Ladyboys in Thailand: A Very Typical Story

| Aug 4, 2014
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A month or so back, I was in a well known chain of local coffee shops in Chiang Mai, about to enjoy my regular hot chocolate and over-indulge in a banana cream pie. The very pretty waitress who served me, gave me a lovely smile, and politely asked, “Where do you come from?” — a standard opening line in Thailand when Thai ladies usually wish to practice their English.

You can imagine my surprise, although maybe shock is a better word, a few minutes into our conversation when the lady in question (called Jira as I had found out) said, quite unexpectedly, “Actually I’m not a real girl, you know. . . .”

Over the next few weeks I got to know Jira better and hear more about her life as a Ladyboy or Katoey in northern Thailand. She kindly agreed to record some of our conversations, and here is part of her (very typical) story:

Christine: Please tell me where you were born and something about your early life.

Jira: I was born in January 1989 in a small, rural, quite poor district, around 3 hours north of Chiang Mai. My parents separated when I was young and my sister and I lived with my mother. After some time, my mother remarried and had another son.

Christine: Do you remember much about these times?

Jira: Not too much, although I knew something was not quite right with me, something was different. In fact, I think I was aware that I was a female from the ages of 4-5. I remember one time when I was about 6 that I’d secretly been using my mother’s lipstick—and when she found out she hit me.

Christine: What about when you were in your teens?

Jira: Hmm, a difficult time. Once I reached my teens, I knew that I wanted to dress up and live as a woman but, honestly, I was embarrassed to do so. However, I had friends at school who were just like me, and they encouraged me to dress up and be effeminate.

Jira-2Unfortunately, my mother noticed the changes in me and insisted I not behave like that. She said that if I was a Katoey she would throw me out of the house [big sigh]. She said this to me every day. Even though I was about 14, I was very scared and did as she said. I lived at home and behaved like a normal boy but, when I was at school, I could be what I wanted. All of my friends and the teachers understood what I was.

Christine: Oh dear, it must have been hard. And then, what happened?

Jira: After I graduated from high school, my mother told me that she had no money to send me to study any longer. So, I didn’t go to college and had to find work near my home in order to support my mother and brother.

But every day there was pressure from my mother wanting me to be a man, so finally I left my home village to find work in Chiang Mai. The first job I got was in a bar. I did everything: opening up, cleaning, serving, customer billing, clearing glasses etc. I sent all of my salary to my mother every month and used the tips I got for personal expenses. At the same time, I began learning English and studied more about the service industry.  More importantly, I started to focus on being a woman.

Christine: Oh — what do you mean?

Jira: Well, I learned to dress better, use make-up properly, and also started using female hormones. After a while, I could see changes in my body, such as the redistribution of fat, some breast growth and my skin became softer like a woman’s.

Christine: Were you in touch with your family?

Jira: Not so much but, when I was 19, I decided to go back home. I went to visit my mother and sister. It was a 3-hour bus ride; three hours of nerves and excitement. When the bus arrived home I stepped out of the vehicle and my heart was trembling in fear that my mother would not accept the “new” me.

Jira-3When I saw my mother she hugged me and said, “You are very beautiful” and told me I could be anything I wanted to be, but that I had to be a good person  At this time, I was very happy but couldn’t stop crying; tears of happiness flowed from my eyes.

Christine: Wow, I’m sure that was very emotional.

Jira: Yes, but soon I returned to work and got a better job. Because I do not drink nor like working at night, I took this new job in this coffee shop. I can speak English and get on well with foreign customers and my boss is very happy with me. I have now good experience in the service industry.

Christine: What about the future, do you think about it?

Jira: Yes, of course. I’m saving for my dream… [smiles] my dream is to have the necessary operations to become a “complete” woman. And as soon as I can!


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Category: Transgender Body & Soul

Christine B

About the Author ()

Christine has written numerous (at least 150) articles, columns, op-eds, features & stories for well known T magazines, websites & e-zines; she also works as a part time fiction editor for Club Lighthouse Publishing, and is a co-editor of an award winning T-girl Magazine. In addition, she has written 8 adult books mainly in the T sub-genre which have been published by Club Lighthouse Publishing, for whom she has been the best selling author for the last 5 years.

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  1. Belinda C Belinda C says:

    That’s a very touching story. It’s good to know that the people you love the most, eventually will accept you the way you are.
    Cheers for Jira!!!