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  1. #1
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    Hans Mann's Avatar
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    Meet The Tomboys Of Thailand


    Wacharakorn Laosap, aged 23, and girlfriend Sasipa Jaijunla, 25

    They date girls, present themselves as boys and identify as women - but reject the term 'lesbian' altogether. Corinne Redfern reports on South East Asia's most surprising subculture.

    Standing at the bathroom sink, Jump Ruksakiati washes her hands and stares absentmindedly at her reflection. That moisturiser she's been using is working, she thinks. Maybe tonight she'll use a face mask too. On the other side of the room, the door squeaks open and a smartly dressed woman appears, laden with shopping bags. She catches sight of Jump and does a double take. 'Sorry,' she stutters, turning back towards the door to check the sign on the front. 'I thought this was the ladies... Oh!' Confused, she hovers there, uncertain of what to do next. Jump bursts into giggles and quickly ushers her in.

    'It happens all the time,' the graphic designer tells me later. 'Everybody thinks I'm a boy. But I don't mind, I just think it's funny. I love the way I dress. My grandfather was a tailor who custom-made men's suits, so I got a lot of ideas from him, and if you look in my wardrobe these days, you'll only see shirts and trousers in navy, black, brown and white. There are some accessories, like a scarf and a cap, but that's it.'

    As part of Thailand's LGBTQ subculture of 'tomboys', Jump, 46, identifies as female, but consciously expresses herself as a heterosexual man - dating an ultra-feminine woman known as a 'dee' (derived from 'lady'), and adopting stereotypically alpha-male behaviours. In this case, that means dressing 'like a man', standing 'like a man', talking 'like a man' and even protecting her girlfriend, Kelly, like one too.


    Praimpat Trakulchokesatiean, aged 30, with her 'dee' Siriluck Srijinda, 29

    'I do like to be gentlemanly,' she explains, adding that only 'long-haired women who date other long-haired women' are considered lesbians - and they often experience discrimination as a result. 'People don't call me a lesbian. There used to be a lot of negativity around that word. Nowadays, I think it's OK to be a lesbian, but I'd still be annoyed if somebody called me that. I don't particularly like labels.'

    In the past, women in Thailand who were attracted to other women were simply considered 'men', and so the term 'tomboy' was adopted in the 70s to solve the problem of how to describe them. And while there are parallels between the culture of 'ladyboys' or 'kathoeys', they're surface-level: tomboys aren't transgender, and don't identify as men.

    Nevertheless, the concept of tomboys is still controversial. On the one hand, women (and men) should absolutely be able to express themselves and their sexuality however they want to. On the other, they’re adopting an unflinchingly heterosexual and rigid approach to relationships, where one party must present themselves as ‘male’ and dominant and the other ‘female’ and submissive.

    In January, the Thai Constitution Drafting Committee announced plans to officially recognise the ‘third gender’ in future legislation, and Buddhism actively encourages the population to love one another, regardless of gender identity or sexuality.

    It sounds progressive, but unfortunately discrimination is still very much a factor at play. In 2009, a Pride parade in Chiang Mai was violently interrupted by protesters who held lesbian, gay and transgender activists captive and threatened to beat them up. Police were present, claims Anjana Suvarnananda, activist and founder of Thailand’s first LGBTQ rights organisation, but they just looked on and did nothing. Meanwhile, trans women who are biologically born male can only excuse themselves from military service by declaring ‘mental-health problems’.

    Still, Jump thinks things are changing. She lives with her elderly father, who has met her girlfriend and welcomed her into the family. And a few years ago, she made peace with her mother, too. ‘When I was little, my mum couldn’t accept who I was,’ she recalls. ‘She used to be a ballet dancer, so when I was six, she bought me a pink tutu and leotard to try and get me into it. I wanted to cry when I saw it. She wanted me to be “normal”, but she didn’t see that I am normal just the way I am. Our culture says men should be men and women should be women, but I think it’s more important to be a good human being.’ Many people she meets still express a problem with homosexuality, but Jump says it just makes her more determined to prove them wrong.

    Meanwhile, tomboy culture is gaining notoriety across East Asia. @TomAct, a magazine celebrating the lives of Thai women blending gender lines, has a not-so-niche readership of 76,000 – and that’s just on Facebook. More prominent still are the ‘It’ toms, such as Phuwaryne Keenan, Suppanad Jittaleela and Qwaa Phunnutta, who have individually amassed Instagram followings of 376k, 899k and 156k respectively. Bangkok-based filmmaker Katrina Kaufman’s documentary Toms has had 129,000 views to date. ‘There was a really positive response,’ she says. ‘Before making the film, we had thought that “tom” and “dee” were just Thai terms for a butch-femme relationship, but toms and dees
    really have their own distinct culture. It’s only now that Thai society is becoming more open that toms are beginning to
    get public recognition.’

