chapter  7
Gay Capitals in Global Gay History: Cities, Local Markets, and the Origins of Bangkok’s Same-Sex Cultures
Pages 16

A s a cultural historian interested in the sources of patterns of culturalcomplexity and hybridity in Thailand, I have been studying the origins of contemporary forms of transgender and homosexual identity in Thailand. Until the 1960s, local discourses in Thailand possessed only three categories to mark distinctive forms of gendered or erotic being. These three categories were chai, a word denoting manhood or masculinity; ying, a term denoting femaleness and femininity; and a third term, kathoey, which referred variously to a man who was too effeminate, a woman who was too masculine, or to an intersexed person born with indeterminate male or female genitals. Kathoey was a catchall label for anyone who failed to match local expectations of normative sexual physiology or culturally appropriate gender behavior. Same-sex erotic behaviors per se did not mark a person as being a kathoey. Homosexually active masculine men and feminine women were not distinguished from their heterosexually active counterparts. The kathoey therefore marked a physiological or gender category, not a homosexual status or identity.