Male femininity in Thai among men who identify with non-normative male roles.
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This study investigates the construction and presentation of gender identity among men who identify with non-normative male roles in Thailand, including both kathoey - male-to-female transgenders - and gay men. Kathoey and gay men are marginalised from normative conceptualisations of gender and sexuality in Thailand. The goal of this study is to identify how Thai non-normative men use language to position themselves within the Thai sex/gender inventory and to describe how language participates more broadly in the indexation of gender identity. Data were drawn from the eight months of ethnographic fieldwork in Bangkok. During this time, fourteen Thai non-normative men were observed and recorded in a variety of interactional contexts, including individual sociolinguistic interviews and unstructured casual encounters with friends and work colleagues. This study focuses on two linguistic variables – vowel lengthening and self-reference terms. Analyses indicate that vowel lengthening is used by kathoey and gay men as part of stance-taking. At the interactional level, it intensifies the force of the epistemic and affective stances. Through its repetitive use, the interactional meanings become established as an index of affected and entertaining personalities, and male femininity. These characteristics match the stereotypes of kathoey and gay men in Thai society, and hence provide the ideological link for vowel lengthening to become associated with kathoey and gay men. Self-reference terms are used by kathoey and gay men both to construct gender and avoid presenting gender. Analyses demonstrate the significance of speech context, which determines and delimits the possible self-reference options. Several social factors, not only gender, have to be taken into account for the selection of appropriate self-reference. The findings are significant as they show how Thai non-normative men draw upon the linguistic resources available to all Thai speakers and make use of particular linguistic features for their own gender purposes
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