NEITHER HERE NOR THERE
This started out as Kay’s story, but I have talked to other katoeys as well. I met one who told me that her Irish boyfriend paid for her boob job, and has promised her that he will get the Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) also know as genital reconstruction surgery, done for her. She was quite happy to talk to me, while the Irish dude carefully avoided my eyes; I don’t know if she noticed, if it bothered her, or if she was just happy she was getting him to pay for what she wants. How much does it cost? I ask. The boob job is for 50,000 baht, while the ‘lower’ costs anywhere between 65-100,000baht; “you must go good hopital,” she says seriously.
It absolutely boggles my mind why some seriously attractive hunks with toned, muscled bodies, would be seen with a blatant katoey – no chance of mistaken identities with a prominent Adam’s apple, stubble shadow or distinctive rough male voice! Pattaya is full of these odd couples and many do take off to Koh Samet, an island a little over two hours away, for some time alone. When I spoke to some of the locals on Samet, they turned huffy and flatly denied there were any katoeys on their island; “gay yes, but no katoey” was the stock answer I got and yet, here is a picture of Noy in her uniform at the local 7Eleven!
I also ‘crossed’ (pun unintended) over to the other side when I was in Pattaya and spoke to Adam, a German lawyer (!) who has had sex with katoeys. Of course, we are all ships that pass in the night and may never meet again, however, I would like to be ethical and respect the disclosure and not use his real name although, I suspect, he probably is quite happy to be featured in my book, hence spoke to me openly!
I asked Adam if he knew he was with a ladyboy or was fooled into thinking he was with a woman. No, he says, he knew all along it was a ladyboy and yes, it was his choice to be with one! Well, what made him go for it, I ask? The boobs, he says immediately, she had the most perfect breasts. I am still in my clinical mode, so I ask him even more personal details. Do they feel like a real woman’s, I enquire next. Well of course, it is silicone you understand, so it can’t feel the same as a woman. Well, what does it feel like, I prod? Hard, he says. So how does that turn you on, I say. He looks off into the distance trying to find the right words, and then tries to explain carefully – coz here is where English turns into a foreign language – that there is something known as the ‘senses’, yes? So there is the visual sense, and there is the sense of touch. So, visually I found them (he’s been with more than one ladyboy apparently) attractive, but not in the touch.
I ask him if the ladyboys he has been with have had the complete SRS. No, he says; in other words, she had a penis still but had got the breast augmentation done. He says that the sex act was one of anal penetration (initiated by him) so I ask him next if he is gay. No, he shoots back immediately, a little miffed off now. How can you say that, I persist? Essentially, you have just had sex with a man with boobs, therefore, there must be some latent homosexual tendencies in you?
This is an academic argument really, and there seems to be no way to resolve this, as I ponder with the 60-something British Rusty in Samet– is a guy gay to go with a katoey, or is a woman a lesbian to go with a katoey? Assuming that is, that a katoey will go with a woman! Also, if a usually straight guy would go with a katoey who’s had the complete SRS, then why doesn’t he just go with a real woman – so, is this some kinkiness at work here? We scratched our heads in an animated discussion for over an hour on this one 🙂
Adam and Rusty were both quite certain though that, pay a ladyboy enough money and she would agree to go with a woman as well. I have my doubts on this, as their very aim seems to be to deny their maleness. Adam is game to accompany me to a bar and find this out; “I’ll take you to Soi 6 tonight,” he says, “Let’s test this out,” but I demur. Why not, he asks challengingly, wanting to pay me back for the gay comment earlier. Well, I’ve always had men chase after me so I’ve never had to pay for sex, that too, with an unwilling participant, I retort tartly.
Back to Rusty, who shows me some pictures of a topless katoey, whose huge boobs are so obviously fake that I ask him in fascinated disgust what on earth prevailed upon him to go with her. I didn’t go with her, he corrects. This was just at a bar on Soi 6 in Pattaya. However, he does have a story of his own to tell; on one of his initial trips to Thailand, he was drawn to this attractive woman he met. Later, she agreed to go to his hotel with him. Once there, she insisted on all the lights off. When he asked why, she said, “dahlin, I have surprise for you!” and produced a dick out of her panties! Of course, Rusty’s version is he had nothing more to do with her!
How is it that the genitalia outline is not seen considering most ladyboys wear really tight and revealing outfits? Adam has done some research on this. The penis is folded backwards, against the testicles, and wide strips of transparent tape are used to hold it all in place. Apparently, while there is some discomfort, there is no pain, although it’s the devil of a job when it’s pee time! Rusty says that some katoeys have mastered the art of pushing the testicles up into the sac, and retracting them later.
