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An Idiot Abroad and the Lady Boys

I found a new favorite show this week called ‘An Idiot Abroad: Bucket List’. The whole premise is that Ricky Gervais and some other guy send the same poor fool out on worldwide adventures to fulfill common items on people’s bucket lists. The funny part is that the guy has no desire to do any of these things, and Ricky takes special measures to ensure even an innocuous sounding item, like swimming with the dolphins, results in a bad time for him. It’s pretty hilarious, as the idiot himself is quietly serious and complains considerably about his little side assignment like being roped into Mongolian honor wrestling in traditional garb, or being buried alive by a suspicious looking shaman in the Siberian wilderness.

On the last episode, when he was in Thailand to swim with dolphins, Ricky sent him to spend some time with the lady boys. “Oh, here we go.” My expectations of how the poorly misnamed Thai trans would be portrayed was pretty low. Generally speaking, having someone sent to spend time with you because it would be hysterical doesn’t speak well how you are perceived by them. I saw what happened when they dumped him in a segregated Chinese village specifically for little people, whom they still referred to as ‘dwarfs’. It also didn’t bode well that the very title of the show designated this guy as an idiot, and none of his actions or opinions prior to this really swayed the viewer away from it.

As a side discussion, I’m sure not a whole lot of us care for the term ‘lady-boy’ to begin with. The very implication is that this is someone of the male gender who remained as such, and had the descriptive term ‘lady’ slapped in front to designate “him” as a particular kind of male. This becomes especially infuriating when it remains after the person has already had SRS or GRS, or whatever we are calling it this week. Not that this really matters since being mentally female equals being female, but bottom surgery is a powerful enough statement to even convince the bureaucracy that enforces government documentation. To me the term seems like a way of marketing these individuals to the type who take a fancy to the trans.

It wasn’t as super bad a depiction as I thought it was going to be, although it strayed in typical territory. They took him for a manicure and pedicure of course, because trans people naturally spend all their time in nail salons, something I have done twice now in my life (fine, I do like pedicures, but it’s only so I can wear sandals in the summer and not look all gross buckets). Next of course they are dying to give him a makeover. This part kind of annoyed me because I think it plays right into the fear that insecure masculine men have that we are out to make them more girly. Ugh, as if! Personally, I can’t think of anything more onerous than trying to slap makeup on some hairy faced dude and picking out an outfit for him on top of it. I can barely dress and do my own face without looking like a hooker or the old lady from ‘Hee-Haw’.

The idiot took it all as well as he does anything with lots of complaining followed by him waxing philosophical. He ruminates on whether he would care if his long time girlfriend “used to be a bloke” and decided he didn’t care as long as the parts he cared about were there to “do the job”. Oh, they are going to fight when she catches this episode. Then he went on to say one of the good parts would be knowing “it was really a bloke” and so he would no longer have to carry all the grocery bags or buy flowers. “Really a bloke”? That’s just great. Then again, I suppose that might be the ultimate straight male fantasy to have a best bud to watch the game with, not worry about being sensitive, and still bend over the coffee table for a quickie without feeling gay. It’s probably also the gay male fantasy also, you know, without that last part about not feeling gay.

Well, the title of the show did designate him as an idiot and they did deliver. In abundance when it came to this issue. It did serve as a reminder though that a great many people do still look at us as if we are “really” a man or woman, but in disguise for some reason. At least this idiot had the “bollocks” to come clean on it.

About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

6 responses »

  1. I feel this episode portrays Carl at his most sensitive. Which is really saying something. He must be more egar to go on these globe-trotting adventures if Sky managed to get three seasons out of this premise. But then maybe Carl’s in it for the money. It’s not like he’s got much going on.

    • You so have to love Carl though! The ideal straight man to Ricky Gervais. Agreed, I think he was at his most sensitive that episode, though I haven’t caught the entire third yet where he’s snogging around with ‘Willow’. … I probably used ‘snogging’ wrong, my Queens English coming primarily from ‘Black Adder’ and ‘Red Dwarf’, so many apologies. Thanks so much for commenting!

