Love & Sex

True Stories: Thailand Gets Lonely

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Thailand is as famous for its transsexuals as for its Buddhism and postcard beaches. So perhaps I was naïve for not realizing the woman who'd just blown me on a cliff in Ko Pha Ngan was, in fact, a man. But a straight guy likes to think he has sharp trannydar, and in seconds I had gone from innocently getting sucked off by a hot Thai girl to deciding if I should fuck a Thai boy's ass. You'll understand if I went from disbelief to shock to embarrassment to curiosity faster than you can say "beer goggles."

Equally bewildering was the speed with which the entire episode occurred. Only minutes earlier I had been on Haad Rin Beach, old-fashionedly trying to fuck women with actual vaginas. I was at the Full Moon Party, the famed all-night beach rave that attracts 20,000 to 30,000 western tourists every time the Moon is precisely in opposition to the Sun.

The Party begins at about five p.m. and continues until sunrise. Bars stay open the whole night, thudding and thumping with whatever dance music was trendy in Europe five years prior. Dozens of vendors sell "buckets," pails of improperly-mixed alcohol laced with anything that knocks drinkers out, for ten bucks or less. Rumors abound in Ko Pha Ngan of tourists overdosing on buckets, but of course that only entices partygoers even more. And the prostitutes come even cheaper than the booze and drugs.

You'll understand if I went from disbelief to shock to embarrassment to curiosity faster than you can say "beer goggles."

Thai hookers flock to the Full Moon Party, knowing that desperate men who don't score with western women will settle for paying twenty to thirty dollars to fuck hookers instead. By midnight, literally hundreds of prostitutes line the shore, propositioning the guys who temporarily leave the bars to take a piss in the ocean. It's not pretty, but it's a monthly ritual.

It was my first week into a two-month-long solo backpacking excursion around Southeast Asia, that upper-middle-class ritual that traditionally follows grad school. I was sharing a place in Ko Pha Ngan for five days with Uri, an Israeli guy I'd met on the ferry from the mainland. We were hanging out with two New York girls we'd met the day before. By the time the Party commenced, Uri was falling for one of them. Travel inspires such excitement and novelty and intensity, it's easy to pretend those feelings signal a genuine connection with someone. I had flirted with an Israeli girl a few nights earlier, but blown it by opting to see a Mauy Thai match instead of taking her to dinner. As Uri and our friends drank and danced amid the pressure of the music and dancing, I was feeling lonely in my usual way, lonely in the travelling-alone way, and lonely in the my-friend-has-a-girl-but-I-

don't way. It was a combination every bit as toxic as the chemicals in our buckets.

We drifted from bar to bar on the beach, and I slowly distanced myself from my friends. I would dance with them, pretending I wasn't lonely or eyeing every girl. As the night progressed and the alcohol seeped into my bloodstream, I began dancing with any willing woman. Most — okay, all — showed zero interest, until I caught an Asian girl glancing at me repeatedly. Now, I'm average-looking at best, no matter how much booze a girl has had, so I knew her glances were ocular invitations. I stumbled toward her and we began dancing, eventually grinding our bodies together like sticks trying to catch fire. I put my arm around her slender waist, pulling her towards me as I smelled her neck and black hair. I was worried that she was a hooker; I'd been in Thailand only a week but had already encountered dozens of them. Prostitutes in Thailand are proactive and have a Madison Avenue-worthy sales pitch — they engage you in conversation for twenty minutes before casually mentioning how they're looking for some way to make extra cash.

Traveling alone is an inherently lonely venture, no matter what the brochures and hostels promise, and having a pretty local girl listen to you for a while is comforting. But no matter how adventurous I fancied myself to be, the thought of paying for sex threatened to resurrect the many fluids uneasily coexisting in my stomach. She didn't ask for cash though (or a credit card, for that matter), and after a while that was enough to satisfy me. I kissed her; she returned the favor by grabbing my cock, and I felt the adrenaline surge that means sex is on its way.

It was around this time Uri came over and pulled me away from my newfound friend. "Hey man, we just wanted to say we don't think she's a ladyboy," he told me. "We thought she was, but now we don't think so." Now, as a rule, it's fair to say that if a friend tells you, unprompted, that the person you're making out with isn't, in fact, a transsexual, it's a good indicator you're making out with a transsexual. But somehow Uri's advice seemed unnecessary, even absurd — it hadn't occurred to me at all that my she was a he. I looked at Uri surprised he had even thought my girl was a tranny, and he was surprised I was surprised. But I really had no idea.

In any case, I went back to my dancing queen and we resumed thrusting international tongues into throats.

I felt the adrenaline surge that means sex is on its way.

