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Third gender and third sex are concepts covering individuals categorized, either by themselves or by society, as neither man nor woman. It also describes a social category present in those societies that recognize three or more genders. The term third is usually understood to mean "other"; some anthropologists and sociologists have described fourth, fifth, and "some" genders. The concepts of "third", "fourth" and "some" genders can be somewhat difficult to understand within Western conceptual categories.
Although biology determines whether a human's chromosomal and anatomical sex is male, female, or less often and in various ways, intersex, the state of personally identifying as, or being identified by society as, belonging to neither the male nor female genders is defined by the individual's gender identity and gender role in society. While some western scholars have sought to understand the term third gender in terms of sexual orientation, several other scholars, especially the native non-western scholars, consider this as a misrepresentation of third genders. To different cultures or individuals, a third gender may represent an intermediate state between man and woman, a state of being both (such as "the spirit of a man in the body of a woman"), the state of being neither (neuter), the ability to cross or swap genders, or another category altogether independent of men and women. This last definition is favored by those who argue for a strict interpretation of the "third gender" concept. In any case, all of these characterizations are defining gender and not the sex that biology gives to living beings.
The term third gender has been used to describe hijras of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan who have gained legal identity, fa'afafine of Polynesia, and sworn virgins of the Balkans, among others, and is also used by many of such groups and individuals to describe themselves.
- 1 Biology and intersex
- 2 Modern societies
- 2.1 License to Be Yourself
- 2.2 International Intersex Forum
- 2.3 Australia
- 2.4 Germany
- 2.5 India
- 2.6 Japan
- 2.7 Nepal
- 2.8 New Zealand
- 2.9 Pakistan
- 2.10 Thailand
- 2.11 Indigenous cultures of North America
- 2.12 Other
- 3 History
- 4 Art and literature
- 5 Third gender and spirituality
- 6 Third gender and sexual orientation
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
Biology and intersex
In animals that are gonochoristic, a number of individuals within a population will not differentiate sexually into bodies that are typically male or female; this is called intersex. The incidence varies from population to population, and also varies depending on how femaleness and maleness are understood. Biologist and gender theorist Anne Fausto-Sterling, in a 1993 article, argued that if people ought to be classified in sexes, at least five sexes, rather than two, would be needed. She later stated that her comments were written "with tongue firmly in cheek".
Evolutionary biologist Joan Roughgarden argues that, in addition to male and female sexes (as defined by the production of small or large gametes), more than two genders exist in hundreds of animal species. Species with one female and two male genders include red deer who have two male morphs, one with antlers and one without, known as hummels or notts, as well as several species of fish such as plainfin midshipman fish and coho salmon. Species with one female and three male genders include bluegills, where four distinct size and color classes exhibit different social and reproductive behaviours, as well as the spotted European wrasse (Symphodus ocellatus), a cichlid (Oreochromis mossambicus) and a kind of tree lizard, Urosaurus ornatus. Species with two male and two female genders include the white-throated sparrow, in which male and female morphs are either white-striped or tan-striped. White-striped individuals are more aggressive and defend territory, while tan-striped individuals provide more parental care. Ninety percent of breeding pairs are between a tan striped and a white striped sparrow. Finally, the highest number of distinct male and female morphs or "genders" within a species is found in the side-blotched lizard, which has five altogether: orange-throated males, who are "ultra-dominant, high testosterone" controllers of multiple females; blue-throated males, who are less aggressive and guard only one female; yellow-throated males, who do not defend territories at all but cluster around the territories of orange males; orange-throated females, who lay many small eggs and are very territorial; and yellow-throated females, who lay fewer, larger eggs and are more tolerant of each other.
Since at least the 1970s, anthropologists have described gender categories in some cultures which they could not adequately explain using a two-gender framework. At the same time, feminists began to draw a distinction between (biological) sex and (social/psychological) gender. Contemporary gender theorists usually argue that a two-gender system is neither innate nor universal. A sex/gender system which recognizes only the following two social norms has been labeled "heteronormative".
