Staying with the marketing theme, this time with an advertising twist, here is another interesting sex-related oddity (well at least I think it is) – The “sex change” 变性倾向, for those of you who feel like women trapped in a man’s body, or who feel like men trapped in a woman’s body: Gender identity disorder, as it’s referred to in the medical world.
So there I was the other morning, lying on my Bangkok [http://wp.me/p15Yzr-12] (or Krung thep maha nakorn boworn ratana kosin mahintar ayudhya amaha dilok pop nopa ratana rajthani burirom udom rajniwes mahasat arn amorn pimarn avatar satit sakattiya visanukam) hotel room bed when a copy of the Bangkok Post newspaper quietly slips under my door.
Glossing over the front page, muttering to myself not much has changed since my last trip back in January, with talk of a military takeover and all that…., when my eyes set upon the banner advertisement at the bottom of the page: “Sex change 1,625 us$”
Not exactly the kind of advertisement you’d find of the front page of the Irish Times, the Financial Times, or Washington Post (well perhaps on Singapore’s Straits Times), but then this is Thailand and even for such an eminent newspaper as the Bangkok Post advertising sex change operations just adds to the endless clichés, quirks and idiosyncrasies associated with life in this teeming, chaotic metropolis of ten millions.
The advertisement would appear to support the perception by a casual observer (i.e. me) that kathoey, or transgenders (“the third sex”), are fully accepted by Thai society. Previously, an enlightened (sic) Thai friend and former colleague, explaining the Thai Buddhist principles with respect to tolerance and Karma, declared “being a kathoey is the result of wrongdoing in past lives”, which therefore vindicates the consideration that kathoey are deserving of pity rather than blame.
Hmm…. well, such a mind-set may be true if you look at the ever smiling drag queens working in Bangkok’s famous cabaret shows, and the more traditional female occupations such as make-up artist and hair-stylist. However, I’d be in doubt about how such sentiments would play out in my native Ireland where its ok to be gay, but tough to be trans!
Yet, in truth the road to normal acceptance by society can be rougher than a poorly-honed breast enlargement (“silicone implants ranging from 1,125 us$, mammoplasty with Mentor/ES prosthesises included” as per the advertisement). It is very unlikely you will meet a kathoey with a job in a bank, school, corporation, or in government. They face many social and legal obstacles: Legal recognition is non-existent, and they are not permitted to change their legal sex. Trouble can also occur in relation to access to amenities such as toilets [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7529227.stm], while a wayward kathoey still has to stay in an all-male prison if convicted of a criminal offence.
So about that advertisement….. What sort of English reading / speaking foreign “woman” trapped in a man’s body would, after reading the Bangkok Post advert, be motivated to pick up the phone to dial 02 2545888? A cross-dresser already taking hormones? Nah, likely someone who wants to meet the drop-dead gorgeous Miss Tiffany Universe 2007… only to find out that Khun Tanyarat is actually a guy!
Now that’s a misleading advertisement if there was ever one.
Note: My calculator informs me the total cost of untrapping the woman from within the man is 6,325 us$ and counting!