Third Sex, The: Kathoey—Thailand's Ladyboysby Richard Totman
The ladyboy cabarets of Thailand are a leading tourist attraction but the glamorous and attractive men, who are now women, are a modern expression of an archaic tradition. The kathoey, the Thai term for ladyboys, have long been part of the cultural landscape of Thailand.
Who are the ladyboys? Richard Totman introduces us to these individuals who started life as boys but while at school decided to become kathoey. We follow their rite-of-passage to becoming fully fledged kathoey. This perceptively written and well-researched account places these lives in the context of the cultural, historical, religious, biological and psychological aspects of trans-gender.
The kathoey serve as part of a wider discussion on trans-gender. 'Third sex' groups form part of many ancient communities, all originating in beliefs that pre-date doctrinaire religion. Buddhism embraces trans-gendered individuals in the belief that a person's becoming a kathoey is predetermined from birth. Many communities accept a 'third sex', from Thai and Samoan to Native American and Filipino. Only in the West has repression occurred.
This subject fascinates Western society, for it asks the question: if the existence of a 'third sex' is a universal phenomenon, why does Western society repress it and Thai society accept it? Why are there so many kathoey in Thailand and so few in the Western world?
About the Author
RICHARD TOTMAN has been a Price Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford University, a Fellow of Linacre College, Oxford and a lecturer at the University of Sussex. He is among the world's foremost researchers into the psychosomatic causes of illness. After a time as a theatre director he travelled around Asia where he became interested in the subject of the kathoey. He currently teaches for part of each year in Thailand.