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History Humanities Nonfiction

Kathoey “In Trend”: Emergent Genderscapes, National Anxieties and the Re-Signification of Male-Bodied Effeminacy in Thailand

By Dredge Byung'chu Käng, 2012

In Thailand, genderscapes, or the terrain of gender and sexuality, continue to evolve quickly, with male-to-female transgenderisms and effeminate gay identities proliferating alongside masculine ones. The previous coding of kathoey in popular discourse as being traditional is shifting to one that identifies ‘‘kathoeyness’’, or male effeminacy, with modernity. Recent incidents point to a discursive shift based on a purified nostalgia for Thai ‘‘tradition’’, which excises kathoey presence. In this article, I consider how social evaluation and moral legitimacy underscore the contemporary terrain of gender/sexuality and contradictory attitudes towards kathoeyness. I describe how the increasing visibility of male effeminacy provokes national anxiety, becomes associated with degeneracy, and is used to excise non-normative gender from recent reconstructions of Thainess.

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