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I may be a Ladyboy: but just accept me as a woman

The very construction of the word Ladyboy can be misleading to many people when they first learn more about Transgender women. Others are confused that these stunning Trans women can have anything to do with the "boy" part of Ladyboy!

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As, without doubt, Ladyboys are Trans women. Nothing more, nothing less.

To understand this issue better it's worth going back to the origins of the word Ladyboy to see how this situation has arisen.

Ladyboys first "wowed" locals in cabaret shows

The story goes that, when foreign tourists first became aware of beautiful Thai Transgender women 30 or 40 years ago, they had difficulty coming to terms with the fact that these women were initially designated as male. They couldn't quite grasp the concept as it were. After all, at that time in the tourists' home country discrimination and prejudices meant that Transgender people were well hidden. Even gay men and women kept a very low profile.

Yet, in Thailand, foreign tourists could see that there were Trans women in open society. Working in hotels or shops or offices and, of course, in the famous cabaret shows.

Ladyboy Cabaret
Chiang Mai Ladyboy Cabaret Show - copyright: chiangmai.bangkok/

Not universally accepted, but most Trans living without many of the prejudices prevalent at the time in the US or Europe.

Locally, Thais were well used to seeing and interacting with Trans women, and generally treated them as just another subset of the gender spectrum. At the time, the term Katoey was in widespread use for Transgender women but also could embrace certain, more effeminate, gay males. In fact, initially Katoey had a negative connotation but gradually as other terms came into use for gay men, Katoey became almost exclusively used for Trans woman. The negativity also subsided as the word came more and more into everyday use--and Trans women became increasingly visible in Thai society.

Foreign tourism increased demand to see Ladyboys

Tourism really began to take off in Thailand in the mid-1980s as more and more foreign tourists started to discover Phuket, Pattaya, and even Bangkok. Ladyboy cabaret shows which already had a loyal following amongst local Thais who enjoyed the spectacle and showmanship suddenly became a "must-see" for foreign visitors.

At first, foreign visitors were told that the beautiful Trans woman in the shows were Katoeys but somehow this didn't resonate. They found it hard to accept the concept of males making such beautiful women or believing that they were male at all.

Hence a better explanation was introduced. The words Transgender or Trans may not have even been coined, so the solution was quite simple. These great looking Trans women were boys who looked, dressed, and acted like ladies. Put the two descriptive words together and what is the result? The term: Ladyboy!

A perfect word to explain to foreign tourists what the "humans" they were watching were all about. And a word which was quickly embraced by tourists and local alike. Indeed, even Trans women seemed content to use it!

Newer labels for Ladyboys came into being

As more time passed the usage of Ladyboy became almost mainstream. Yet, overseas there was a revolution of sorts starting in the ongoing understanding and recognition of Transgender issues and gender issues. With better knowledge and more people realizing that gender is a very wide spectrum; that being non-binary is much more common than first thought, more research meant that newer descriptions came in to being. The words Transgender and Trans evolved and became common usage. They were seen as more appropriate to describe those born with male genitalia, but really females in mind, thoughts and perspective and outlook on life. It was also recognized that male to female

Ladyboys are fundamentally women.

So, whilst Ladyboy remains a popular term in common use, it does not really aptly describe the person you label with that tag. In short, Ladyboy are Trans women. And Trans women are, fundamentally women. So, accept them for what they are, not what you imagine or want them to be. Hopefully, one day the Trans part of Trans women will be dropped also all Transgender can get in with their lives..., simply as women!

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