Gender identities in Thailand

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In Thailand, as elsewhere, one can find several different gender roles, identities and diverse visual markers of masculinity and femininity. The demand for positive self-identity is growing in Thailand and support is growing.[1]:52-85[2] Most of the identities oddly use English terms that are overloaded (reassigned meanings).

Heterosexual/Traditional[edit]

Male[edit]

A heterosexual male refers to himself by the term man, which refers not just to biological gender but sexual identity as well. Note this may differ from Western ideas of heterosexual male, to which lesbian sex has been eroticized. This means he seeks a traditional thai female, but does not accept as a sexual or marriage partner the other female gender identities listed below.

Female[edit]

A heterosexual female refers to the traditional female who seeks the traditional heterosexual male (man) in Thai society.

The Tom-Dee identity[edit]

The Tom-Dee duality in Thailand maybe be compared to the butch-fem duality of lesbianism but differs in a number of ways.[3] Among them are 1-way and 2-way subcategories in both, and in Toms physical presentation that may be compared to transgender men and a sense of role and duty of living up to strict stereotypes associated with gentleman.[3]

Tom identity[edit]

A "tom" (ทอม) is a female who dresses, acts, and possibly speaks in a masculine fashion. She may not identify as a lesbian, but she may be perceived as one by others. Toms wear short hair, a deviation from traditional Thai culture which prizes long hair as a sign of feminine beauty.[4] Women usually wear skirts in Thailand, and in many government offices skirts are compulsory and pants suits banned. Toms dress in men's clothing—slacks, sandals, and loose fitting button-down shirts. According to Ara Wilson, a tom will use male speech terms, especially the old, now-crude pronouns "goo" (Thai: กู) and "mueng" (Thai: เม็ง / มึง).[5][6]:127,131

Dee identity[edit]

The "dee" (ดี้) is a homosexual (or bisexual) female who follows outward Thai gender norms. A dee will look, act, and speak in a manner congruent with Thai female gender norms. The only difference between dees and traditional females is that dee often engage in relationships with toms.[5] Some dees however, seek other dees.

Tom-dee within society[edit]

Heterosexual public displays of affection are frowned upon in Thai culture. However, minor displays of affection, such as hand-holding, between same sex individuals is considered the norm. In this way tom-dee partnerships can be invisible to the wider society.[7]

Tom Gay[edit]

A Tom Gay is a Tom who is attracted to all 3 types of women, heterosexual women, Toms, and Dees.[8]

Lesbian[edit]

A lesbian in Thai culture differs from the West, i.e. a woman who is attracted to the traditional gender adhering Thai female.[8]

Female roles visavis identity[edit]

Within the female community, there are roles which complicate identity. Particular among them are one-way and two-way, which refer to the perceived permanent sexual roles of giver and receiver and giver, respectively, but taking on a broader meaning than merely sex. A 1-way tom would see it fit to take care of the female both materially (pay for everything) and psychologically, but not accept the same in return. Conversely, the terms king and queen refer to active or receptive roles, yet can also be situational rather than an identity. The same terms king and queen are used for male homosexual roles. Toms may seek dees or toms (specialists referred to as Tom Gay King<ref="nextshark"/>), toms may be 1-way or 2-way. Dees may seek toms or dees.[3]

Adam[edit]

An Adam is a male who is attracted to Toms.[8]

Kathoeys[edit]

Main article: Kathoey

Although the terms "kathoey"[9] or "ladyboy"[10] are rather ambiguous, simply put, both terms refer to a male who dresses as and adopts the mannerisms and identity of a woman. Though the term is often translated as "transgender", transgender is rarely used in Thailand. Instead Thais use the term kathoey. This term can now also be used to refer to any male homosexual and was originally used to refer to intersex people. Due to this term becoming so broad, many choose to use the English word to explain a homosexual male dressing as a woman as a "ladyboy".[11] The term can also be meant as an insult, especially to those who are trying to alter their identity. Ladyboys suggest that they are still men who are merely dressed as women.[citation needed] The term is used rather loosely at times and can be used to refer to any male who possesses feminine qualities. Personally most of kathoeys prefer to call themselves "a transformed goddess" or "a second type of woman".[12]

Acceptance of kathoeys[edit]

