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Ladyboys and Homosexuality in Thailand

Ladyboys, known as "katoey" in the Thai language, remain a deep fascination for those who travel to Thailand, which is seen by many tourists as a country totally devoid of homophobia. However, in Chiang Mai recently, a popular late night dance club posted signs which said, "No Ladyboys". Rumors of different gangs of Ladyboys in Bangkok and Pattaya attacking foreigners and robbing them has created a new fear in recent years, along with a wary attitude towards what is often referred to in Thailand, as the "third gender".

Undoubtedly, there have been occasional groups of people, who happen to be Ladyboys, who have committed illegal acts and are guilty as charged. Thailand also has seen its fair share of crime acted out by all genders and different elements of society, yet there seems to be a definite distinction when the perpetrator or accused is described as a Ladyboy, implying some inherent correlation between Ladyboys and violence.

Ladyboys are seen throughout the Kingdom in virtually all aspects of the workplace, in small rural villages and urban areas alike. Some are employed in restaurants, while others own their own cafes. Ladyboys work in shops, banks, spas, in the market and just about every sector of society. Some are teachers while others are students. Some non-government schools have even recently built a third toilet facility with a sign outside the door labeled as "Third Gender".

But the question remains as to whether or not homophobia exists in the Land of Smiles. Many Thai people consider acceptance of Ladyboys quite different to accepting homosexuality. When asked, "Is your friend gay?", they will often say, "No, he is a Ladyboy," implying a difference, whether that friend exclusively dates men or not. Descriptions of Ladyboy friends, as well, often include giggles and remarks that are refrained from when describing straight friends.

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