I was on a vacation to the Philippines last month. During the course of traveling via Bangkok and spending a week in Manila, I discovered something interesting. A significant portion of men in South East Asia tend to be er…somewhat effeminate. Many men – actually look quite feminine – they are lithe, have soft voices, and exhibit a general lack of “male-hairiness”. Lots of men seem to work in fashion stores in malls hawking perfume and pantyhose. This leads to assume that such behavior is more or less accepted by South East Asian society . Well, after all Thailand has their legendary lady-boys or Kathoey and Manila is supposedly the gay capital of Asia. But some Googling reveals that this is perhaps not because of a “liberal” society with a true understanding of LGBT rights, but rather that South East Asian cultures tend to avoid conflict and value tolerance.
Two words will throw all these theories of south east asian men not being macho enough to the wind – Muay Thai. It is a brutal martial art sports where attacks to every part of the body are allowed except the head. Allied forms of such hard martial arts/kickboxing are wildly popular in South East Asia. Check this astonishing gender-bending story of Nong Tum, a famous Kathoey Muay Thai boxer. Wow.