    But for Jump and her girlfriend, public recognition isn’t important. They just want to be accepted. ‘If people see me as a woman, that’s fine,’ she says. ‘But if they see me as a man, that’s fine, too. People should see inside of each other – what’s on the outside doesn’t matter. We should all just be able to be happy being ourselves.’

    Tomboys of Thailand | Marie Claire

  2. #2
    Thailand Expat Pragmatic's Avatar
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    Around where I live it's full of them. I had a delivery the other week. A tomboy arrived at the gate and I shouted to my missus that there was woman with a delivery. Talk about getting upset.

  3. #3
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    Tend to be quiet nasty and aggressive in my experience, far worse than ladyboys, want too be like men but hate them at the same time, often total fuck ups

  4. #4
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    strange how in the west its the homo shirtlifters that make all the noise about demading equality and assering their rights, yet here in thailand it seems to be the lesbo carpet munchers that make all the noise.

    the one sucking her thumb looks a right handful.

  5. #5
    Being chased by sloths DJ Pat's Avatar
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    ^She looks well under the thumb of old misery dyke guts, who clearly is standing guard just in case any man wants to try it with her ''GF''

    Bet they've had a few fights.

  6. #6
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    ^
    and some hot making up sessions afterwards. oh yes.

  7. #7
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    they all seem to have top looking birds around here, bastards!

  8. #8
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    I like a culture in which they can be themselves. Toms, ladyboys etc are no problem to me. Neither gays, alkies, sex addicts etc. Just be yerself, and don't take your inadequacies out on other people.

  9. #9
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    ^^The "wifeys" are usually lookers, it has to be said. It might just be a "fashion" though. a bit like the Korean Pop gay-clone "boy band" thing.

  10. #10
    Thailand Expat AntRobertson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang
    and don't take your inadequacies out on other people
    Yeah, that's what forums like TD are for.

  11. #11
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    We have come into contact with several Tom-Dee couples over the years. Some of the Dees have been in straight relationships, have children and their sexual preferences seem fluid but in a loving relationship they prefer women because the men in their past lives were abusive, alcoholic and did not provide for their families.
    This post has not been authorized by the TeakDoor censorship committee.

  12. #12
    ความสุขในอีสาน
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    Yeah ^ and I guess some of the others come to their senses and marry a decent foreign guy

  13. #13
    TD Fat Club VP Dillinger's Avatar
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    There's not much feminine about most of these Toms, they inject testosterone, which is available over the counter in some chemists here.

    Would be a bit like taking Ant Robertson out for a game of tennis

  14. #14
    Thailand Expat AntRobertson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dillinger
    Would be a bit like taking Ant Robertson out for a game of tennis
    ...

    I don't get it?!

    Are you saying I'm crap at tennis and play like a girl? Because that would be mostly true.

  15. #15
    TD Fat Club VP Dillinger's Avatar
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    I don't really know

  16. #16
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    The 'tomboys' I've met just seem to be girls that would rather hang with girls and avert advances, dalliances or anything to do with men.

    In the end they usually have girlfriends that they hang with and probably one that they go steady with as a true companion (or more extras).

    They don't present themselves half as flaky or over-the-top as ladyboys. (IMO)

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonfly94 View Post
    Tend to be quiet nasty and aggressive in my experience, far worse than ladyboys, want too be like men but hate them at the same time, often total fuck ups
    indeed, much worse than ladyboys and quite nasty

  18. #18
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    here a tough question:

    wouldn't it be a bit gay to fuck a Tomboy ?

  19. #19
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    ^Most Thais are buy-sexual anyway. They'll suck cock / bend over for the right amount of cash.

    Q: How do you view lesbian relationships?

    -If you answered; "in HD" you win a green.

  20. #20
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    ladyboys are actually sweet things once you get to know them, they are like a next door buddy you never dared to talk to

    give it a try,

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by kmart
    Q: How do you view lesbian relationships? -If you answered; "in HD" you win a green.
    how about with "my cock in hand" ? will that get me any green ?

  22. #22
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    People confuse the nightlife ladyboys with regular ones, the non sukhumvit types are usualy nice and the life and soul of the party. Toms are mostly just nasty, envious and resentful.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dillinger View Post
    There's not much feminine about most of these Toms, they inject testosterone, which is available over the counter in some chemists here.

    Would be a bit like taking Ant Robertson out for a game of tennis
    Don't get him going, he will be fantasising about being raped in the changing rooms

  24. #24
    Gohills flip-flops wearer
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang
    I like a culture in which they can be themselves.
    Dead right mate.



    POWER TO THE PEOPLE.

  25. #25
    Being chased by sloths DJ Pat's Avatar
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    If you're a straight female sick of all the Thai guys and their 'ways'
    You can find a tomboy who will probably pleasure you better, hit the right spots, and doesn't have a cock they'll force up your arse when they're drunk

    Not a bad deal considering.

    I do agree, too many fools judge all ladyboys on the creepy night crawling variety.

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