or the other sexes.

The future, especially thanks to the technology that will become more and more effective and less invasive, will see the proliferation of new sex genres, widespread promiscuity and further distancing from the traditional family, so much so that children will be “created” in the laboratory with genetic manipulation. Ladyboys unwittingly ride the wave of this change which, although it seems like a dystopian tale, is already present today, in our cities, in our countries. This birth of new sex genres will lead to a very strong identity crisis, especially for women, who will find themselves in ever greater difficulty in finding a partner and creating a new place in society, which will likely be taken by ladyboys.

Light and shadow

In spite of all this, what really drives the changes, more than the technological and scientific discoveries, are the feelings, as Patrick Dixon argues in his famous “The Future of Almost Everything”. So, although relating sexually to a ladyboy is enormously easier than to a woman, many men will continue to fall in love with women and try to create a “traditional” family unit, albeit a progressive one (thankfully). But above all, those who live a life marked by business, consumption, capital, will appreciate the changes that lie ahead, making them useful in their consumerist perspective.


I do not deny that I too, for many years, had a vision of transsexuality as something unnatural and artificial, which was reflected in the physical features of those who undergo a sex change. Having come into contact with several ladyboys, seeing them on the street and in shops every day, I became familiar with this very particular reality. This is certainly the most mistreated category, even worse treated than gays. How many times have we offended and laughed at some famous person caught going with the transsexuals?

Janjirapon Jarernsuk
Janjirapon Jarernsuk

How many times have they been named as a term of comparison for human baseness, when among other things there are many who go with them, even if they do it secretly because they are ashamed of it. Getting to know them personally was a privilege that allowed me to “make peace” with a difficult category. They are people, exactly like us, who love, hate and dream like everyone else, who live an inner struggle that we cannot understand. And, if my considerations are correct, they will soon enjoy their “revenge” by becoming the most coveted sex by men.

I remind you that it is possible to finance my travels and therefore my articles! Thank you!