21 November 2009

Why so many ladyboys in Thailand

I came across this interesting post in a blog by a Thai ladyboy and reproduced an edited version here -
The Economical Reason
Unlike the West the bonds between family members are much stronger. If somebody in your family is in trouble (i.e. debt, hospital) the other members of the family have to help them out. Also, there is no kind of public old age pension. The younger family members have to support the old as much as they can.

But if a boy grows up, he will have his own family that he has to provide for and who can therefore spend less money on his parents and grandparents. However, if a boy grows up and becomes a Ladyboy, he who is then a she won´t have a family. They will just work for their own livelihood and are able to support their parents much more than their brothers. So it's an economical advantage for the parents if their son becomes a daughter.
And even if they stay in their home, they can still work in the rice fields like the other women and men do too. But other than their male siblings they usually won´t spend their money on fast motorbikes and whiskey.

The Religion Reason
94 % of the Thai population are Theravada Buddhists. Together with Buddhism Thai people also believe Animism and Spirits a belief that is thousands of years old and had been there already before Buddhism came to Thailand.
Animism was believed in all over the world. Europe, America, Africa and of course Asia. In all of these ancient animist cultures a member of the “Third Sex” was someone special. Many of them where fortune tellers, shamans and highly spiritual people and therefore well respected.
Only when the monotheistic religions became more powerful, the animist belief lost their influence.
In the new religions, there was no place for a “Third Sex”.
Since Buddhism is not a theistic religion and most tolerant, the Buddhism did not overpower but mostly integrate the old animism. Also, in Buddhism there is no prohibition to a “Third Sex”.So the animist culture with their dancing, spiritual transgender members became Buddhist and still kept the “Third Sex”.

In Thailand and there especially in the rural areas where the animist belief is still strong, modern Ladyboys are as much members of the religious community like everybody in their village too. In fact, many of the Ladyboys get even more involved in the daily religious life. They then of course behave like all the other females.
I found the information that “Buddhism is tolerant to Ladyboys” on many sites on the web. But this is only half of the truth. Buddhism is tolerant to other religions, also to those that have transgender people as part of their spiritual community.

The Traditional Reason

In Thailand and especially in rural areas the old traditions are still strong. There´s hardly a week without a religious ceremony, a wedding, a Ngaan Buat rite or a funeral.
At most of these events the village´s Transgenders play an important role.
While the Ladyboys in tourist capitals like Phuket and Pattaya are rather employed in gastronomy, cabaret-shows and in red light entertainment, in Bangkok you find them also connected to their original professions.
No film set is complete without Ladyboys as make-up artists, costume designers or choreographers. The Tomboys, the female counterpart are rather involved in assisting the director or in the light crew.

In villages this is even more clearer to see. Weddings are almost completely organized by Ladyboys. The bride gets her make-up done by Ladyboys, gets her dress put on by Ladyboys, together with her groom she gets her wedding pictures taken by Ladyboys. Ladyboys prepare the food, arrange the flowers, dance and sing on the wedding stage.
At religious celebrations Ladyboys are most often fully involved, decorate the parade floats and organize the mandatory beauty contest.
Ladyboys are hence a important part of a village´s daily life in Thailand and are respected accordingly.

The post is, as I've mentioned, by a Thai ladyboy, who I might add says she isn't in the P4P business. In spite of that, I believe it brings one a fair way to understanding why there are so many of them even when you compare other South East  Asian countries.

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