Ladyboys, Katooey, and the Third Gender

If you are traveling Asia for any period of time then something you are sure to see is the famed “ladyboys” of Asia. Some are so beautiful that they often make real women jealous. So, let’s not be shy and explore.

Take a seat in a bar in any of Thailands hotspots such as the Walking Street in Pattaya and you’ll be surrounded by beauty, but is it the beauty you think it is? You’ll be instantly attracted to their curves, their revealing attire, and their ‘come on’ attitude. Yet, your instincts will be setting off bells in your mind that something is a little bit off, but, your male hormones are likely to be in overdrive and drowned out by your eagerness to find a partner and your attraction to their sexy looks and figure.

Such is the lure of Thailand’s ladyboys, or Katooey as they are known locally, and where they are widely accepted as the third gender.

Bold confidence – The characterful thing about Ladyboys is that they still have a male brain, and are not at all shy. They will often make the first contact and quickly get to the point often using their hands demonstrate their eagerness to be with you. Asian women by contrast and shy and somewhat conservative at least until the ice is broken, normally by you, and a connection and trust is developed which all takes time. 

Adams Apple – females simply don’t have, but to be honest it’s not overly prominent in some males and it can also be surgically removed.

Overly Feminine – Many understand and mimic feminine characteristics so well that sometimes they overplay it. 

Fashion Sense – their confidence is also expressed through their fashion sense, often wearing clothes to exaggerate femininity

Hand size – Asian women have much smaller hands than the male





Where to find and meet Ladyboys

The most popular places include Thailand and nearby Cambodia. In Thailand popular bars and cabaret shows include:

Simon Cabaret, Kathu District, Phuket

Moulin Rose Cabaret Show, Bangla Road, Phuket

Aphrodite Cabaret Show, Kathu District, Phuket

King Castle III, Patpong, Bangkok

Cascade GoGo Bar, Nana Plaza, Bangkok

Starz Cabaret, Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui


In Cambodia

The Draft Bar, Siem Reap

The Cozy Bar, Siem Reap

Pub Street area after midnight, Siem Reap

Island Bar, Phnom Penh

Blue Chilli, Phnom Penh


In the Philippines

High Heels, Manilla

P.Burgos street area, Manilla




Why become a Ladyboy

This wasn’t an easy question to ask, and it took time to get some girls relaxed enough to reveal their innermost personal secrets. And, there was no clear single answer. The obvious and clear thing that came through was that they like men, but why not simply be a part of the gay community? For some, it was a path to fulfill their desire by being the object of another’s desire. The men they wanted were looking for slender figures and femininity, so, be that. For others, it was a very different story that ties into Asian culture somewhat. The lack of a father figure is common in some families and as many boys grow up they spend nearly all of their early years surrounded by and learning from women. These characteristics stay with them and sometimes shape their own vision of themselves. 

The lack of a father figure is common in some Asian families with some men always working, some men living separate lives from their wives, and some women raising their child/children completely by themselves. As many boys grow up they spend nearly all of their early years surrounded by and learning from women. These characteristics stay with them and sometimes shape their own vision of themselves.

One friend I made explained to me that he was raised as a girl, her mother didn’t want a boy so she raised him and dressed him as a girl, something he retained and carried into adult life to the extent of having breast implants and desiring sex change.

I think I only touched the surface and there would be some very deep soulful stories to find within this community. 


Pre-OP or Post-OP

Continuing on the topic of sex changes are something that is on the rise. Technically it’s called SRS (Sexual Reassignment Surgery) where a person undergoes what is a lengthy process of hormone therapy and surgery to reassign the person’s gender to match how they identify themselves.

For some that are on this journey they may refer to themselves or be referred to as pre-op or post-op, technically they are a transgender person who is transsexual and later becomes transsexed. Transgender refers to a person whose gender identity differs from their assigned sex and transsexed referring to a person who has completed SRS and their gender identity matches their gender assignment.

You may also hear the term Third Gender as a general classification with the loose meaning of neither male nor female.


Should I go home with a Ladyboy?

It’s a valid question that many guys may struggle with. You might venture into a bar anywhere in South East Asia and meet a beautiful girl and be quite attracted to her. But what to think when you discover she is naturally a he?

Some guys are very flexible and won’t have any second thoughts, whereas straight guys may be attracted, but repulsed, but also may be curious.

The big attraction that lures straight guys into this curiousness is the simplicity and directness of Ladyboys. It can be really comforting and relaxing to find a potential partner that is uncomplicated, upfront and so assertive with femininity. 

When traveling alone the desire to find a companion can release some of the shackles of being strictly heterosexual and a willingness to try new things. It really is a very personal thing, and there is no right or wrong answer as to whether you do or don’t, it’s completely a personal choice.



Practicing Safe Sex

It’s a statistical fact that there is a high prevalence of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases among Ladyboys. It’s highly recommended to practice safe sex and use a condom, Asians by nature can have a very carefree attitude but this is one area where you should take care.

Why more so with the Gay and Kathoey (Ladyboy) community? As described by the lining of the anus does not self-lubricate, is very thin, and can tear easily, and allow the virus to enter the body. 


Should I date a Ladyboy

There are a lot of men who will regularly partner with a ladyboy yet they do not identify themselves as gay nor would they partake in sexual activities with a male.

Many men enjoy the fact that for them it’s like having a girlfriend without any of the downsides which they state as being the lack of emotional outbursts, no periods or hormonal emotions, lack of drama, openness, directness, and the overtly feminine nature.

It’s not unusual for men to date Ladyboys, Shemales, Transexuals or Transsexed in Asia, nor should it be anywhere in today’s world for that matter. Likewise, dating can lead to love and love can lead to lifelong partnerships. If people are happy together, then bless them and their good luck.




More than just Sex Workers

In Thailand particularly, Kathoey as they are also known, many fit in with mainstream society as women and occupy everyday jobs such as in retail and service positions. 

Thailand has also paid deep consideration to this minority group and is planning to introduce the concept of ‘Third Gender” into the constitution where a person can choose not to identify as Male or Female and be able to self-identify. Under Thailand law, it is not possible to change your sex status on your identity card, even after gender reassignment.

Other countries in Asia are not so advanced and yet to recognize what is a growing minority group that faces many challenges and much discrimination. 

Whilst Thailand and Cambodia are two countries where there is an openness to accepting transgender people into society there is still a lot of discrimination. In many cases, they may be refused normal jobs, refused entry into certain places and have difficulty integrating into mainstream society. To earn an income it’s highly likely that they will end up in the sex industry and also endure the many challenges and stigmas that exist in such.


As you can start to gather, from a human perspective, this topic could go deep and I have barely scratched the surface. The stories of life that I was fortunate to hear wear eye-opening and in many cases heart touching journeys of people that are challenged internally about their own identity and the challenges they face within society as they come out to be themselves.

The strength of their character and the ease with which they let go of rejection and hardships is something I truly admire.