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Six Kathoeys in Pattaya, 2000


Pattaya DancersThe British men's magazine FHM did a topless beach photoshoot of six Thai kathoey dancers from one of Pattaya's cabaret clubs for their September 2000 issue. Most of the text was sexist innuendo and smut, but some of the information in the short personal interviews is worth recording.

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      It should be noted that the covering article revealed that 150 pounds sterling each had been paid to their agents, but the girls had received only five pounds each of that.
      At the end are some questions posed to a Thai surgeon by FHM.


Puthi Mnosunt

Puthi Mnosunt

Puthi is the only kathoey here to have completed her transition to womanhood, with surgery. Now, with more than a passing resemblance to her idol, Mariah Carey, Puthi's identity has the full support of her family. "My parents always thought of me as a girl anyway," she says. "Now they say they're glad to have another daughter - and my sister loves having someone else to borrow clothes from."
Puthi       It was a logical step, therefore, when Puthi started taking hormones at 15 before planning to have the operation at 17. Only one barrier remained: the 150,000 baht (just over 2,500) that the operation would cost. And so, two years ago, she travelled to Japan and worked in a hostess bar to raise the cash. "I would have a drink with the customers. Then, if he liked me, I would lie [sleep] with him."
      Her plan worked, and within six months, she'd saved enough to return to Thailand and complete her dream. "I've never regretted my decision," she says, "but it did hurt for a while, and I still have to have injections."


Chanchai Taejareagun

Chanchai Taejareagun

"My brother - who was also trying to become a woman - gave me some of his pills on my tenth birthday," says Chanchai, the smallest and quietest of the six kathoeys. "He said it would make me into a beautiful woman," smiles the 17-year-old. "But I don't think I was too young. I was sure of myself."
Chanchai Taejareagun       Unlike the other katoey, Chanchai's decision was not well-received. Her family were Chinese, and had moved from southern China to the northern Thai city of Chang Mai to start a new life. "My father wanted a proper son," she says, "Someone to work in the family butcher shop. My brother and I disappointed him. But perhaps my mother knew. She bought me a Barbie doll make-up set when I was eight years old." She laughs, "When I started using the lipstick on myself, that is when I first knew I was not right as I was."


Sa-on Karun

Sa-on Karun

I think I knew I wasn't a normal boy when I was 12," says 22-year-old Sa-on. I didn't like getting dirty, or playing football, or any of the normal male things to do. I just wanted to play with the girls. I have two sisters, and I would help them get ready, and try on their clothes." She began taking female hormones - in the form of the contraceptive pill - when she was 17. "Before I became more womanly, I had a lot of disrespect from people," she says. "They would spit at me in the street; once, a woman threw old fruit." Worse was to come when she narrowly avoided the draft into National Service. Because of her more masculine build, she was not afforded the Sa-on Karun same dispensation as the other kathoey. I had to pick a ticket from a barrel at the local military office," she remembers. "Luckily, the piece of paper was black, so I could go home - if it had been red, I may still be in the army."
      After this, she began saving for an operation, earning money in the only way available to her. "I had sex with men - mainly Europeans. I charged around 2,000 baht (about 34) to go just once, or 5,000 baht (around 85) for the whole night. It took only eight or ten men to save up enough for breast implants." And Sa-on is adamant she will not have genital surgery. "I do not want to be 100 per cent woman," she says. "I want to stay a kathoey. I feel comfortable as half and half."


Siamrat Pattanarangson

Siamrat Pattanarangson

Most fathers want their sons to follow faithfully in their footsteps. Siamrat Pattanarangson Spare a thought, therefore, for the father of 20-year-old Siamrat - for not only has Mr Pattanarangson's youngest son failed to follow even in the same gender, but so have his other two sons, Sudket and Yongyoot. "My father is happy we know who we are,"says Siamrat, a self-confessed Leonardo DiCaprio nut. Siamrat was latest to start on the hormones at the worldly-wise age of 13.




Treerat Suksawas

Treerat Suksawas

At 29 years old, Treerat is the most senior of the group of kathoey dancers. Not that this bothers her, "I am too old - but I am also too beautiful!" she laughs, and to prove it she flashes her C-cup breasts. Treerat studied chernistry for two years at Bangkok University before her father's death forced her to move back home and find atternative ways to support her family. Treerat SuksawasNot that this means prostitution, she tells us. "And if I was I'd be very expensive - at least one million dollars a time!" Instead, after a lively mobile phone conversation, her other source of income is revealed. "My boyfriend is at the airport! " she squeals. "He is Italian and a multi- mittionaire." Is he famous, we ask? "Oh yes. He is one of the most famous magicians in Italy." And, it emerges, her boyfriend returns every three months and keeps Treerat's bank account well-stocked. "Of course we have sex," she says. "But he takes good care of me. Eventually, he will fund my operation."


Thvachai

Thvachai

Nicknamed "The Bomb" ("Because I like to bang!" she cries, displaying a knowledge of English slang), 21-year-old Thvachai trained as a photographer in her hometown of Chon Buri, just outside of Bangkok. "I think I was ten years old when I realised I didn't feel right. It just took me a while to do anything about it."
Thvachai       Indeed, Thvachai only began taking hormones a year ago, due to a lack of funds. But while she now lives off the 300 baht (about 5) she makes every day from dancing, she's stumbled across another source of income to fund her forthcoming operation: erotic photographs. "After the shows, the farang often want pictures of me in my costumes," she says. "For that, I'll charge 1,000 baht (17). But for 4,000 baht (68) we can go somewhere and then I'll pose nude."
      She thinks some customers prefer her slightly more masculine figure. "Because I've only been taking hormones for about 12 months, I still have to shave about twice a week." She strokes the tiny amount of fluff on her chin. "But already, the hair on my chest has stopped growing - good, eh?"



A Surgeon

Dr Preecha Tiewtranon Dr Preecha Tiewtranon is president of the Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery of Thailand. He's 57, has been practicing for 28 years, and has so far done more than 1000 sex reassignment surgeries...

If I rolled into your clinic drunk one night and demanded the snip, would you do it?

No, if you don't have the mind and body of a woman, we don't operate. First, we send you to a psychiatrist, to see if you really are transsexual.

What's in store for those who pass the test?

Penile skin inversion - we cut off the penis close to the pelvic bone, but keep the skin. It's a bit like skinning a banana. Then, we make an incision with a scalpel between the rectum and the urethra, creating a space behind the bladder and the prostate gland, into which we post the skin as a lining. We then insert a penis-shaped Preecha Surgical Outcome 1999 silicon rubber spacer - basically, a dildo - which the patient keeps in for six months to stop the cavity collapsing. With a very short foreskin, we attach discarded scrotal skin to give the vagina depth and to form the labia. We use part of the penis to make the clitoris.

Any other tricks up your sleeve?

I shave cartilage off the Adarm's apple for aesthetic purposes, but I don't do operations to change the voice. If a ladyboy has taken hormones since puberty there's no need for it, but if they've developed an Adarn's apple it's usually too late.

How do ladyboys get their rocks off?

By stimulation of the prostate gland - the root of the penis - and new clitoris, which was the nerve that went through the penis.

What can go wrong during and after the op?

If you make a hole in the rectum, faecal material comes out of the vagina. Or if you make a hole in the belly the intestines come out of the vagina. But that has never happened to me.

How much do you charge?

US$5,000.

Finally, do you find the ladyboys secretly attractive?

I think some are more beautiful than a real woman.