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A Good Son Forever
t the fringes of southern Thailand’s largely Buddhist society is the small Muslim island of Ko Yao Noi. Though most villagers adhere to the rituals of the Islamic faith, there are some who are reinterpreting what it means to be a Muslim in Thailand.

High school senior Natthawut Peutchgarn, or “Tata,” identifies with his Islamic heritage but also lives on the periphery. On occasion, Peutchgarn trades his school-regulated uniform for flamboyant dresses to perform like Thai pop singer Tata Young.

By dressing like a woman, Peutchgarn is a Thai “katoey,” or ladyboy. Yet his community does not marginalize him. As Peutchgarn dances and sings at school assemblies, he is embraced by his Muslim society.

 

     
Fast Facts Thai Ladyboys

  • The term ladyboy, or “katoey” in Thai, can apply to a range of men – from those who behave in an effeminate way to those who have undergone gender reassignment surgery.

  • Buddhism recognizes three genders: male, female and a third sex that is not strictly man, woman or both. In largely Buddhist nations such as Thailand, gays are viewed more favorably than in other countries.

  • The largest number of gender reassignment surgeries in the world are performed in Bangkok.

  • Ladyboys work traditionally female occupations in salons or cabaret shows or as waitresses or receptionists.

  • The Pattaya region in central Thailand has a high concentration of ladyboys, many of whom are prostitutes. Prostitution often pays for cosmetic and gender reassignment surgeries.

  • Once a Thai person changes their gender physically, they may be socially recognized as their new gender. Legally, they will remain the gender they were born.
Map Ko Yao Noi

Links
Thai "Ladyboy" Kickboxer is Gender-Bending Knockout

Where the 'Ladyboys' Are

Thailand's 'Third Sex' Seeks Legal Recognition

Cross-dressing Teens Get Own School Bathroom

 
     
     
 

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