One might think that, with a twenty-five-year record of staunch heterosexuality on my resume to that point, I might've noticed this kiss to be different from those of X-chromosomed girls I'd kissed before. But I didn't. There was no facial hair scratching me, no toughness or forcefulness or masculinity turning me off. There was only trance music, alcohol-fueled warmth and dizziness, and the softness and excitement that comes with kissing a woman.

Feeling triumphant, I took my girl by the hand and walked across the beach. I led her through the crowd, confident as I am when I know I have a sure thing on my hands. We walked about a quarter-mile, up a path through some woods, leading to a cliff. She told me her name was Mai. We kissed again and she almost immediately undid my pants and went down on me. The blowjob was unexceptional, the hands-free straight-bobbing kind I would get back in ninth grade. One of the highlights of being gay, I'd always imagined, would be that your partner would instinctively know what's pleasurable to you. Don't all men want the same things? But I can personally and conclusively confirm the inaccuracy of this idea. After a minute or so I pulled Mai up, and brought her to eye level.

"I want to fuck you," I told her, trying to be both bold and complimentary.

She stared at me with her endearingly big eyes.

Then she looked down. "I am a man," she said.

It didn't register. "What?"

"I am a man."

I literally thought it was an unfunny joke. "No, you're not."

But she wasn't smiling. And she got more specific. "I have penis," she said. Very specific.

My smile dissolved and I began scanning her face for traces of masculinity I had missed.

"No, you're not," I said. I was apparently operating by the trustworthy theory that if one says something over and over again, it becomes true.

"I have penis," she repeated, in what must surely have been the least amount of language she could have used to convince me.

"No, you're not," I chanted, reaching for her crotch. I only half-believed her at this point — I thought this was an excuse for why she didn't want to fuck me. But I realized "I have penis" is something women rarely say to men, even to ones they're rejecting. More common rejection phrases I've encountered include "I have a boyfriend," "I think we should just be friends," and "I can only hook up with people I respect."

Mai thrust her pelvis out to me and I cupped it. Sure enough, a hard package. I only then fully believed she was a man. Just saying you're a man is one thing, but you can't conjure a sausage and a corresponding set of hairy boys out of nowhere. I looked up astonished, not believing the sperm dispensers I held in my hand. My mouth was gaping, but it closed when I saw his eyes. They were serious, not scared or embarrassed, as I would have anticipated. But still, I felt bad for the loneliness that I assumed must come from trying to have sex with straight men when you're not yet a woman.

"Fuck me in ass?" he asked, hopefully.

I half laughed, and for the second time in one minute was disbelieving my ears. "What?"

"Fuck me in ass." This time it was more of a command, his eyes staring into me with penetrating intent.

"Um." I'd never fucked a guy before. I had once given a few seconds of a handjob — not to completion — in seventh grade, to my friend at a sleepover. I hadn't been into the fleshy but hard feeling of a dick, and when he asked to blow me, I declined. Since then I had never so much as kissed another guy, and had never felt the desire.

If I ever wanted to flirt with my sexual orientation, this was the time.

But now I was faced with the prospect of a welcoming ass. I thought about it. Two small cheeks and a dark hole — how different could it be from a woman's ass? I'm not the first to identify the resemblance between a teenage boy's body and contemporary female models'. Going back at least to the ancient Greeks, the young man's body was held as the finest image of beauty a human could attain. Moreover, I reminded myself, I was travelling on a continent on which I knew not a single person. I could do whatever I wanted and never have to face any consequences. If I ever wanted to flirt with my sexual orientation, this was the time.

But I took Mai by the hand and explained that, while I appreciated the offer, I wasn't going to fuck his ass. He looked disappointed. "Please?" he asked, smiling rather charmingly. My mother always stressed the importance of manners. And I admired his audacity. To try and talk a straight guy, one you've just told you're a man, into putting his penis into your ass takes a lot of, er, balls. And I was flattered — I don't get enough girls to take a guy's affection for me for granted. But it just didn't entice me.

I led him down the path and back to the bars. Away from the beach, where it was quieter and I could absorb what has just happened. I bought him a drink and we parted ways, saying little else because both we spoke different languages and there was little to say. I found my friends an hour or so later, dancing on the beach. I rejoined them seamlessly, acting as if nothing happened. They didn't ask, I didn't say. We danced and drank and I pretended to laugh at their jokes, but my mind was elsewhere. We hopped from bar to bar, growing weary seeing the same tourist faces over and over even amidst tens of thousands of different ones. Before I left the beach, alone, around three a.m., I saw Mai across a bar. He was talking to another tourist, closely, and they were laughing. I stopped feeling sorry for Mai, and suddenly felt very lonely again.  


Jordan Smith is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C.