We didn't see this so much outside of Bangkok but in Bangkok, Lady Boys are common. Basically, they are men who dress and live like women. The cabaret shows in Bangkok are a huge tourist attraction. Foreigners come to gawk or marvel but I didn't see a lot of Thais at the one show I went to.
I can't pretend I know much about it...I'm a farang passing through...but given some of the discussions going on at home about gay rights, I've been thinking about it.
On the train south, the porter in our car wasn't a full Lady Boy but certainly a wannabe. He was wearing some make up, had a wild, though short, funky hairdo and swishy mannerisms. He also took a real shine to one of the guys in our group and made his interest known. James said he was always hanging around, saying 'So handsome. So beautiful.' and touching him. To the point where he asked Lora how to say, "I'm not gay." in Thai. Lora gave him an appropriate phrase to use.
For the porter to be on the job in make up must mean it's at least somewhat accepted. I can't imagine too many places in the US where one could do that. I would hope that even in Thailand the unwanted attention and touching would be inappropriate.