Bil Browning

Thai Airline Recruits Trans Women As Flight Attendants

Filed By Bil Browning | January 31, 2011 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: equal opportunity, katooey, ladyboys, PC Air

A new Thai airline company, PC Air, has selected three transgender women to be flight attendants during their first round of hires. Before you start rejoicing though, the company will require the women to wear gold name badges that will designate them as "third sex" so passengers can "easily identify the gender they are faced with."

Peter Chan, the new airline's boss, is enthusiastic about his groundbreaking move because of the opportunities it would afford transsexuals.

"I think these people can have many careers - not just in the entertainment business - and many of them have a dream to be an air hostess," he said. "I just made their dream come true. Our society has changed. It's evolution. I'm a pioneer and I'm sure there will be other organisations following my idea."
...
Thailand has the largest number of "katoeys" - as they are called in Thai - in the world, with the country's surgeons pioneering cheaper and quicker sex change operations because of the sky-high demand from men wishing to become women.

But PC Air did not make proof of sexual reassignment a criteria for the job, merely that the applicants possessed the necessary language skills and the potential to provide good service.

pc-air-i-believe-its-my-way-thailand.jpg

If I were transgender, I think I'd like to be known as "katoey." It makes it sound more like being a member of a tribe instead of "in-between" like "trans" references. What do you think?


Recent Entries Filed under Living:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.


"If I were transgender, I think I'd like to be known as "katoey." It makes it sound more like being a member of a tribe instead of "in-between" like "trans" references."

I already am a member of a tribe called 'women' thanks. I find the way the article is framed incredibly insulting but I'm not Thai so maybe it's a cultural thing that I don't understand.

I don't want to be thought of as "katoey." That sounds like someone coughing up phlegm.

Gold badges? This is different than pink triangles?

"I think these people can have many careers – not just in the entertainment business – and many of them have a dream to be an air hostess????"

Give me a break. Wow! Look! Women don't need to be sex workers! They can be air hostesses too!!!

Nothing against the flight attendant industry, but this really smacks me as being sexist, in addition to being condescending to the nature of being transsexual.

I didn't transition to take a demotion.

well, flight attendants are sluts anyhow, right?

Fly The Friendly Skies! WOOHOO!

I think that depends on what particular hook you hang your trans identity on, Bil. For some transfolks, an identification as "other" or "neither male nor female" is comfortable, but for many it's one biological gender or the other they identify with, and they have no wish to be seen as outside the gender binary.

It's really all a matter of personal preference as far as self-identification goes, although having the Thai straight public popularly accept transfolks under a socially and politically non-threatening identity such as katoey probably makes life much easier for Thai transfolks than it would be otherwise.

R L Pete Housman | January 31, 2011 2:14 PM


If proof of sexual reassignment is not required and
the willingness to participate in sexual acts with clients is not a requirement for employment why the gold pins? I am confused and it is not about the
"Katoey's"

In the Thai society, katoey is acceptable when referring to someone who's third gender.
In the US, katoey is used far too often when speaking of sex workers. I honestly don't think its acceptable to use here, but perfectly acceptable for use there.

selena martinez | January 31, 2011 2:45 PM

I am not interested in being called a name like "Katoey" nor having to wear a name badge that designates me as "Third sex".
Transgender folks have as much talent as any other group and deserve to be anything from sex workers to presidents as does anyone else. I am a Transsexual Woman, a Vietnam Veteran, parent, Karate sensei, General building contractor, and teacher at the Veterans administration.
Let us breakdown stereotypes across all gender lines.

Yeah, I'm not familiar with all the intricacies of the term, but I'll echo Gina's assertion here. My ex spent six months in Thailand doing a lot of work with the trans community and told me that katooey is a derogatory slur that most sex workers use out of necessity. I'm not sure where you're getting the idea that it's a neutral term.

Kathoey, ladyboy, and newhalf are all terms from the Asian sex industry. Just as some trans women identify themselves has 'shemales' or 'trannies' in the US, that still doesn't make them real community terms since they are overwhelmingly based on the commodification of poor trans girls' bodies by those outside the community.

