Friday, December 17, 2010

I guess this is one way

Pae and I were shopping in a book store in Bangkok the last time she was in town from Amman. I had to take a picture of a sign that was posted in several aisles. I guess it's not really funny since it's just warning people to be on the look out for some shoplifter, but the words they use and when the words are spoken, it sounds very funny to me.

First a super quick Thai language/society lesson. Thailand has a very very very visible gay community, lesbian community (not referred to as "gay" here) and a large and in your face transvestite and cross dressing community, often referred to as Ladyboys or Kateuys.

There are probably 10 Ladyboys in my apartment complex alone. They tend to be very flamboyant, like to stare and give you their best "I-used-to-have-a-ding-dong" smile. Well, I couldn't tell you how many are post-op, how many are on estrogen or how many are surgically enhanced, although that's one of the major giveaways that they are not a woman, meaning that Ladyboys tend to be exceedingly LARGE "mammary glandularly". I love making up new words!! Another telltale sign, other than the Adam's apple, very large hands and giant feet stuffed into small-fitting flats or high heels, is the raspy, whiny voice that usually scratches your brain like fingernails on a chalkboard.

I'm not making fun or trying to degrade the Kateuy. For many it's a stage in their lives, and many of these just go as far as cross dressing...a social thing, where they feel they fit in. For the more serious, they go ahead with whatever level of surgical hocus pocus they can afford and live relatively normal lives, with normal feelings, and concerns in their lives. I've seen a couple who have lived in my apartment complex since I moved here 4 years ago who are my age. They go to work each day and bring home the bacon just like the rest of us. In the malls, almost every cosmetic counter will have one Ladyboy.

The closer you get to the touristy districts in Bangkok, there are actually bars that cater to tourists who like Ladyboys. From what I hear, this area is frequented by middle aged Japanese men, but again, this is not my area of expertise!

Every sitcom and Thai drama has at least one Kateuy and of course they always fill the comic relief role. Highly accepted and included...not "tolerated". Personally I like this part of Thai society...I'm not down with snipping my important parts and wearing women's lingerie, but I like the fact that "Ladyboys, gays, Lesbians, etc." are pretty much like "white, black, Asian, Italian, Irish" is in New York or Boston, a part of society, contributors to communities, not someone to demean or harass with hatred.

Of course there are elements of Thai society that do indeed look down on this lifestyle as well as many who don't agree with it, but it doesn't polarize people, the words they use to describe each other aren't hurtful words "Homo, Faggot, peter puffer, dike, etc." These are just mean and they don't just stop at lifestyle choices, but race as well. I've never liked this. The only people I think who deserve any bad names, harassment and general poor treatment as human beings are the New York Yankees and their fans. Yuck the Fankees!! (Yay, got my Red Sox REPRESENT jab in for the day!!) All this being said, I'm sure there is hatred and resentment towards different lifestyles here, I'm just not seeing it or reading about it on the bathroom walls like I do back home. And then again, perhaps it's a "lost in translation" thing.Anyway, before this post blows up into something much bigger, here's the funny picture. As I was saying earlier, it sounds funny because they use the word "Kateuy" instead of "person", "shopper", "shoplifter", etc. There is also a word "doot" or "toot" but I think this is a cuter version of Kateuy. I wonder if this is effective? I mean, since a Ladyboy is basically a man in disguise...just sayin'!


mardenheyjude said...

Very interesting to hear the way gays live and how they are viewed in Thailand. We have a lot of gays in our community and they are,for the most part, treated just as well as the straight people. However, they are not the flamboyant. You have to go into the city to see the flaming ones. The ones in our neighborhood have adopted children. One couple adopted 3 kids from the same mother. These kids came from a mother who was adicted to drugs and kept having babies and giving them up to foster care. I have a great deal of respect for the couple for keeping some of the children together.
Your zombie kids are cool. i think they have crushes on you. Haha
Love always, Auntie

Pae and Guy said...

Yeah Auntie, the North East tends to lean a little more left, as with San Fran and Hawaii...You get further down south and the outright hatred towards anyone different is pervasive. <3

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