Feminine transformations: Gender reassignment surgical tourism in Thailand

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Every year, hundreds of transgendered people from the United States, Europe, Asia, Canada, and Australia travel to Thailand to undergo cosmetic and gender reassignment surgeries (GRS). Many GRS clinics market themselves almost exclusively to non-Thai trans women (people assigned a male sex at birth who later identify as female). This article draws on ethnographic research with patients visiting Thailand for GRS to explore how trans women patients related their experience of medical care in Thailand to Thai cultural traditions, in particular "traditional" Thai femininity and Theravada Buddhist rituals and beliefs. Foreign patients in Thai hospital settings engage not only with medical practices but also with their perceptions of Thai cultural traditions-which inflect their feminine identifications. I draw on two patients' accounts of creating personal rituals to mark their gender reassignment surgery, placing these accounts within the context of biomedical globalization and debates about the touristic appropriation of non-"Western" cultural practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)424-443
Number of pages20
JournalMedical Anthropology: Cross Cultural Studies in Health and Illness
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Medical travel
  • Somatechnics
  • South east asia
  • Transgender
  • Transnationality
  • Transsexuality


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