The Sky Living TV series, Ladyboys was aired in the United Kingdom in April 2012 and at the end of the year in Australia. More recently it has been shown in the Phillipines and seems to be repeated constantly on Sky TV
Due to copyright control I am unable to feature Ladyboys on this site.
Here, is a synopsis of each episode in Series 1, from an ‘inside’ point of view.
Episode 1-Beauty Queens
I have spent hours of my life watching Ladyboy pageants and as far as I am concerned they are hours I can never get back!
Annie loves them of course especially as she was a cabaret dancer in Samui herself.
Tiffany’s is a profitable commercial business and I think that it is important to remember that.
The transgender people featured in this episode are following their dreams and the chance to win 10,000 USD.
For an entry fee of 500 USD and a lot of beauty treatment, fame and a cash prize of 10,000 USD awaits.
Although they may be lovely people they can rarely compete with Thai Ladyboys in terms of feminine looks or grace. It seemed to me, as an observer, that the most feminine did not get into the top rankings. The only ladyboys who are able to compete on equal footing are Phillipino, Thai and to some degree South Americans although they tend to be a little bigger. Now, I am not suggesting that all Thai ladyboys are paragons of beauty and grace or even that they all look exactly like women. In fact, very few ladyboys could be mistaken for women except by the blind or those in denial. There are a few who could pass for women but none in this show. Not to take anything away from them however, some of them are still very sexy and in my opinion comparisons between ladyboys/transgender girls are completely bogus. They are beautiful people in their own right. A Thai phrase that I like is ‘ Neng Fa Jam Lenk’, or ‘ Angel from Sky Remember Copy’ . . . copies of Beautiful Angels. ‘Neng Fa’, is the best bit!
Thai Ladyboys have a head start with their genetics, being smoother, lighter built and being able to start hormones earlier and more cheaply than their European or American counterparts. Thai culture has a part to play as well.
I think that a false impression is given in the competition as the girls in question do not truly represent their countries, it’s just the place they come from. Hence, two Miss US.A’s.
Lots of them use their trip to get surgery done as Thailand, despite the cheapness of surgery here has to be a leader in the field as with so many ladyboys, the surgeons are very practised in their art.
There are some laughs in this show particularly when the girls are together chatting about hormones and a few of them having temper tantrums.
It is interesting for me to listen to transgender people talking in English as opposed to the Thai I am used to hearing (and partially understanding!) Although the shows themselves are not of great interest to me, the girls who compete all seemed interesting people with a rare insight into the world of Western transgender women. I would welcome the chance to work with any of them.
Episode 2-Celebrity Ladyboys
Annie and I appear briefly during the introduction but this episode features Nok Yollada whose touching story of imprisonment in a male prison is surely enough motivation for the Thai authorities to change their archaic laws regarding gender identity.
Nok today (above and below)
Nok in her successful bid to become a member of Thai parliament
We also meet Belle Nuntita, an Isaan girl who made it big when she competed on Thailand’s Got Talent. Belle seems a grounded, salt of the earth kind of person.
The third celebrity ladyboy featured is Nong Poy, a former Miss Tiffany winner. She seems much more superficial than the Nok and Belle; sporting the whole package of designer accessories even a designer boyfriend. Given the Thai culture of making ‘face’, I have no doubt that Poy is an influential personality but I think Thailand and Ladyboys are poorer for this.
Poy seems lost in her own legend!
Episode 3-The Men who Love Ladyboys
Bangkok, and Annie and I talk about our past lives a little.
Annie is unashamed in her feelings of luck that we are together. She talks about her past relationship and money. The voice-over is quick to point out that I, in contrast to her ex-boyfriend am not rich!
Still she was happy to be together after some months spent in uncertainty when we were first dating.
Having overcome my initial resistance to our relationship Annie continues to make me happy every day.
The picture above is quite recent and near where we live in Bang Rak, the City of Love.
The cultural differences regarding money and dating are often an excuse for Thai people to fleece hapless foreigners. When I hear or see this kind of behaviour Annie tells me, ‘close your eyes and ears and mouth. Be glad you lucky, you have good girlfriend.’ Although I was reticent to discuss my feelings as much as Annie or my hopes for us . . . .today I agree with her. Although she still considers herself lucky, so do I.
The questions on everybody’s lips are most often about the mechanics of sex in a male/trans relationship and although we are all way past this subject being a matter of interest or concern, at the time we did our best to discuss the body issues/thoughts we had.
because once you get over the sex, and in Thailand where sex is so, so easy to find, that’s pretty
quickly, you need to be able to share a laugh; at each other and at yourselves!
Teya, a lovely Ladyboy from Tiffanys Cabaret in Pattaya stuck a chord when she spoke about men.
The ‘Are you Gay’, question was asked and answered. No, Yes, Maybe and in fact the answer will be . . whatever the viewing public want it to be based on their own ideas, socialisation and prejudice so whatever we say . .means nothing!
Lots of men who come to Thailand to have sex with Ladyboy prostitutes treat them with respect and admiration.
But I actually think that many men love to have sex with ladyboys without even liking them.
I have seen men thrown into all sorts of sexual crises by ladyboys.
A man’s body is telling him he desires this beautiful, other-wordly creature before him but his mind is yelling, ‘It’s a man!’
Perhaps they feel that ladyboys are the root of their sexuality conflict and seek revenge in the form of derision or sometimes far worse.
Some men have issues with women and seek to escape those problems by dating ladyboys.
So which am I?
