Monday, April 27, 2009

Thailand's Secret Sex: Katoys or Lady-Boys

In Bangkok's notorious red-light area, many of the beautiful Thai girls who work the bars are not what they seem. Known as "katoys," they are in fact men who choose to have sex-change operations so they can work as prostitutes. Many of their male clients never learn the truth.

Nok sits alone in a bar in Patpong Street watching the Western men come and go. She flicks back her long black hair and smiles encouragingly as they pass. A cocktail appears at her table. Nok looks up and blows a crimson kiss at the man who's staring at her from across the bar. Later, consumed by booze and bravado, he approaches her. He tells her she's the most beautiful woman he's ever seen. He says he has money, plenty of money. Nok giggles and takes him by the hand. Later, much later, he slips, satisfied, back to his hotel. He has no idea he has slept with a "katoy."

In Thailand, there are an estimated 10,000 katoys. It's an ambiguous term, spanning full male-to-female transsexuals who have had their penises removed, breast implants and an artificial vagina inserted, to men who have had breast implants but have kept their penises. In addition, there are also transvestites who work the cabaret circuit and male actors who dress as women for television. Eunuchs have been part of Thai society for centuries, living, sometimes reluctantly, as women. They were generally males born with deformed genitals; it was not until 1972 that breast implants and full sex-change operations became available in the country.

Story Continues...


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