While I hope Thai society ultimately allows trans people to be something other than club performers, shopgirls, or hair stylists, and gives them the right to marry, get higher education and even change their ID and birth certificates (which they can't) I don't think hiring 3 flight attendants, IDing them as third gender and milking it for publicity is the first step.

Kathoey is actually kind of a putdown term in Thailand (even though there are trans women who use it... just like there are gay men in the US who use the term fag). It actually means an effeminate male. There is another term called "Sao Prophet Song" which means "woman of the second type" which is specifically for trans women in a more positive sense.

And Bil, while when you're ready to transition you may call yourself whatever you like, I'm sticking with woman for myself... that's my tribe.

If you've followed the discussion of this story in many other outlets, a lot of trans people are actually quite upset that the trans women who are flight attendants needing to wear "color-coded" badges to ID themselves as third gender. There are many other ways the airlines could do this if they were truly worried about going through security and customs. I suspect it has more to do with not wanting to upset their sensitive male passengers who might 'inadvertently' hit on their beauty-contest-winning flight attendants only to find out they're 'kathoeys'. Heaven forbid. As such, I think this is a very cynical attempt to get publicity by the airline.

"Katooey" is a derogatory term? DAMMIT. It sounded kinda cool there for a minute. "My name is XYZ and I'm from the Katooey tribe." It sounded more special and exclusive to me - like a group everyone would want to join.

Damn it. Okay, back to the drawing board.

This really sticks in my craw. Were the ladies working for, say, a trans center in which their status may lend expertise, then sure! Give 'em their third-sex badge! However, last I checked one doesn't require any specific form of genitalia to serve drinks on an airliner.

I can only speak from the viewpoint of a young American professional, but this isn't progressive. This is patronizing.

An organization that couldn't get over my birth history long enough to accept me as female is not one I would ever want to work for.

Thailand is not exactly the most progressive place in the world even for human rights, much less trans rights. So this fits in pretty well with that culture.

While I applaud PC Air for taking a solid first step towards promoting acceptance, I think the gold badges represent a bit of a stumble. If they're qualified to be airline attendants, let them be airline attendants . . . period.

As for this being a sexist move, I respectfully disagree. It's one industry making an effort towards equality. Yes, it'd be lovely if all the banks, law firms, schools, hospitals, etc. could make the same effort, but somebody has to be the first.

This is like so cool Bil. Delta Airlines should grab right onto this idea and make all G and L and B flights attendants wear various color badges. What's you favorite color?

The concept of transpeople being required by their employer to wear badges stating that they are "third gender" is disgusting. It is dehumanizing.

'new Thai airline company, PC Air, has selected three transgender women to be flight attendants'

"I already am a member of a tribe called 'women' thanks"

really.
what happened to being respected as one's self?
bi or third gender people don't want to be confused as binary, either, last i checked.

um, time for some*new* words.
this IS starting to get confusing....
(*just a quiet HINT*...)
http://transmeditations.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/are-we-on-the-verge-of-a-transgender-civil-war/

Note that when I said "I already am a member of a tribe called 'women' thanks" I was only speaking for myself not all transgender people Javier which is why I used "I" in that sentence and not "we".

As a post-transsexual woman, I am a woman. I am not transgender. I am not a third gender or sex. I do not identify as a woman. I am a woman.

I would no more wear any sort of badge othering me than any self respecting gay man would put up with being forced to wear a badge saying "faggot"

While I am not transgender I support people who are and those people also deserve the dignity of having identification that is appropriate for a member of the sex/gender they live their lives as. Neither post-operative transsexual nor transgender people should be marked out as some sort of in-between.

As a post-transsexual woman, I am a woman. I am not transgender. I am not a third gender or sex. I do not identify as a woman. I am a woman.

I would no more wear any sort of badge othering me than any self respecting gay man would put up with being forced to wear a badge saying "faggot"

While I am not transgender I support people who are and those people also deserve the dignity of having identification that is appropriate for a member of the sex/gender they live their lives as. Neither post-operative transsexual nor transgender people should be marked out as some sort of in-between.

I remember that one episode of Rupaul's Drag Race where Jujubee was talking about that word and said she didn't like it, that it even sounded like an insult because it's such an ugly word (according to her).