Thursday, 15 December 2011

Ramblings: Gender Confusions

I once had the misfortune to go along to see The Ladyboys of Bangkok. It was a grim night but one which set me thinking about how hard it must be to be a straight man.

I was persuaded into going to see them by several friends who had seen the Ladyboys before and said they were hugely entertaining. They weren’t. If you like a couple of hours of a load of people in sequins lip syncing to crap Kylie Minogue songs (A.K.A. all of them) then maybe this show is for you. I don’t and it wasn’t. One of my colleagues persuaded us to get up a work trip to see them in the summer of 2009. Luckily I was still drinking then. It helped.

I’d already experienced the delights of their charms at a distance. My father died in the spring of 2008 and my mother and I had gone to register the death on a randomly snowy April day. We went inside the registrar’s office and I’d barely noticed that there was a huge white marquee outside the office in the market place.  We were ploughing through forms and signing things when suddenly a thudding base beat boomed out across the overheated room. The registrar coughed and apologised for the noise.

The strains of “Hey sister, go sister!” and “Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir?” rang out and she apologised again for the insensitivity of it all and told us she’d complained to the council. I sniggered and asked her where the noise was coming from, knowing full well that it was the Ladyboys practising and delighted in the po-faced blushing behind her desk which ensued.

This was nothing compared to the undertaker’s a little while after. His look of horror when I asked him why there weren’t any no frills cheapo coffins was classic. Apparently there isn’t a demand for cheap plain coffins so they don’t carry that range. Likely story. This was only matched only by his shame as he later let out an involuntary high pitched laugh and had to cover it with a cough when my mum asked for a song called “The Rainbow Connection” for the funeral. The laugh came when he serenely and respectfully asked who it was sung by and I said “Kermit the Frog”. I don’t blame him. It was a tasteful little ballad though, not “Mahna Mahna”.

Naturally, I appreciated the Ladyboys efforts to brighten up a dire experience and I do like Lady Marmalade, of course, so I willingly paid my money and went along to enter the huge tent and see what they were made of.  

We were seated right at the front, in full line of fire. The audience was mostly drunken middle aged women, drunken gays and drunken young women. We all drank too, thankfully. It was like an especially bad hen party. The Ladyboys trotted out, posing gamely as they mouthed the words to bad Kylie song after bad Kylie song. They were mouthing words, anyway. I’m not so sure they were the right words. It was entertaining for all of 10 minutes as we all pondered the one intriguing question of the night: Where were they hiding their genitalia? After that it was bloody boring. There’s only so much lip syncing and posturing to songs you can stand, hence why Pans People and Hot Gossip went under (ask your mum if you’re under 35). The dresses were over the top but essentially it was terribly boring.

The amusing part of the evening came when the Ladyboys stood in a row, dressed as sexy schoolgirls and “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry came on. Another Ladyboy emerged and skipped her way down the row, sucking on her finger, touching the other “girls’” panties and thighs and caressing their breasts. The amusement for me was not to be found on stage but on the puzzled and petrified faces of the gaggle of straight men in our party.

I imagine their thoughts went something like this:

“Wow, hot girls!”

“Oh fuck, they’re boys.”

“Oh fuck they’re also dressed as schoolgirls.”

“Bollocks, now they’re pretending to be lesbians. That’s too horny.”

“But they’re dressed as schoolgirls and they’re boys! Shit!”

It must be hard being straight and having to be a man. OK, they don’t get periods or have babies but imagine how psychologically damaged they were when they left that night. I’ll stick to being a gayboy.  

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