Kathoeys are more visible and more accepted in Thai culture than transgender or transsexual people are in Western countries or the Indian subcontinent. Several popular Thai models, singers and movie stars are kathoeys, and Thai newspapers often print photos of the winners of female and kathoey beauty contests side by side. The phenomenon is not restricted to urban areas; there are kathoeys in most villages, and kathoey beauty contests are commonly held as part of local fairs.
Although the term ladyboy is rather ambiguous, simply put, it is a male who dresses as and carries out the identity of a woman. Though the term is often translated as transgender, transgender is rarely used in Thailand, instead they use the term Kathoey. This term can now also be used to refer to any male homosexual and was originally used to refer to intersex people. Due to this term becoming so broad many choose to use the English word to explain a homosexual male dressing as a woman as a "ladyboy," this eliminates much of the confusion. The term can also be meant as an insult, especially to those who are trying to completely alter their identity to that of a woman. Ladyboys suggest that they are still men who are merely dressed as women. The term is used rather loosely at times and can be used to refer to any male who is acting with feminine qualities. Personally most of the women prefer to call themselves "a transformed goddess" or "a second type of woman"
Heinz Duthel, Master in Philosophy. From 1992 till 2000 in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and the Philippines. Author of over 300 published books