I received an email from America on the recent "Miss Thailand" contest from an 80+ year old friend. Gene is married to Jenny for over sixty years and has a "Chicago Italian" way of looking at things that is often hilarious. His concept of "a guy in a dress" is all one thing unless it was Milton Berle doing it for comedy.
Observing at the end that these great pictures was the phrase "Miss Transvestite Contest" I felt a need to write my old friend kindly and share some of what I have learned from reading "The Bilerico Project." I had to do this in a unique way because I am dealing with a pretty traditional fellow.
And Gene, it happened in the town just north of where we live. I can get there on the local bus in ten minutes. In Thai society these people are called 'Katoey.' Thailand does not discriminate against Trans sexuals as is done so much in the United States. Where we live they are mainstreamed into general life working in stores, flower shops, and as business owners. The only "complaint" I have ever heard is that there is no legal mechanism under Thai law to legally change one's gender here. So their official gender remains as it was at birth. There are several types of Katoey. Some are born with non specific genitalia, but were pronounced "male" at birth. Many more have an innate sense that, although raised male, they are essentially female. Far fewer in numbers are those who, though raised female, determine that they are male and live as men.
Neither of these has anything to do with whether or not they are Gay or Lesbian as Katoey may be attracted to their own sex or the opposite of their "mental" sex.
And they are very beautiful when women, but what do I know, I'm just a boy.
Regards, to Jenny, Robert"
Got a quick response from Gene:
Trans sexual (had the operation or not had the operation?)??? Please explain to this hetero dude from Cicero. Regardless, I would not be embarrassed to be seen in public here in the USA with any of those girls in the photographs. Very pretty.
It is a state of mind and not of body. It is a destination and a goal, but not necessarily a reality yet for the individual. I do not understand it fully myself as it is not "innate" to me. A trans person begins being a trans person (female to male, male to female, Lion to Lioness, etc.) when it occurs to them that they are not their birth gender. Some individuals are also born genetically female, but at birth have a rudimentary penis and were raised as boys for that reason.
"The operation" is not an end unto itself. The individuals who have a full surgery (and not all do) also take an assortment of hormones to compliment their gender (some just take hormones). They very much have their own way of looking at the world and I stand back and learn.
By the way, this is different from a transvestite who can as often as not be heterosexual. I don't understand that either, (unless it is for the stage) but I am learning. Not being a "Christian" country, people are not morally or socially persecuted as might happen in the States. Many do leave smaller towns here for larger cities where they have a community in numbers and less isolation.
There are really no simple answers to this even for trans gendered persons, but I hope I have cleared the issue for you somewhat. An operation is not the end of a journey.
I was so glad for his bouncing me back the following:
I think I understand. I guess with all the adjectives out there, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, trans gendered, transsexual etc. it is easy to get confused. The Lion to Lioness makes the simplest analogy. I guess that the operation is not always the end, but it is the most talked about subject in the USA I believe it is not a choice to most, but to some, but I again have to say that I would not be at all uncomfortable to be with any of these contestants as a hetero guy. (Jenny might kill me, but I am labeling again, sorry)
I don't know if it has to do with the softer features of the Asia race, or that these transsexuals really do favor the female gene pool. The winner is stunningly good looking.
I have to say, I don't understand it. For me it would be like me being a dog that wanted to be a cat. I am a man who is completely happy being a man, as you are. Anyway, thanks for your extremely clear and concise explanations that leave no doubt in my mind at all (sarcasm intended).
Gene and Jenny were extremely hard working business owners in Cicero, Indiana, who retired over fifteen years ago, but were two great people I made a point of continuing to know. They always were great at a party and attended our 25th anniversary bash in Chicago in 2001. We went to cookouts in Cicero. I sent one last note on the string back to Geno!
So, when you reopen your store you will hire all Katoeys? I'll send you some pictures of really "masculine" Thai men doing road construction outside our building. Believe me, not all have "soft" features. :)
Now Projectors, I am sure you will tell me how I did with my 80-year-old friend who, I rather had to tug in a direction. There was limited point to discussing politics as Gene is a Republican anyway. He lives in Illinois and is used to losing. I do know he and his wife value all people as individuals, and, thanks to you and The Bilerico Project, I now know more and understand more and realize I have much more to learn. I hope that my attempt at making a friend understand more was offensive to no one, but I could explain it to him, you could not. I know as well none of you will be shy of telling me if I misspoke which is a great way to learn as well. I did observe that Geno said for some people it is a choice. I think that he meant it in the sense of choosing to be true to yourself.
Remember, in Thailand, we already have Katoey toilets in many of the schools. And yeah, kids tease, so what else is new?