Toms and Dees: Transgender identity and female same-sex relationships in Thailandby Megan J. Sinnott
A vibrant, growing, and highly visible set of female identities has emerged in Thailand known as tom and dee.
A “tom” (from “tom-boy) refers to a masculine woman who is sexually involved with a feminine partner, or “dee” (from “lady”). The patterning of female same-sex relationships into masculine and feminine pairs, coupled with the use of English-derived terms to refer to them, is found throughout East and Southeast Asia. Have the forces of capitalism facilitated the dissemination of western-style gay and lesbian identities throughout the developing world as some theories of transnationalism suggest? Is the emergence of toms and dees over the past twenty-five years a sign that this has occurred in Thailand? Megan Sinnott engages these issues by examining the local culture and historical context of female same-sex eroticism and female masculinity in Thailand.
Drawing on a broad spectrum of anthropological literature, Sinnott situates Thai tom and dee subculture within the global trend of increasingly hybridized sexual and gender identities. Based on seven years of fieldwork, this empirically rich study explores this growing community in Thailand, tacking between the lives of individual toms and dees and the larger context of social norms and political events and discourse within Thailand. Thai toms and dees speak in their own voices about their identities, their relationships, and their struggles over the meanings of masculinity and femininity
“Toms and Dees is an engagingly written and fascinating account grounded in extensive fieldwork and a rich interdisciplinary literature. Sinnott’s nuanced and sophisticated study enhances our understanding of women, gender, and sexuality in a rapidly modernizing region of Southeast Asia . . ." — Michael G. Peletz, W.S. Schupf Professor of Anthropology and Far Eastern Studies, Colgate University
“This marvelous and much-needed study of female same-sex cultures in Thailand redresses a major silence in previous studies . . . Sinnott’s highly accessible presentation makes it equally useful as an undergraduate teaching text.” —Peter Jackson, Fellow in Thai History, Australian National University
About the Author
is presently an instructor at the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale University.