Ladyboys the Documentary

Ladyboys the Documentary

Ladyboys the website began like this, one evening in Convent Street or Soi Convent, Silom;
It’s hot, fucking hot and humid and just getting dark and I am sweating as I listen to question after question as we stand on the road together. In the way that only journalists can, Charlie and Dee press on regardless, earnestly, sympathetically, apologetically but pressing on is what they must do because they are deep in the shit now.

Thailand boxing Statue David Bonnie Bangkok Thailand davidbonnie.com

They have made a mistake and now they are making another while trying to undo the first. They are too deadline orientated to care that while they may be able to extract information about Thai ladyboys from inside of my head they will never be able to truly ‘know’ that knowledge; not in their bodies the way that I know. Knowing in the body is where it’s at. Anything less than experiencing with the body is just ‘talking the talk’. Now they are asking me to tell them precisely what ‘walking the walk’ means, assuming that I am able to do that.
That assumption is mistake number three, a repeat of mistake number one: asking questions without understanding the source of the answers and believing blindly what they are told.
After reading Bangkok Baby, they have asked me to to help them write about Thai ladyboys and tonight they are lucky. I know some of the answers and all of the questions. The where, what, why, and how of ladyboys is galloped through without pause, without understanding. It’s becoming tedious.
Then just like that, the night snapped its fingers and the quality of the darkness changed and the creatures of the night begin to appear. So intent are they on asking me about ladyboys that a tall, dark, red-lipped urchin walks past and they do not see her, only her wake. ‘How can you tell?’, they ask me. ‘How can you not?’, I ask back at them, ‘Are you both blind’?

Annie Night Street Food David Bonnie Bangkok Thailand davidbonnie.com

A ladyboy who looks like she has been working late in an office crosses Silom, walking behind them and as she mounts the steps to the BTS. She hovers in my eye-line for a moment longer than necessary. We smile, recognize, imagine, taste. For some reason that I still don’t really understand the news people are open- mouthed. ‘That’s how it’s done’, I tell them. ‘Its just human attraction and it happens all over the world, it just happens quicker here in Bangkok. Sometimes it happens too quickly’. I know they don’t understand what I mean. But they begin to sense the mojo of Bangkok and how the city will carry your heart if you let yourself be carried away. Now they begin to see it, the city opens itself to them as more and more ladyboys walk past us almost on cue as if this was all a surreal opera about vampires. I begin to dream, to enter the waking dream world where the senses are everything and sense nothing. No questions are needed because now they can feel the night but still they ask, ‘Why do ladyboys like you so much, how do they know you like them’, a portent of the many embarrassing questions that were soon to come my way.

Taxis At Night David Bonnie Bangkok Thailand davidbonnie.com

We all like to feel we are special but that’s just a kind of fantasy not something tangible we can talk about. It’s not real. ‘I don’t think I am special. Ladyboys are just horny little devils who want to stick their horns in me’.
‘I’m not special, I’m just available’, I laugh, overcompensating. ‘Probably all ladyboys want a boyfriend. Once they know I live here it’s easy. If you live here everything changes; the way Thai people talk to you changes. Even those who are prostitutes dream about a lover, a friend, a partner, someone who cares about them.
Ladyboys may be uber-women but they are human like the rest of us, they get lonely, horny, miss their families, dream. Are you sure, they seem to be thinking. ‘Basically, we are in the shit.’
‘Because of what you told us about Tom we don’t want to use him in the article but as the editor, Cathy says, nobody who knows about ladyboys will talk to us, without him we have nothing. We are fucked David.
We are getting death threats from some people because of Tom. We are like lepers now. We don’t want Tom but what can we do? Tom was a guy that the newspaper had pencilled in to be the star of a new series of photojournalism about Thai ladyboys. He was revealed to be barking mad despite the psychological testing done by the paper people.
I say nothing. ‘Can you help?’ Like a Patpong whore when the customer asks, ‘How much’, I begin to weigh the possible outcomes. ‘Up to you’, I tell them with a straight face. It works just as well for me as it does for the whores.

I wait some more ‘Ok, if we dumped Tom would you help us?’ ‘ Maybe I could speak to a friend of mine’, I say. In the morning Charlie the journo calls. ‘Tom is history’.
We want you to be in the articles. Will you do it? ‘Ok, ok’, I say wishing I hadn’t. I call Annie.
It’s a day for making decisions. I want her back in my life. All along the Chao Phrya bridges are beginning to burn.

