By: Tyler Sutton and Greg Pinette
One of the starkest social differences between the USA and Thailand is gender stereotypes and the transgendered community. Many members of the transgendered community face serious stigma and mistreatment in the US. While in Thailand, these individuals are seen socially as a third gender.
Right off the bat, masculine men wear pink. The bad boys paint their nails and wearing make up has very little to do with sexual orientation. Even more disorienting is the presence of the Kathoeys. It has been a fascinating experience interacting with these individuals and seeing where they fit in the culture here.
Our first experience with a group of Kathoeys happened when we were wondering around the mall. I can honestly say I haven’t been seriously ‘cat-called’ before. When we past the second floor a group of masculine women or very feminine males began hollering and calling out to us. They were working at a make-up shop. This experience was dramatically difference for us because we saw how open they could be in public, which is very different from the US.
Our second interaction was when we were being made up for the rain parade. A pair of Kathoeys did our makeup and costumes. Again, it was interesting to see not only how well these people fit into this role but how they were more respected for it. It was clear that having a kathoey do our make up was something to be proud of.
Our third interacting was during a performance on stage. In Thai culture the Kathoeys embrace their sexuality and make light of their situation. In two performances we saw, the kathoey were the comedic relief and often poked fun at themselves by loosing their wigs and teasing male members of the audience. This was something that everyone in the audience enjoyed.
In conclusion, it is easy to see that the role of transgendered people is something that is not only accepted but in many instances is embraced. This has been an eye-opening experience that you could only get in Thailand!