  2. My wife carries in all the grocery bags sometimes and I never really thought about it but the coffee table would be good for more than just putting your feet on, don’t you think.
    I forgot to take my medication this morning.
    Love you Michelle:)

  3. I remember seeing the video to this a while back on Reddit and reading this made me rewatch it.
    I just wanted to point out that political correctness changes with the setting. If that’s the term they prefer be used in Thailand or have no problems with its usage, then there isn’t really anything wrong with using it towards or referring to the Thai transgender community provided you’re in Thailand. Radfems recently poked at a Japanese Toyota ad criticizing the use of Stav Strashko, a male-identified crossdresser, as sort of a “trap” to sell their product, but the radfems had completely forgotten or just not noticed that the ad wasn’t made for western audiences and their criticisms were very western-centric to the point that they called themselves the target audience. Japan has had a recent “trap-boom” where crossdressing men and boys (still male-identified and commonly referred to as “otokonoko”) have become popular making the Toyota ad less of a shock and more comparable to the pop-culture references used in ads in the west. Different cultures have different values. Implying these women are stereotyical because “of course they are dying to give him a makeover” while completely ignoring that “Thai women as owners of a nail salon” is also a stereotype kind of has the effect of “Women shouldn’t do something overly feminine, but Asian people can do something they prefer.” I’d also like to point out that, because of Thai values, there’s a good chance that at least a few of these women are in some sort of show which explains all the clothing. Such shows are actually fairly common in Thailand, and while also a stereotype, isn’t entirely untrue. I’d also like to say that there was a time in American culture where the terms “negro” and “colored” were perfectly acceptable and “black” was a hurtful one. Even now, the terms “African-American” and “Native-American” aren’t entirely PC. And just a little bit of trivia, the PC term is “fisherman” regardless of gender. Not to say you can’t speak out for the trans community, which you do very well, but you can’t really speak for a group that technically isn’t really your own if only because of a culture difference between you.

    Kind of trying to end on a high-note, but Some Other Guy changes his pronoun use close to half way through the segment showing some sort of growth in validating the women’s identities. He opens the segment being somewhat intolerant but does open up to the point I feel should be noted. Sure he still has the mindset that transwomen “are really ‘blokes'”, which is pretty bad, but at least he’s noticeably more respectful after spending one day with these Thai women.
    Just my two cents.

    • Hi Bolt, I have to say that I really appreciated your two cents considerably. A couple of points…. First, yes, I will say that most post was written emotionally without any research and without taking into consideration the cultural context whatsoever. The result of course is that this makes it essentially a ‘hissy post’ instead of an educated opinion, so in that regard I found all of your points to be very valid and thought provoking. Some thoughts did come to mind, however, but I need to do some actual research to speak to this intelligently. OK, things to consider:

      1. How is Thai culture regarding trans received by trans individuals? Is the terminology ‘lady boy’ accepted because there is perception that change is impossible, or is it truly embraced as an accurate description?

      2. Where the depictions of Thai trans typical or atypical? If they were showgirls, is this considered to be a desired employment option, or a default option because other opportunities are unavailable or discouraged?

      I really need to follow up on this post with a good understanding. My point of view is that while we should be respectful of unfamiliar cultures, we are not prohibited from critique simply on the basis that they are not ours if there is disparity of human rights and dignity. After all, the slave era southern US culture was a deeply ingrained one with a long and rich tradition, but also one begging heavy negative focus. Not the same thing here, but worth considering.

      Thank you again for your excellent insight! A good thought provoking response is very welcome here, and even more so if it challenges the premise of the post. After all, I’m probably very blind to my own ignorance in many matters and really appreciate it when someone holds a mirror to the back of my head so i can do something about it.

      Love, Michelle


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