Costa examines Thailand’s Sao Braphet Song, which in both Thailand and in the West are known as “Kathoey” and “lady boy.” These individuals are born male, and chose to live or simply present themselves as women. “Some cross-dress, take female hormones, and live as women full-time. Others cross-dress only part of the time or dress androgynously. Some present themselves as men yet claim to have the souls of women. Costa studies these individuals, and this reading is greatly engulfed in personal narratives. Sao Braphet Song are looked at in both positive and negative ways, and the term usually results in stereotypes. Positively, Sao Braphet Song are often considered to have great talents as hair and makeup stylists, as well as extensive talents in singing, dancing, and choreography. Negatively, they are often despised for their tendency to draw attention. Western media portray them to be exotic sex workers, symbolic for inappropriate behavior and sexual freedom. However, these stereotypes and stigmas forget to incorporate the voices of these individuals, which is exactly what Costa does in Male Bodies, Female Souls. One individual interviewed, Phi, states that she has never really felt like a man. She states that this is potentially due to her lack of relationship with her father, and her constant connections with her mother growing up. In grade school Phi felt more comfortable than at home, because she could play with her paper dolls without getting yelled at, like at home. In high school, Phi’s friend base consisted of girls, where she felt comfortable. At university, she had more freedom and met people like her, and felt that she had the ability to be more open than before. This is in part due to the fact that the world was becoming more open-minded. However, when going home, she had to fill a manly role. Upon discussing Thailand in a larger scale, Phi states that “Sometimes I doubt that equal rights in Thailand really exist for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. But those rights don’t include me.” Many of the other individuals interviewed seem to feel the same, that though the world was becoming more open, they still had to be restricted because they wouldn’t be accepted wholly.
I liked the Costa article more than many read because of these personal interviews. Like the films, it is great to hear things from an individual perspective, as opposed to classifying people as a whole.