Ladyboys are numerous in Thailand and are seemingly accepted by society, not only in the cities but in the countryside as well.[13] Thai Buddhism does not specifically regard homosexuality as a sin and has no specific prohibitions regarding the lifestyle.[14] Though kathoeys face discrimination, they are gaining acceptance and have made themselves part of the Thai society. They have not yet attained equal status with those who are not transgender. Restrictions come with the identity: the inability to marry someone of the same sex, and not being able to officially change their birth sex on birth certificates or passports.[12]:121-138

Kathoeys in society[edit]

Kathoeys appear to be grudgingly accepted by Thai society.[15] Though kathoeys have enjoyed some prestige in the past, they still face many struggles in everyday life. Many have found success in the entertainment business or in fashion, while others dance cabaret or accept lower level work so that they are able to live their lives in the open.[11] Beginning in the 1950s we are able to see a presence of kathoey and it can be traced in the media. The trend of kathoeys being a regular part of entertainment such as movies, music entertainment, and television shows is rather recent.[14]

Angee[edit]

A katoey who is attracted to Toms.[8]

Other combinations[edit]

Cherry[edit]

A cherry is a woman who likes gay men, including katoey.[8]

Samyaan[edit]

A Samyaan is a woman who likes all biological females regardless of gender identity.[8]

Boat[edit]

A male who likes all biological females, regardless of their gender identity.[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jackson, Peter A. (1997-07-08). "Thai research on male homosexuality and transgenderism and the cultural limits of Foucaultian analysis". Journal of the History of Sexuality. 8 (1). JSTOR 3704488. 
  2. ^ "Professor Peter A. Jackson". Australian National University. Retrieved 29 November 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUagSrRd6kI&feature=youtu.be YouTube video,Coconuts Media (documentary),Toms: The Complex World of Female Love in Thailand Published on Jan 23, 2015
  4. ^ Chami Jotisalikorn (2006). Thailand's Luxury Spas. Tuttle Publishing. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-7946-0341-0. 
  5. ^ a b Wilson, Ara (July 2004). The Intimate Economies of Bangkok: Economies of Bangkok Tomboys, Tycoons, and Avon Ladies in the Global City. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 9780520239685. 
  6. ^ Becker, Benjawan Poomsan (1998). Thai for Intermediate Learners. Bangkok: Paiboon Poomsan Publishing. ISBN 1887521011. 
  7. ^ Jody Houton (2016). A Geek in Thailand. Tuttle Publishing. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-8048-4448-2. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g http://nextshark.com/thailand-18-different-gender-identities/
  9. ^ "kathoey". Wiktionary. Retrieved 29 November 2015. 
  10. ^ "ladyboy". Wiktionary. Retrieved 29 November 2015. 
  11. ^ a b Winter, Sam; Udomsak, Nuttawut (2002). "Male, Female and Transgender : Stereotypes and Self in Thailand". International Journal of Transgenderism. 6 (1). ISSN 1434-4599. Retrieved 29 November 2015. 
  12. ^ a b Jackson, Peter A; Sullivan, Gerard (1999). Lady Boys, Tom Boys, Rent Boys: Male and Female Homosexualities in Contemporary Thailand. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-1560231196. Retrieved 29 November 2015. 
  13. ^ Michaelson, Jay (2015-02-08). "Thailand's Transgender People Aren't Just 'Ladyboys' Anymore". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 29 November 2015. 
  14. ^ a b Jackson, Peter A. (August 2003). "Performative Genders, Perverse Desires: A Bio-History of Thailand's Same-Sex and Transgender Cultures". Intersections: Gender, History, and Culture in the Asian Context (9). Retrieved 29 November 2015. 
  15. ^ Hodal, Kate (2012-01-17). "Flying the flag for ladyboys: Thai airline takes on transgender flight attendants". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 November 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Totman, Richard (2003). The Third Sex: Kathoey: Thailand's Ladyboys. London: Souvenir Press. p. 57.
  • Ladyboy: Thailand's Theater of Illusion. Chiang Mai, Cognoscenti Books, 2012. ASIN: B0085S4WQC
  • Grünhagen, Céline (2013): Geschlechterpluralismus im Buddhismus: Zur Tragweite westlicher Wissenschaftskonstruktionen am Beispiel frühbuddhistischer Positionen und des Wandels in Thailand. (Studies in Oriental Religions, 66) Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

External links[edit]