The transgender culture of Thailand

Updated: Sep 26, 2020

There is no doubt that Thailand has a very high number of transgender people within it's culture. For many tourists that come to Thailand one of the challenges is to know how to tell the difference between a "lady boy" (a term that means a transgender male) and a real female. If you are on a sex holiday you will need to learn what the telltale signs are in a matter of seconds, so that you don't end up in an embarrassing situation or wasting money buying lady drinks to a dude.

Thailand is known as the world capital for transvestites and is a world leader in reassignment surgery and other types of cosmetic feminization surgery. It even has a medical sex change tourism industry that brings the economy 140 billion baht annually. With 30 million annual tourists of which at least 20 million are there for sex its no wonder that Thailand's economy and success have grown so rapidly.

Research on the Thai population through the census reports show that there are 100,000 transsexuals in Thailand. This is not a large percentage but just looking around the place it seems a lot more. This is because transgender people are accepted within Thai society and are open about it. Many work in hairdressing or beauty salons or as sex workers. The official number of sex workers in Thailand according to research figures is 300,000 of which transsexuals make up a whopping 8%. However these statistics don't include full and part-time freelancers, side girls or dating site girls that account for a total figure of almost 1 million.


A ladyboy prostitute talking to two men.

Of what I can see it would be fair to say that the ratio of lady boys to female prostitutes would be 1 to 10 (the 1 being lady boys) and you only need to walk around the red-light districts anywhere in Thailand to see that would be about right. This means you have a one in ten chance of meeting a lady boy in your adventures. Some expats that live in Thailand permanently will tell you it takes a few months until you can be 100% certain in a matter of a few seconds if its a lady boy or real woman.

Lady boy physical characteristics?


One of the two most distinguishing features between a male and a female is the person's height and width of the shoulders. The height of an average woman in Thailand is about 157.3 cm (5 foot 2 inches) for a male it is 167.5cm (5 foot 6 inches). A lady boy will be the height of a male and therefore at least 4 inches taller. ​ With a taller body come bigger hands and feet so look out for the size of their hands. Their feet will be well covered with high heel shoes but the shoe size will be a giveaway. The shoulders on a lady boy are much more broad and wider from shoulder to shoulder than a female.

So if the lady boy happens to be short, meaning the same height as a female, then you should look for their shoulder width. If the shoulders are too wide it's not a female. Then there are notable differences such as Adam's apple which you will not see on a woman. The voice will be deeper and he will try to hide that by talking in a higher voice or just imitating a woman's voice to his best ability. Male characteristics also include narrower lips (not necessarily in black people) which they will hide with makeup and narrower hips (which they will hide with fashion clothing). A man has more pronounced veins on the arms and hands because men have thicker veins.


Two ladyboy's standing inside a bar.

A man has a wider jaw and a squarer chin (with perhaps a dimple in the middle) and his brow line is lower meaning the forehead is more pronounced. I know that one can pluck eyebrows and make them appear to be sitting up higher but you can't hide the forehead unless you wear a bandana and I have never seen a lady boy with one.

Also, a man's ring finger is longer than the index finger whereas the woman's fingers are the opposite. Now some of you will be thinking how can I see this if she is moving her hands around. Well, you can't unless you ask her/him to put his hand flat on the table for 20 seconds so you can have a closer look but the accuracy of this is reliable to within 99.97% so its another useful tool in your arsenal. ​


You should just use a few of the examples given and you will be on the right track pretty fast. The height and broad shoulders are the most typical characteristics that can be noticed. I can usually tell just by the shoulders and feet alone. Then you can follow up on a few of the other characteristics if you are still not sure. In all cases, stand back a little and just ask them and they will tell you.


Lady boy mannerisms


A male who is trying to imitate a woman will exaggerate feminine mannerisms with excessive hand and body gestures. He will walk like a catwalk model or stand in a certain way trying to imitate a sexy female. Some of them have mastered this so well it quite funny to watch. He will try to be sexy in the way he talks but no real girl talks that way.


A lady boy will be much pushier when doing business with you, unlike a Thai girl who will be much more tolerant and understanding. Lady boys usually hang out in groups of two or more and work the streets as a team, even choreographing their moves like a fishnet bringing in the catch. They are very clever at what they do and are good at reading body language.


Two ladyboy's working in the street.

If you aren't sure if the person you are talking to is male or female just ask them and they will tell you. They are not ashamed of being lady boys and they understand that they are not everyone's cup of tea. Just be reserved at all times because if you have shown a lady boy a fair amount of interest thinking its a girl and then realized you were wrong later it will be harder to leave the situation. That's because they are pushy and sometimes outright arrogant if things don't go their own way. Just be courteous but firm and walk away. If you don't want to find yourself in an uncomfortable situation study my bar charts and don't go into the ladyboy bars unless of course, that's whom you want to meet.

Remember what the indicators are


The main indicators as mentioned are height, shoulder width, size of the hand and feet. The Adam's apple, veins on the arms and hands, wider chin, larger forehead, ring finger length and exaggerated mannerisms are secondary indicators. These indicators should be memorized and applied in situations where you may have met what you think is a woman but want to be sure.


There are so many lady boys in Thailand and they are getting better with their makeup and the way they dress and present themselves. Some have had breast implants and plastic surgery and look very much like women. It's these types that are the hardest to discern especially when they are beautiful.


Front view of a ladyboy standing.

You don't want to end up spending your holiday time with a lady boy who may be thinking you like lady boys not realizing that you actually think she is a female. Most lady boys seem to expect you to know that they are lady boys not realizing some guys are to inexperienced or too drunk to notice.


The transgender culture


As mentioned, the number of transsexuals is large enough in that the tourist will find them everywhere in large numbers. The Thai culture does not discriminate against them in the same way as Western culture does so therefore they are much more noticeable. With so many men dressed up as women it is somewhat overwhelming and confronting which takes time to get used to. The transgender population of Thailand is without a doubt very much apart of the culture and that is not likely to ever change.


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