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Sex change ads and newspaper sensibilities

Once at the News & Observer — the Raleigh, N.C. newspaper where my career began — my editors felt the need to run a front-page warning to readers.

Be advised, it read, today's "Life" section features nudity.

Of course, every  reader with a shred of curiosity immediately flipped to the Life section ... only to find Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam," which does indeed feature God, majestic mountains and Adam's penis. The newspaper was subsequently ridiculed by readers, the blogosphere and reporters at my newsrooom's happy hour.

I guess editors are a bit more relaxed at the Bangkok Post, an English-language daily with a large readership of educated Thais.

Yesterday's front page featured a large ad from the Pratunam Polyclinic, where sex change operations go for $1,625 — no extra charge for anesthesia! Curiously, the $125 "orchiectomy" listing is crossed out with red lines. I'll let you look that up yourself, but suffice to say, that seems like a very reasonable price.

The clinic is even endorsed by Tanyarat Jirapatpakorn, a transexual beauty queen.

Thailand is renowned for its "ladyboy" cabaret shows, but transexuals aren't just limited to the cabaret stage here. Called "katoeys" in Thai,  they're openly accepted in society. I've seen katoey bank tellers, servers and ticket booth operators in Bangkok's subway stops. At teenage shopping hang-outs, it's not uncommon to see a katoey in a pack of chattering college girls.

I don't know of any katoey business moguls, however, so I have to wonder if they find it hard to climb the career ladder within Thai office culture. I'd love to hear from readers with more insight into this.

Though you'll never see a sex change ads on a U.S.  newspaper's front page, maybe American editors should relax and reconsider. With most papers' circulation figures in a tailspin, they could definitely use the attention.

I'll bet the Pratunam Polyclinic gets its share of American clients. Might they be interested in advertising abroad?