A Brief History of Thailand's Transgender Community

| Photo by yns plt on Unsplash
Kelly Iverson

Ladyboys, otherwise known as kathoeys, are as prevalent in Thailand as congestion on Bangkok’s highways. The transgender community in Thailand is thriving and strong, one that welcomes trans people when they are oftentimes ostracised in other parts of the world. Here is a brief look into their history, which is linked to the history of Thailand.
Did you know you can now travel with Culture Trip? Book now and join one of our premium small-group tours to discover the world like never before.

What is a Ladyboy?

Ladyboys are men who choose to have a feminine appearance. Some are transvestites who simply get pleasure from dressing as the opposite sex while others are transitioning to female and identify as transgender.
According to a report on being LGBT in Asia, Thais started to identify what is now known as transgender as early as the 14th century, but Western influence and ideas, such as the criminalization of homosexuality, made their way into Thailand during the 19th century. It was not until after World War II that the LGBT community really started to become visible in Thailand.

Is it paradise?

View from Lebua Sky Bar, Bangkok, Thailand

Religion

Religion plays a key role in this community’s acceptance, or lack thereof, as well. Over 95% of Thailand’s population practices Theravada Buddhism, which does not necessarily welcome this community with open arms. Many Buddhists believe that transgenders must be paying for their wrongdoings in their past lives.
That said, the capital is fairly tolerant. Entire city streets dedicated to the transgender community, and ladyboy shows are a top attraction for visitors, who have several venues to choose from. Public displays of affection are rather taboo in Thailand, however, yet the gay community one of the most affectionate.

What the future holds

The country has made strides in passing laws that support this community rather than oppress it. The Gender Equality Act was enacted in September 2015. Thailand is also home to Miss International Queen, the largest transgender beauty pageant in the world. These are small steps towards improving the lives of the LGBT community here.

Where to go in Bangkok

Those who identify as LGBT (or anything else, for that matter) will be happy to hear that there are many welcoming nightlife hubs tailored to this community in Bangkok. DJ Station, one of the biggest gay clubs in Asia, puts on extravagant cabaret shows; Maggie Choo’s hosts gay parties every Sunday; Playhouse Theater Cabaret puts on amazing transgender shows. Be sure to check at least one of these venues out in Bangkok.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article