Boats At Night David Bonnie Bangkok Thailand davidbonnie.com

A couple of weeks later and the photo shoot for Lady boys is just beginning and when I asked Annie how she would tell our story she said, ‘If ask me, I tell about when we meet Facebook and give number and then we meet and eating together. It romantic. I think you handsum but butterfly man. No, maybe helicopter man.’
‘Annie, I don’t think you understand . . . I mean do you remember the first time we talked to the newspaper about their idea to make the photo-documentary about Ladyboys?’ Annie says, ‘I think like Thai movie, I make before.’ Me: Oh yeah, let me guess . . .
Annie: No, boxing your mouth. Never do like dat. They give we card have words we only say same as this but NO, not same. I make movie before at school about students at school. I was scared little bit first we meet because I think I cannot talk English very good about how I can make them know what are my feelings. I remember we argue but I know when we go out we are working and not same in room.

Thailand Temple Wat David Bonnie Bangkok Thailand davidbonnie.com
Me: Ha, Ha. Yes, I know you got angry about the photo you saw on the camera when we were at Wat Suthatthepwararam, the  temple on the first day of shooting.

Annie Outside under statue David Bonnie Bangkok Thailand davidbonnie.comThey asked me why you walked away and didn’t eat with us. I told them you saw a picture of Nan’s underwear and her number ‘135’ badge from Cascades.
Annie: They ask me about this same you. I tell them I not angry you. Jealous little bit but not angry. I cannot be angry you teerak. Me: This day, I know I love you more, because you have a good heart about this picture. The director asked me if you go home, and if we have to finish photographs because you are angry and jealous. She asked me to go and find you and make everything ok.
I told her I would leave you stay alone for little time and you be ok because you are a good person. I not know if true then for sure but you show me I am right can trust you. I love you for that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annie: ‘I not go home because look like stupid person I do dat! I only jealous.’

 

David Bonnie Wat Temple David Bonnie Bangkok Thailand davidbonnie.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My memory of events begins with a feeling of responsibility. The strange thing about television is that although one may never actually believe it to be true, because of the power of the media one is elected spokesperson for an entire culture, faction, nationality or group. It can be overpowering.

 

You come alive with the red light on the camera. This is familiar. This is easy. Dangerous static is buzzing in your head but your mouth is not listening. Your mouth cannot stop because so much is expected of it. Words are expected to issue from your mouth.
Wise, foolish, arrogant, damaging, life changing words. The camera does not care. The buzz is dampened only momentarily by your internal bravery speech. ‘I am doing this for the greater good’.

The camera is a drug. You talk, talk, talk and the camera sucks you into its hungry mouth. The static buzz grows in volume and forms itself into the collective voices of those wiser than you, the voices of the betrayed, the damaged, those who have a life at stake and those who simply know more.
Two years in Thailand and you are sounding like the oracle of all wisdom.
As the words leaving your mouth compose themselves into sentences and allow space for the pauses and the gesticulations that support them in their attempt at truth and knowledge, you know the picture they are painting is a fake. How could it be anything else? You are not a kathoey. You are not Thai. You loved a girl for some months and it went bad. How little you know.

BTS Skytrain Bangkok Night David Bonnie Bangkok Thailand davidbonnie.com
Standing behind the cameras and visible only in the spotlights glare you see an army of the dead and living. They are watching. Distracted, you raise a hand to shield your eyes and see better the faces of your accusers. Oil, the ladyboy who jumped from the 6th floor of Sukhumvit Life is there. Are you telling her story in which she was dumped by a farang lover again and again and in which the starring role goes to ice/yabba? Her crazed phone calls and her delusion that you were her boyfriend; are you talking about that. Are you talking about the ghosts like her that jumped?

Thailand Four Women at Night David Bonnie Bangkok Thailand davidbonnie.com
Whose story is this? Is it hers? The one to whom your thoughts turn when a certain mood overtakes you, the ghost that you cannot look at, because you’re not brave enough?

There you go again, another sweeping generalization and a generous sweep of the arm to embed that small truth in the mind of the viewing public. You are an asshole, an asshole with a big mouth. The faces of the ghosts and the living are tight lipped in agreement. They mouth the word, ‘asshole’ as you talk and talk.
You have been chosen by fate and opportunism to speak in their place and you’re fucking it up for them. For the Irish, Swiss, Slovenian, English and American lovers of ladyboys long dead or living all with the same sad story.
But stories are always sad at the end. Just like life, they end with a disappearance, a fading out or an abrupt stop like hitting the concrete at the end of a long fall; messy and sad. You know about messy, sad relationships that stop abruptly. You are the master of messy endings.
The ghosts fall silent as a bright light appears amongst them. It’s an angel. The light grows brighter as she walks into the smaller light cast on you by the camera and the fruit vendors stall. You are not alone as you squirm on the hook.

