Ladyboys Moving Up

| May 12, 2014
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TG flight Attendants who lost their jobs when the airline folded.

TG flight Attendants who lost their jobs when the airline folded.

It’s not that unusual in Chiang Mai, or in Thailand generally for that matter, to come across Ladyboys when you least expect to find them.

Maybe on the supermarket checkout, or working in well known, international cosmetic/beauty/medicine retailers such as Watson or Boots; in coffee shops, hair salons or, now and then, as sales representatives for cosmetic companies — or maybe even starring in bridal gown wear at wedding fairs. Of course, then there are the bars and other places of, ermm . . .  entertainment.

Leaving aside those working in the bars etc., the girls in question are simply doing an honest day’s work, trying to live “normal” lives (whatever that means and entails), blend in with their co-workers and simply be part of a generally accepting or non-judgmental society — well at least superficially.

Unfortunately, it’s an unwritten rule, an unspoken fact that there is an almost impermeable “glass ceiling” when it comes to careers and career advancement for Ladyboys in the country — despite all of the positives or, should I say, the apparently non-discriminatory environment.

Sure, many times Ladyboys do not help themselves by not being the best of students or not getting the qualifications they need to progress — but, as I think I have said previously, if “normal” (oh, that word again!) students with their raging hormones and other distractions have a hard enough time to study and pass exams, how can one expect mixed-up, gender confused teens who are fighting the prejudices of society (when all they want to do is live life as they were born to be), get on well academically?

It really is a vicious circle, and I have met so many Ladyboys with stories that are so “cut and paste” from each other that sometimes I’ve wondered if they have been programmed to repeat the same lines!

The typical story goes something like this:

  • Knew there was something different/wrong from 6, 8, 10, 12… whatever young age
  • Started dressing  in girl’s clothes secretly, maybe early teens
  • Began fraternising with other Ladyboys in school and at leisure
  • Got caught dressing by mother/father/grandmother/other relative (not surprising really as, traditionally, generations of Thai families tend to live in one big house or compound)
  • Big fight/row/argument ensued
  • Banned from dressing up or, for the more extreme, forced out of the home
  • Began dressing full time, grew hair long and became almost indistinguishable from a real girl
  • Drifted into taking hormones, soft drugs,
  • Forwent education
  • Left school and took up a relatively menial job; limited future; living day to day
  • From late teens started living with a boyfriend who helped support them (a very common occurrence as many Thai men have an attraction to the very pretty Ladyboys . . .  until such time as they are forced by their own families to get a “real” wife and settle down and have children)
  • Years on, maybe looks fading a bit, boyfriend finally leaves and Ladyboy is distraught
  • Trying to save for hormone therapy (professionally supervised, not self selected or administered drugs — which they have been doing for years), breast augmentation, “complete” gender reassignment
  • Can’t see a future, lose hope; turn to harder drugs and maybe crime…

Need I go on?

Still, it’s not all gloom and doom, and there are signs over the last year or so that many of the larger companies (both Thai and international) are recognizing that Ladyboys can play a part in their businesses and are allowing them to join in-house or externally sponsored educational and training programs to better their careers.

Diversity in the workplace is a hot issue in Asia (mainly due to the promptings I have to say of some of the larger, more progressive MNCs) and, with the Internet and other social media dominating society, the opportunity is beckoning for T people in Asia to get their act together and carry on with the momentum forged by our LGB cousins.

It’s just a pity that is has taken so many, many years for things like this to happen—still, we can but hope the progress continues and the phrase “Ladyboys Moving Up” is heard more and more often!

  • Yum

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Category: Transgender Opinion

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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