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The following review appeared in the November 2021 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social & Behavioral Sciences
Although foreign gender scholars and sex tourists appreciate Thailand’s trinary gender system of male, female, and kathoey (feminized men), some locals do squeeze the latter into the masculine/feminine binary construct. Customarily, though, sexual relationships should still be hetero-gendered—a Thai same-sex couple usually comprises a masculine and feminine partner. This author, an independent public health scholar, finds, however, that thanks to the proliferation of internet dating and available pornography, Western understandings of homosexual identity and practice now overlay the traditional system: young feminine men who first identified as kathoey have come to embrace more prestigious masculine identities, i.e., "both" (sexually versatile). The author interviewed 25 rural 18- to 20-year-olds (most had already left home) over a two-year period to track changes in their self-understandings and practices. His findings include that personhood remains embedded within a context of family, Buddhist belief, relational etiquette, harmonious hierarchy, and preservation of honor, continuing to shape young men's behavior. Less insistence on a "true" internal self and acceptance that one's public and private personae may diverge and shift according to context distinguish Thai homosexuality from current Western understandings. The author describes Thai gay communities as "flimsy," with implications for HIV awareness campaigns, which he suggests should concentrate their efforts in rural secondary schools and on the internet.--L. Lindstrom, University of Tulsa