Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Wed Jan 4 20:59:41 UTC 2012

The OED does not have an entry on "kathoey," but it does occur twice:

1. sex - third sex: N.Y. Mag. 21 Nov. 77   He‥tracks down‥the ‘third sex’ hijras of India, the ‘lady-boy’ kathoey of Thailand, [etc.].

2. ladyboy: Etymology:  < lady n. + boy n.1 In later use, chiefly rendering Thai kathoey. This entry defines "ladyboy" as:  An effeminate man; a person of indeterminate gender. Now chiefly: (esp. in Thailand) a man who adopts a feminine appearance (and may undergo breast augmentation).

I wonder about the expression "indeterminate gender."

Wikipedia (providing the alternative spelling "katoey" and กะเทย as the Thai spelling) says it is a third gender, not an indeterminate one. Since gender is culturally constructed, we should expect that not all genders fit into those constructed in English-speaking countries, but calling a third gender indeterminate is surely misleading.

Wikipedia also notes the claim that the word "kathoey" used to mean intersexual. This is found in Peter Jackson's* "Performative Genders, Perverse Desires" (http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue9/jackson.html), which if true, means that perhaps the early OED citations belong with a separate definition. Jackson also cites himself in that article, saying that "kathoey" emerged to mean male-to-female transgender/transsexual people in the mid-1960s.

Wikipedia also provides some feminizing procedures used in addition to the breasts augmentation noted in the OED, and the article says that "ladyboy" has "become popular across South East Asia."

Google has more than 700K raw hits for "kathoey," including one for a book titled "The Third Sex: Kathoey: Thailand's Ladyboys" (http://www.amazon.com/Third-Sex-Kathoey-Thailands-Ladyboys/dp/0285636685),

* No, not that one, fellow LoTR geeks: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Jackson_(academic)

Benjamin Barrett
Seattle, WA

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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