Every visitor to Bangkok will notice that there are lots of ladyboys – people who don’t really fit in standard Western gender concepts. In fact, ladyboys are just one of several distinctions.
Ladyboys are men who become women – to different degrees. Some of them just dress and behave like women, many actually go through surgery to have a woman’s body (sometimes with the strange combination of female breasts and male genitalia).
In Thailand, we call them not ladyboys, but katoey, which comes from the Khmer word for different. You can often see them in markets, on the streets, and in shopping malls, particularly in the fashion and makeup departments. But they really do work in all kinds of places, from banks, insurance companies to variety shows and (yes) bars.
Some of them are really beautiful – even more beautiful than most women – and other’s look… well, let’s call it “unique”.