Even on the streets of China, where lions, dragons and phoenixes dance during festivals and hungry ghosts solicit for food, the trio stops traffic with their spectacular flamboyance.
One is dressed in a red dress with the bodice an imaginative placement of sequins and strings; the second frisks around in a skimpy pink dress that is a cross between a ballerina’s tutu and a swimsuit, while the third wears an eye-popping headgear that looks like a giant octopus, a smug smile, and very little else.
They are followed by a procession in which sedan chairs that look like Thailand’s tuktuk vehicles are carried by impassive men wearing green skirts and golden crowns, flanked by giant bunnies and other strange animals which turn out to be people in costume.
People have been treated to this unusual display and more in Guangzhou, a popular tourist destination in south China.
According to a Chinese daily, the trio are transgender women from Thailand who have been performing on the streets of well-known tourist spots in the city.
Guangming Daily said the trio’s performance is all about showing “onlookers how to tell the difference between a real woman and a ‘lady boy’”.
A lady boy is the Thai term for a transsexual or transvestite.
It was not known immediately whether the spectacles were intended to promote tourism in Thailand.
The performances came ahead of the three-day Glow Phuket 2013 event hosted in Thailand from 18 October, a gay event sponsored by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Glow organizer Laurent Ross told the Phuket News paper what made him devise the beach party: ‘I’ve worked in China for many years. When I came to Phuket five years ago I instantly recognized a need to bring quality Chinese tourism here.
‘There are many people (from the gay community) who want to start coming to Phuket and partying and enjoying the freedom that perhaps they don’t have (where they live).’
Thailand’s ‘Go Thai. Be Free’ campaign also targets the North American LGBT market.
The Far Eastern Buddhist kingdom attracts roughly seven million foreign tourists each year and performances by trans women are a major tourist attraction.
However, conservative China, which despite a recent thaw is still frosty towards gay, has mixed feelings about the transgender show.
The Chinese daily said there were complaints about the performance as well as the “inappropriate” costumes worn by the trio.
About two years ago, Jin Xing, a famous transgender dancer in China, was reportedly banned from being on the panel of judges on a televised singing contest, I Am the One.
Jin underwent sex reassignment surgery 16 years ago and is married to a German.