Kathoey cabaret: 'Where beauty blurs'

Kathoey cabaret: 'Where beauty blurs'

Tucked into a dark corner of the sprawling night market in downtown Chiang Mai sits a very unassuming bar.

As darkness falls, this little corner comes alive drowning out the sounds of shoppers and diners nearby - the last remaining Ladyboy Cabaret in Chiang Mai kicks off.

Kathoeys, or as they are more often referred to, ladyboys, have become recognised by the majority throughout Thailand as a third gender.

Embracing female stereotypes, mannerisms, and social norms, these ladyboys will often undergo surgery to augment the female appearance.

Many Kathoey also gravitate to the entertainment industry, with many becoming famous throughout Thailand and Southeast Asia.

In Chiang Mai, Thailand's second largest city, this unique group of ladies have created something that has allowed them to embrace being different - an extreme and sensationalized version of 'femininity'.

They become something much more than themselves: an image of what they hope to be, someone they feel most comfortable as, or simply an overt expression of their unique place in Thai society.

This glimpse behind the scenes offers a little bit of context into what can be a very flashy and superficial show, but also offers a peek into a social group that remains a mystery to many travelers and non Thai's, one many have a difficult time fully understanding.

It is a peek into where beauty, and our notion of it, begins to blur.

James MacDonald is a photographer and photojournalist based in South East Asia. You can view his work at http://jamesmacdonaldphotographer.4ormat.com/ and http://jamesmacdonaldphotographer.tumblr.com/

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