If you are traveling around Thailand, you need to learn a thing or two about how to avoid ladyboys, or 'Kathoey' as they are popularly referred to in the country. Don’t expect them to do it for you! because, well… Some of them will lie to you.
There is a subset of transgender women or effeminate men in Thailand that are called “ladyboys” (or katoey in Thai). They usually are different than other transgender women which Thai society would just call a woman (or phuying in Thai).
Ladyboys play a large role in the nightlife of cities like Bangkok, Phuket, and Pattaya. Ladyboys are also found throughout Thai society and are culturally accepted by all. When visiting, it’s good to act like other Thais and not be judgemental towards ladyboys and not treat them any differently than you would somebody else.
That said, if you do plan on experiencing the nightlife that Thai cities have to offer, it is good to know how to recognize ladyboys. Whether you plan on seeking them out or you want to steer clear of them, here are the 10 easy ways to recognize ladyboys in Thailand.
From a distance, one of the first indicators of a ladyboy is her height. The average height of Thai men is about 4 inches taller than women so ladyboys are usually taller than their cisgendered coworkers. Obviously, someone’s height, and most of these other features, isn’t a perfect test but it’s a good starting place as you walk towards some ladies outside a bar or in a nightlife area.
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Some ladyboys might attempt to make their voices sound higher but not all will do this. Either way, a ladyboy’s voice will sound a bit deeper and fuller than expected, or it might sound artificially high. Ladyboys also generally have better English skills than many other workers you will encounter around the nightlife scene, which can be helpful in many situations.
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Men usually have broad shoulders and narrow hips compared to the opposite for women, narrow shoulders and broad hips. Because of this, ladyboys will usually have proportions similar to a man. If you are around the nightlife areas, ladyboys will usually be wearing fairly skimpy outfits so it shouldn’t be difficult to quickly take a look at the overall proportions of their body.
Once you are near a group of ladies, you can look for an Adam’s apple. If you see one, they are most likely a ladyboy. But that doesn’t mean not having an Adam’s apple guarantees a cis-gendered woman because there are surgeries to lessen the protrusion of it by shaving down the bone. So you should only rely on this feature in conjunction with others in this list.
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Generally speaking, men have larger hands than women do. If the woman’s hand seems bigger than expected, there is a chance that she is a ladyboy. There are women with larger than average hand sizes so be aware of that as well. And size would be the only indicator in regards to hands because having soft, manicured hands with painted fingernails is pretty easily (and cheaply) accomplished in Thailand.
On average, the breast size of Thai women usually is on the smaller size. But since a ladyboy usually has breast implants, they tend to decide on larger than average sizes (if they’re working nightlife). With the aforementioned skimpy clothing, it shouldn’t be very difficult to figure out the size of the woman’s breasts. But remember that anybody can have breast implants so this might not be the best way to tell.
Most ladyboys that work in the nightlife industry are pre-operation in the crotch area. This is what sets them apart from their cis-gendered coworkers and is what most potential customers are looking for in a ladyboy. With their revealing outfits, the ladyboys will need to tuck themselves. This leads to a visible protrusion in some cases and can be used as an identifier.
This isn’t about a negative attitude but a more boisterous attitude that a ladyboy might have. Ladyboys who are working nightlife tend to be louder and more flamboyant than others. If you’re in a nightlife area, ladyboys can be a bit more aggressive in their propositions or a bit bolder in their conversations. Overall, they do seem to be having more fun at all times!
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Depending on the city you are visiting, there are certain streets and certain bars that are well-known for staffing ladyboys. There are also incredibly fun cabarets that are performed by ladyboys and are well worth viewing. If you are in Pattaya, Soi 6 is a popular bar street but just one street over, Soi 6/1, is specifically known for its ladyboy bars. While in Bangkok, there are bars like Cockatoo on Soi Cowboy that are staffed fully by ladyboys. Bangla Road in Phuket is also known as a place where many ladyboys work.
As mentioned, Thai culture is very open-minded and accepting of ladyboys so they aren’t trying to hide the fact. If you really need to know, just ask the woman if she’s a ladyboy or not. She has no reason to lie since many people are visiting Thailand and these areas specifically for ladyboys. They want to have a good time with someone who wants to be with them so they aren’t hiding anything. Be respectful and treat them well. If you don’t want to hang around a ladyboy, just decline their offer like you would with anybody else.
With these 10 easy ways to recognize ladyboys in Thailand, you should be prepared to experience the fun and adventurous nightlife that Thailand has to offer with these tips and knowledge in your back pocket. You’ll be ready to search out a ladyboy bar and have a great night of drinks and dancing. Or you can use this information to make sure you’re hanging out with a cisgender woman. Either way, have fun, be respectful, and enjoy the exciting options found in the major cities of Thailand.