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). Kathoey also work in entertainment and tourist centers, in cabarets, and as sex workers. Kathoey sex workers have high rates of HIV.
athoeys are more visible and more accepted in Thai culture than transgender people are in other countries in the world. Several popular Thai models, singers and movie stars are kathoeys, and Thai newspapers often print photographs of the winners of female and kathoey beauty contests side by side. The phenomenon is not restricted to urban areas; there are kathoeys in most villages, and kathoey beauty contests are commonly held as part of local fairs.
Using the notion of karma, some Thai believe that being a kathoey is the result of transgressions in past lives, concluding that kathoey deserve pity rather than blame.
A common stereotype is that older, well-off kathoey provide financial support to young men with whom they are in a personal relationship.
Kathoeys currently face many social and legal impediments. Families (and especially fathers) are typically disappointed if a child becomes a kathoey, and kathoeys often have to face the prospect of coming out. However, kathoey generally have greater acceptance in Thailand than most other Asian countries. 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. Discrimination in employment also remains rampant. 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.