Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hermaphrodites are also Known as a "Kathoey" in Thailand...

The term kathoey or katoey (, ) generally refers to a male-to-female transgender person or an effeminate gay male in Thailand. Related phrases include sao (or phuying) praphet song ("a second kind of woman"), or phet thi sam ("third sex"). The word kathoey is thought to be of Khmer origin. It is most often rendered as ladyboy in English conversation with Thais and this latter expression has become popular across South East Asia except in the Philippines where the term Billyboy is sometimes used.

General description

The term "kathoey" is not an exact equivalent of the modern western transwoman — it suggests that the person is a type of male, unlike the term sao praphet song, which suggests a female sex identity, or phet thee sam, which suggests a third gender. The term phu-ying praphet thi sorng, which can be translated as "second type of woman", is also used to refer to kathoey. Australian scholar of sexual politics in Thailand Peter Jackson claims that the term "kathoey" was used in premodern times to refer to intersexuals, and that the usage changed in the middle of the twentieth century to cover cross-dressing males. The term can refer to males who exhibit varying degrees of femininity — many kathoeys dress as women and undergo feminising medical procedures such as hormone replacement therapy, breast implants, genital reassignment surgery, or Adam's apple reductions. Others may wear makeup and use feminine pronouns, but dress as men, and are closer to the western category of effeminate gay man than transgender.

Kathoeys are often identified at a young age, and are considered to be "born that way". They may have access to hormones (available without prescription) and medical procedures during their teenage years.

The term "kathoey" may be considered pejorative, especially in the form "kathoey-saloey". It has a meaning similar to the English language "fairy" or "queen".

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