Houn Syporn knew she wanted to be lady from the age of five. She used to play with make up and creams. Her mother was worried but Syporn knew what he wanted. Now, (S)he works in one of the many hostess bars of Phnom Penh. Syporn, with her many nicknames, cares for customers, serving drinks and chatting with local expatriates and tourists. She is not shy to say she is a ladyboy; she will openly admit and make a point of it before a potential customer is interested in getting to know her. Like many of the other hostess in her business Syporn comes from an impoverished province, she works hard every night to support her family. Though the bar only pays her a minimum wage, just enough for her to cover the rent, she is able to get by with tips from customers, and lady drinks (drinks bought for ladies that cost double, a percentage of the difference is given back to the girl).
Cambodia generally understands transgender in less rigid terms than in western countries. Regardless, ladyboys in Cambodia still suffer from discrimination their work opportunities are generally limited to hair and make-up salons and hostess bars. Syporn knows this all to well, when she walks down the streets passersby will call out to her ‘oh Katoey’ (“fairy" or "queen”).
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