The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

How can I tell ladyboys from ladies?

Written By: herbrunbridge - Mar• 13•11

The Good Manner: Advice on Thailand from WoWasis’ Pa Farang
This week’s dilemma: How can I tell ladyboys from ladies?

Dear Pa Farang,

I do not remember where it is, but I seem to remember that somewhere in your blog is a story of a gentleman who discovered his Thai girlfriend (who he was living with for a while) was actually a man who had a sex-change operation!  I have seen some photos of these “girls” and they seem undetectable. But there must be a way to determine this before ever getting involved with such an individual????   Larger hands and feet perhaps?

– Rick

Dear Rick,

You’re referring to my previous post on the military man who found he was living with a ladyboy. Some veteran observers of the Thai scene say there are four ways to tell if a girl is a ladyboy or not, but they’re not necessarily true, and we’ll tell you whey. Here they are:

1) Ladyboys have a pronounced “adams’ apple”
2) Ladyboys have large feet and hands
3) Ladyboys’ voices are artificially high-pitched
4) Ladyboys look like “uber models.” If a girl is waay too goodlooking, could be a ladyboy.

Ladyboys don’t always have large adam’s apples. Many weren’t born with them, and others have had them surgically “shaved.” They don’t always have large hands and feet either. If they were born genetically predisposed to being slight in stature, they’ll naturally have smaller hands and feet. I did remember one ladyboy who did have large feet, but she fooled her boyfriends anyway by telling them she used to swim all the time as a child, and her feet got big by paddling with them.

Many ladyboys have identified themselves as such from early adolescence, and their voices don’t sound artificial at all, because they’ve developed a feminine voice from a very early age. Ladyboys really can look like uber-models. It’s said that women won’t compete with them in beauty contests because they’d lose. A recent WoWasis blog post described how one ladyboy, who won the Miss Tiffany ladyboy beauty contest, has now been hired as a flight attendant.

So how can you tell? You can’t always. If she has been gender-reassigned by surgery, she may have normal-looking female genitalia. Thai reconstructive surgery is exceptional. But she won’t have a cervix, if you dig down deep. She may have a normal job, like working in a bank. And her biological female friends will rarely “out” her to any farang boyfriend. Remember, they’re friends.

Here are two pieces of good advice, if you’re concerned:

1) Ladyboys come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s a good idea to go to a few ladyboy bars and survey the scene. There are some common elements of deportment, but they’re not always campy or overly flirtatious, and if you’re a keen observer, you’ll identify those mannerisms in no time. And correctly identifying ladyboys will become almost second nature. You might want to go to the ladyboy bars in Nana Plaza, for a start. Read WoWasis’ NEP ladybar review post and pick a couple. Those ladyboys all have male genitalia, by the way. Buy a few drinks, observe, and maybe even talk to one or two of them over a drink.

2) Most heterosexual men who’ve spent any time in the Bangkok bar scene have gone with at least one ladyboy, however unwittingly. Some will admit it, some won’t. If this happens to you, the protocol is to pay the pre-arranged price anyway, politely say you’d prefer to be with a biological female, and politely say goodbye. Don’t create a scene, or become angry or abusive. Chalk it up to another adventure in Thailand. If you refuse to pay her, you will create a scene. Instead, why not just have a conversation about her life, and you’ll probably have a great story to tell. And if you do have sex with her, you always have the option of keeping it secret. And remember, she’s always a “she,” and never a “he.” In Thailand, it even reads that way on her passport. Refer to them as “ladies” or “ladyboys,” but never “kathoeys,” which is a pejorative.

And do keep this in mind, too. Thailand is not the west. Everything’s different here, and “the third gender” is an element in the pastiche that makes Thailand one of the world’s most fascinating countries.

Marayat dee,

– Pa Farang

Read Pa Farang’s other columns for more advice on relationships in Southeast Asia

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  1. adam tran says:

    Ya good tips, broad shoulders, screetchy voice, and overly feminine mannerisms are usually the easiest things to notice

  2. Chris says:

    It’s all to do with proportions. A male’s head is bigger in proportion to the body, but a females eyes are larger in proportion to the face. Brow ridges are more pronounced, shoulders are wider, and the humerus bone is longer in males. So, even after cosmetic surgery, it’s still quite easy to spot a ladyboy. Also, you’ll find, they look awesome and kiss way better than genuine girls!

  3. Steve says:

    I keep it simple. The feet and hands, that’s not a good indicator unless your Asian. Westerners are larger, so a slight Asian having big feet, they look small to a westerner. Make sense? Sometimes you can tell by the hands, thick fingers. Ladies usually have thin narrow fingers.
    But in most cases this will work. Asian/Thai ladies have round faces and the males have long narrow/oblong faces. If you encounter a lady with a long/oblong face, chances are you’re with a ladyboy. Take the ladyboy challenge, there is a tool online, they’ll show you 10 faces and you make the determination. Average score is about 40%. Apply my logic and you’ll score 70% or higher.

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