Well, I have had lots of relationships with women; some good; some short, some longer . . . a few bad ones but generally, I love women.
Ladyboys are just great looking women as far as I am concerned. The sexual element is a little different, but also very similar. We are all just so much meat after all. It’s the spiritual connection that sustains in the long term.
Sadly Ladyboys have become synonymous with prostitution and this notion is not entirely without foundation.
Having a relationship with a ladyboy is not the same as having sex with lots of ladyboys.
After a while the gender issue is no longer an issue. I don’t ever think of Annie as anything other than my girlfriend. No personal issue we may have is connected to her gender.
Episode 4-Pattaya, Sin City
Since my earliest days of living in Thailand I have not been a fan of Pattaya.
Annie and I sometimes visit Jomtien Beach, next to Pattaya but we steer clear of the bars for the most part.
Having met so many ladyboys, I see the ‘back story’ that leads ladyboys and other Thais to this city and it makes me feel like I am witnessing a Roman Slave Auction.
The prostitution is just too intense. I cannot pretend I have never partaken but I found out pretty quickly that the kind of ‘girlfriend experience’ Pattaya has to offer is not for me.
I also find it graceless and culture-less. Some people love it. it’s certainly exciting at times but the Thais who live here do so because they earn their living from the sex trade and they are single minded in their pursuit of separating foreigners from their money. It seems to me a city full of professional liars.
One cannot but feel sympathy for the ladyboy prostitute who optimistically hopes to meet a boyfriend some day and the even more optimistic narrative that suggests she can make 2 or 3,000 baht per night in return for her services.
Whilst in Pattaya we visited Alcazar, the main rival to Miss Tiffany and while ladyboys love these shows I am not so enthralled by the lip synching cabaret.
I find it strange to hear Alcazar’s cabaret being referred to as representative of Thai culture as most of the songs are European!
In stark contrast to the sad prostitute Toom, the Alcazar girls are able to extract 2 or 3,000 baht in 15 minutes or so from farang photographers; no sex involved! Although, I have heard stories . . . .
Pattaya has been called an ‘Adult DisneyLand’ in which you can ‘f***’ the characters and there are many ‘characters’.
I have always thought of Pattaya as Blackpool with hookers and a mark of shame for any ladyboy who admits to working or even visiting.
However, Imm suggests that Pattaya is in fact a ‘gold-mine’ for ladyboys fortunate enough to be skilled dancers and to have a mentor as thoughtful and as sharp as Imm (in Thai, Imm, means ‘full-up’)
Imm is a business-woman and with the benefit of an education. She owns a franchise 7/11 store or two.
What is interesting about Imm though is her positive influence on the girls of Alcazar and the students who she teaches as a guest lecturer.
Essentially though, Pattaya is a money making machine for Thais. Despite it’s superficial sophistication, Thailand is a third-world country and the desire to escape or avoid poverty and make a better life for oneself and one’s family is as keen as any blade.
Episode 5-Cosmetic Surgery
This episode discusses body modifications used by Thai Ladyboys and Gender reassignment surgery undergone by non-Thai transgender people.
Ladyboys refer to ALL effeminate people as Ladyboys even what Westerners would consider a ‘camp’ gay man. Thais make no distinctions; long hair, short hair, silicone boobs, no boobs . . . everyone is the same and despite some titles given by Westerners like ‘femboy’, etc the term Ladyboy is all encompassing.
Annie has had breasts and a nose job.
The public perception of Ladyboys all being on a trajectory towards full gender re-assignment surgery is very far from the truth.
I have met only 1 ladyboy post-op in more than three years.
Annie: When I was young I dream about be girl all time but when I am old more and know myself I am a ladyboy, not a man, not a girl but a special person, a ladyboy.
She is not alone in these feelings and of course, so much can go wrong after such major surgery. Those people that choose to go for the full package are certainly brave indeed.
Episode 6-Ladyboys Doing for Themselves
In this episode we meet Ladyboys from several walks of life.
The theme is ‘making it’ and the episode posits several ways for ladyboys to make a life for themselves.
Flight Attendants, ‘Pop stars’, Politicians and Business owners as well as ex-prostitutes.
One thing that this show makes the audience consider is education. Many Thai people, particularly from outside of Bangkok leave school at 14 years old because they come from poor families whom they must help support.
The world over it is all very well to talk about ‘making it by themselves’ if ‘them’ is a body of educated and or wealthy people.
The poor and uneducated get labelled in less than complimentary terms so this is not a ladyboy problem but a universal one and is less about gender than it is about poverty.
Nobody ‘makes it’ without help.
The biggest irony is that Nigerian refugee Samara is now living in the UK and is supported by the welfare state. She is affluent enough to be making records and ‘pop videos’ whereas Thai ladyboys are not so lucky or self-determined.
She can legally change her gender and ordain her destiny, at least in terms of her legal status.
In Thailand even Nok Yollada, now a politician, cannot do as much and while Thailand is superficially more tolerant of transgender people it’s a lot harder for ladyboys to get ahead.
It can be done and in truth, no-one cares how a ladyboy achieves wealth or position, just as long as they do!
Their stories make compelling viewing and are in sharp contrast to each other.
Annie tells her story, one that is by far the most common type of ladyboy success stories
although modest by comparison to some others heard in this show.
Mew talks about her youth and gradual ‘coming out’ as a ladyboy. Her story is very similar to many other ladyboys but her mother seems to have been a key factor in her now balanced life.
Mew’s mother seems a very wise person, if only the mother’s of all transgender people were the same!