Not all of them have to resort to such tactics, though. I am having a candid heart-to-heart with Miaow in Bangkok, a couple of hours before her SRS procedure – which she has given me to permission to observe. Miaow is now a dancer at Coyote Bar in Pattaya, she tells me proudly. She says she does not tape up as it hurts when she dances; instead, she wears three layers of panties. Besides, she says she has a small penis, so no problem, however, the operation is now necessary because she will pretty much be wearing G-strings and suchlike in the new job.
She is extremely stoical about the surgery, although she does confess to feeling a bit scared. She is already sporting a bandage on her chin from where she had gotten it shaped and is now determined to have breast enhancement done as well. I try in vain to talk her out of this, for I can see nothing wrong with her breasts as they are! She has taken hormone tablets for eight years and is now a perky size 34. She tells me I can feel her breasts. I satisfy us both by placing my hand to the side of her cleavage. I tell her this feels just as a real woman’s does, and she does not need to inject silicone which will make them unnaturally hard. Why go through pain when you don’t have to? She listens to me politely and gives a small smile, as is the Thai wont, but her mind is made up. I find out later that she had paid up front for both the surgeries; indeed, when I enter the operating room for the SRS procedure, the breast augmentation has already been done.
About the only heartening thing that comes out of this whole sad, sorry mess is that Thai parents now appear to be more supportive of their children’s leanings. Miaow tells me that it is her parents who have paid for the SRS; so unlike Kay who faced such a hard time from her family all those years ago. Miaow is 25-years old and was absolutely sure she wanted to go in for the surgery. Why didn’t she have it done earlier, I ask? “I want enjoy my lie (life),” she says simply. “I want be like this for some time but I suaah (sure) now, I want be full woman, with a vagina.” I ask her how she knew she wanted to be a katoey. She says she has never been attracted to women.
She giggles naughtily as she recounts some tales out of school. She likes going with Russians because they are tall, blond and blue-eyed although, a shadow crosses her face as she says a Russian boyfriend had told her her breasts are too small, which led to this day where she is now getting them enhanced. Arabs are good even though they can be rough in bed, because they pay well. Indian men are the worst lovers, she says, looking at me almost apologetically. They don’t know much about sex. She laughs as she tells of how she had sex with an Indian man. I am incredulous – an Indian guy with a katoey?? Oh, he not know, she assures me. “If him know him not go me.” Huh? “I tell him I have period,” she grins. “So I smoke him (fellatio) and him happy.”
Miaow was apparently on stand-by for today; the katoey who had her surgery scheduled for 2.30 failed to show up, so the clinic called Miaow and asked her to come in around 4.30. I have now been here since roughly 2pm and this is the first time carrying a book along hasn’t soothed me, as my tummy is too tied up in knots for what lies ahead. Mostly, I am worried that I’ll faint or something and disgrace myself and be asked to leave the operating room 😛
While I was waiting, I saw many katoeys come in either for a consultation or a post-op check. It’s a fairly common sight to see them walk in heavily bandaged up; one katoey, who had had her surgery nine days previously, walked in nonchalantly off the street with catheter still attached, carrying her urine bag in one hand much as other ladies carry their purses! Two katoeys are here from Cambodia. They’re waiting to meet the doc; with limited English, it’s kinda hard to strike up a conversation and keep it going but I do manage to get that, while both have had their boobs done only one is here for the SRS and the other has come along to take care of her friend. The doc rushes into the waiting room – he’s fairly stressed already coz some lady (a real one!) has been complaining her breast size is uneven post op and he’s taken that as a personal slur on his capabilities! He gives the Cambodian a cursory examination in one of the smaller rooms and then wheels back into the waiting room, barking out instructions in a staccato manner; “no eat six hour befo. No poo-poo three days.” (The fresh wound stands a risk of infection with faeces hence, he advises patients to eat light so that the need to pass a motion is not as great.) I feel sorry for the poor kids and wonder how much of this Thai-accented English they managed to catch; not much, judging from the blank looks on their faces!
In spite of having spoken to so many katoeys and now, having watched the surgery too, I am no closer to understanding the driving need that makes these men go in for such a drastic procedure such as the SRS which is obviously irreversible. For that matter, the basic questions still go unanswered for me – when does this epiphany occur, when they realise and acknowledge their feminine side? Is there a greater societal acceptance now? Are there any lingering emotional or physical side effects post the surgery? What about the basic sex act – do they genuinely experience pleasure or is it all psychological? Are they more at peace with themselves now? Do they ever have any regrets…?
*Names changed to protect identity.
**None of the photographs in this story are of the real ‘Miaow’; these are random shots of katoeys I met on my travels through Thailand.
Punam Mohandas asserts her right to be identified as the author of this work. All copyright and pictures are the property of the author.