David and Annie White Devil David Bonnie Bangkok Thailand davidbonnie.com

Annie is standing by your side with all the happy energy a twenty one year old ladyboy can share. She holds your hand and whispers, ‘teerak’. You say, ‘Hi baby’ as the camera records your first meeting for the third time that night at Thonglor.

The farang living and the ghosts mime your words, ‘Hi baby’, as the ladyboy dead whisper, ‘teerak’, alive again with hope, love and possibility. Even Siraporn comes from her lonely room and from sticking sequins on the her Barbie prom queen, ‘teerak’, she says and you realize that the living and the dead do not see you and Annie but instead see their lost ones, the dead or the forgotten.

They see again those against whose caresses they have hardened their hearts. They see them as they saw them the first time they met and fell in love at the BTS at the bar or on the streets of the city before a messy ending had even been considered.
Alive again, you hold Annie’s hand, swallow and speak now with the strength of a thousand voices, about love and ladyboys about beginnings and possibilities.

 

 

8 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed the doco ‘Ladyboys’ and thought you and Annie made a good couple. My ladyboy partner also enjoyed the series and really liked Annie. My partner is a Philippine national living with me in Australia. It took some time for me to come to terms with my feelings for my partner, Althea, because I had always seen myself as hetro-sexual. I still believe to an extent, that I am hetro, as I am not attracted to men. However, I guess if people have a difficult time believing that, they can make up their own minds.

    Reply
    • Hi Mark,
      As regards sexual preferences I really have no issues either way but it is my belief that men who like ladyboys are straight. I feel this because I too am not attracted to men or anything aesthetically masculine. Some people take issue with our perspective because ladyboys have a penis and ergo are male but this is like saying someone who owns a spanner is an engineer isn’t it? Gay men are attracted to other men who look like men. There is no shortage of gay Thai men so if indeed those men who like ladyboys were gay they would have no trouble finding a partner. Some may say that ‘we are scared of appearing to be gay so we hide behind the feminine appearance that ladyboys have in order to have a gay relationship’. There is no real answer to that as denial is the same as confirmation to those who are sure that they know the truth. In my opinion anyone who DOES NOT get aroused by a ladyboy is probably gay! Either way, glad you like the series and the website!

      Reply
  2. Hi David, i like your videos and site. I wanted to pick your brain if possible about moving to Thailand to teach. I cant find an email here for you so was hoping you could mail me? Thanks.

    Peter

    Reply
    • Hi Peter,

      Only just saw your comment so apologies for the delay.
      email me at dt.englishasia@gmail.com

      Regards

      Reply
  3. Like the other comments here, I am attracted to both women and ladyboys, but not men. I’ve come to a few conclusions on my thoughts of a ladyboy relationship I’d like to share.

    First, it’s the increased femininity that they exhibit, compared to most western-style women, that is a major attraction, both physically in emotionally. It’s probably genetically inclined in men to behave this way, but even if it isn’t there’s something about a woman in a dress or skirt that gets my heart beating faster, something that pants cannot do (depending on how tight the pants are of course…;).

    Next, you have to ask yourself if you could love a woman who was missing a hand or arm or a leg? If so, then how about if she was missing a vagina? Ultimately, if you really loved the woman physically and emotionally, why should you reject her outright simply because of a single extra appendage that is normally hidden from view for anyone but you?

    Finally, I think the biggest issue we may have is the fear of the anticipated negative opinions people could have regarding our relationship with someone else who also has a penis (i.e. being thought of as gay).

    Reply
    • Hi Michael,

      I think the only possible downside of a relationship with a ladyboy is the last point you made and once one gets over that . . .well, it’s no different than a more typical relationship

      Reply
  4. Hi David & Annie,

    Just loved the series that I first watched a couple of years ago and have wanted to retire in Thailand ASAP……… Couldn’t see enough of Ladyboys. Absolutely hooked. Haven’t been with one yet, imagine my thrill when I found your site. Thank you and please keep your tutorials coming. I am a TESOL so looking forward if at all possible to chat……..

    Ian j

    Reply
    • Hi Ian,

      Have you planned your retirement yet?
      You can email me at dt.englishasia@gmail.com
      Regards

      Reply

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