Meet Toy – or Mama – the mother of all Ladyboys (kathoeys) in Pattaya. At 70 years old, Toy is a well-respected lady in this popular tourist city, an infamous place where ladyboys from all corners of Thailand come to make a career as cabaret showgirls or to work in the city’s sex industry.
Currently she works in a bar serving drinks and chatting to customers, and is a member of ‘Sisters’, a counselling centre for transgender people.
Toy was born in the countryside outside Pattaya. Ever since she was 10 years old, she always felt like a girl. As a single child with only girls as friends in her village, she played dress ups with them and discovered make-up.
Between the ages of 10-15, Toy worked in the village selling different things at the local markets. One day, a friend took her to Bangkok’s Khaosan Road: the experience of being in the big city completely opened her mind.
Upon her return, she started taking hormone pills to start the transition into becoming female. During the Vietnam war, Toy came to Pattaya – this former fishing village became a playground for American servicemen that hopped over the border for rest and relaxation. She started working as a ladyboy prostitute mainly for the American soldiers. At the age of 30, Toy got fully operated changing completely into the woman that she so longed to be - it cost around 200,000THB then. To this day, Toy says this is the best decision she’s ever made in her life. And of course, she’s has her fair share of Botox treatments over the years to retain her youth. In the portrait, she’s holding a photo of herself when she was about 40 years old.
So far, Toy has lived a long and happy life, having found true love several times. She’s had 3 marriages – with one husband she adopted his child, becoming a step-mum to a son who is now 25 years old. Mother and son still live happily together.
To the young ladyboys who come to her for advice, Toy tells them to be careful, use protection and to stay away from drugs.
She believes in following your heart and in being a good person in everything you do.