Six Kathoeys in Pattaya, 2000
The 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.
At the end are some questions posed to a Thai surgeon by FHM.
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."
"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."
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
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."
Most fathers want their sons to follow faithfully in their footsteps.
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.
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.
Not 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."
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."
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
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 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.