Backstage with " The LadyBoys " of Bangkok | Thailand
Thailand's ladyboys or katoey as they are know locally are amongst the most beautiful-and convincing-transvestites in the world. An estimated 200,000 of this "third sex" are accepted in this Buddhist society which places a high value on tolerance, combined with the all pervasive attitude of ?mai pen rai? (no problem, never mind), and the belief that katoeys are the result of transgressions in past lives and deserve compassion and, just maybe, treating katoeys as such might bring good luck.
The British social scientist and theatre director Richard Totman writes in his book The Third Sex that katoey have been an accepted subculture in Thailand for centuries, travelling with troupes of entertainers to local village fairs where they performed bawdy songs and dances in what are know as ?Likay Theatre?.
Typically, katoey dress and live as women. They might be seen working in restaurants and bars, but also hold mainstream jobs in nursing, as secretaries, beauticians, hair stylists? even becoming popular TV stars. Some become prostitutes, the most beautiful of whom are amongst the most highly paid sex workers in Thailand. But for many, it is the draw of performing in any one of the cabaret venues within Thailand, where they captivate audiences with their charm, creativity and flawless female impersonations.
I was given permission to visit backstage at the Blue Moon theatre in Chiang Mai, and during the recent performance of the touring group The Ladyboys of Bangkok in Brighton England. Amongst the racks of shimmering gowns, sequined shorts and feathery headpieces, I was introduced to the performers in various stages of costuming- sitting at dressing tables, applying makeup to their olive-complexioned skin. With their lithe form, all the performers exude a quintessentially feminine sex appeal.
Photo documentary story / Photojournal by UK photographer John Hulme living in Thailand (Hits: 94924)
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