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However, when considering transgender women (Mt F) as a group in Thai society, most refer to themselves as phuying (Thai: ผู้หญิง "women"), with a minority referring to themselves as phuying praphet song (a "second kind of woman") and only very few referring to themselves as kathoey.
Although kathoey is often translated as "transgender" in the English usage, this term is not used frequently in Thailand.
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It has a meaning similar to the English language "fairy" or "queen".
Legal recognition of kathoeys and transgender individuals is non-existent in Thailand: even if trans people have had genital reassignment surgery, they are not allowed to change their legal sex. Problems can also arise in regards to access to amenities and gender allocation; for example, a kathoey and a transgender person who has undergone sexual reassignment surgery would still have to stay in an all-male prison.
Kathoeys began to gain prominence in the cinema of Thailand during the late 1980s.
As well as trans individuals, the term can refer to gay men, and was originally used to refer to intersex individuals.
Because of this confusion in translation, the English translation of kathoey is usually "ladyboy" (or variants of the term).Many kathoey work in predominately female occupations, such as in shops, restaurants, and beauty salons, but also in factories (a reflection of Thailand's high proportion of female industrial workers).