Out in The City

 |  April 26, 2011

A fierce argument has been raging on the internet. Indignant feet have been stubbornly stamped and pearl necklaces have been shaken fit to break. The subject that has caused this incandescent mass debate: ‘Is attraction to ladyboys a gay thing?’ Chiang Mai has a fair share of these transgendered ‘Lola’ folk who evoke envy from Thai women and much confusion generally. So who is attracted to ladyboys? An internet poll registered 2.97% of gay men, 12.29% of bisexual men and a whopping 38.6% of straight men have had their boats floated by katoeys. Over half the male population! Most gay men are not attracted to ladyboys but more men who identify themselves as being straight, are.

Of course, the gays, bi’s and straights cling to their tribes and love their labels but does it all really matter? The confusion and blurring of sexual identities is a good thing. It results in a license to be free. Free from the constraints of western Christian guilt and taboo. Free to try new experiences and explore, without hang-ups or prejudice. Free to be yourself. Those garish and not so subtle ladyboys who adorn bars and massage parlours like bright baubles on a Christmas tree – sometimes tasteful and interestingly beautiful, sometimes gaudy, are human too. In Chiang Mai, they also have the freedom to be who they are.

There is no need to discuss ‘plumbing’- pre op or post op. What goes on behind closed doors between consenting adults, does not matter a jot. What matters is that we human beings are a delightfully diverse bunch and here we have the opportunity to celebrate our individualism and take our desires where they lead us – remembering all the while that in Thailand it is not what you do but how you do it that matters. In the west, a construction worker wears his pink lace panties under his overalls. Here, he can wear full drag, enjoy and be enjoyed!

So, ladies and gentlemen, next time you are in the audience enjoying the glam and glitter of a ladyboy show and there’s a familiar stirring in your loins, forget the labels. Remember that old Kinks song, Lola; “Girls will be boys and boys will be girls, it’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world, except for Lola.”

James Barnes is editor-in-chief of OUT in Thailand Magazine.