Anthropologist Michael G. Peletz is an expert in East Asian gender and sexuality. He believes our notions of different types of genders, including the attitudes toward the third gender, deeply affect our lives and reflects our values in society. In Peletz book, "Gender, Sexuality, and Body Politics in Modern Asia", he describes:
For our purposes, the term "gender" designates the cultural categories, symbols, meanings, practices, and institutionalized arrangements bearing on at least five sets of phenomena: (1) females and femininity; (2) males and masculinity; (3) Androgynes, who are partly male and partly female in appearance or of indeterminate sex/gender, as well as intersexed individuals, also known as hermaphrodites, who to one or another degree may have both male and female sexual organs or characteristics; (4) the transgendered, who engage in practices that transgress or transcend normative boundaries and are thus by definition "transgressively gendered"; and (5) neutered or unsexed/ungendered individuals such as eunuchs.
much of the existing work on cultural systems that incorporate a 'third sex' portray simplistic visions in which societies with more than two sex/gender categories are cast as superior to those that divide the world into just two. I argue that to understand whether a system is more or less oppressive than another we have to understand how it treats its various members, not only its 'thirds'.
License to Be Yourself
The Open Society Foundations published a report, License to Be Yourself in May 2014, documenting "some of the world's most progressive and rights-based laws and policies that enable trans people to change their gender identity on official documents". The report comments on the recognition of third classifications, stating:
From a rights-based perspective, third sex / gender options should be voluntary, providing trans people with a third choice about how to define their gender identity. Those identifying as a third sex / gender should have the same rights as those identifying as male or female.
People tend to identify a third sex with freedom from the gender binary, but that is not necessarily the case. If only trans and/or intersex people can access that third category, or if they are compulsively assigned to a third sex, then the gender binary gets stronger, not weaker.
The report concludes, much like Anne Fausto-Sterling, in her "tongue-in-cheek" essay on the Five Sexes, that two or three options are insufficient: "A more inclusive approach would be to increase options for people to self-define their sex and gender identity."
International Intersex Forum
In response to legal developments in Australia and Germany, the third International Intersex Forum, held in November/December 2013, made statements for the first time on sex and gender registration:
- To register intersex children as females or males, with the awareness that, like all people, they may grow up to identify with a different sex or gender.
- To ensure that sex or gender classifications are amendable through a simple administrative procedure at the request of the individuals concerned. All adults and capable minors should be able to choose between female (F), male (M), non-binary or multiple options. In the future, as with race or religion, sex or gender should not be a category on birth certificates or identification documents for anybody.
First reported in January 2003, Australians can choose "X" as their gender or sex. Alex MacFarlane is believed to be the first person in Australia to obtain a birth certificate recording sex as indeterminate, and the first Australian passport with an 'X' sex marker in 2003. This was stated by the West Australian newspaper to be on the basis of a challenge by MacFarlane, using an indeterminate birth certificate issued by the State of Victoria. The West Australian newspaper reported in January 2003 that "Alex is also believed to be the first Australian issued with a birth certificate acknowledging a gender other than male or female."
In 2011, the Australian Passport Office introduced new guidelines for issuing of passports with a new gender, and broadened availability of an X descriptor to all individuals with documented "indeterminate" sex. The revised policy stated that "sex reassignment surgery is not a prerequisite to issue a passport in a new gender. Birth or citizenship certificates do not need to be amended." Tony Briffa of Organisation Intersex International Australia and former mayor of City of Hobsons Bay, Victoria, previously acknowledged as the world's first openly intersex public official and mayor, states on Briffa's website that "my birth certificate is silent as to my sex".
Australian Commonwealth guidelines on the recognition of sex and gender, published in June 2013, extended the use of an 'X' gender marker to any adult who chooses that option, in all dealings with the Commonwealth government and its agencies. The option is being introduced over a three-year period. The guidelines also clarify that the federal government collects data on gender, rather than sex.
Norrie May-Welby is popularly - but erroneously - often regarded as the first person in the world to obtain officially indeterminate, unspecified or "genderless" status. May-Welby became the first transsexual person in Australia to pursue a legal status of neither a man nor a woman, in 2010. In April 2014, the High Court of Australia ruled that NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages must record in the register that the sex of May-Welby is "non-specific". The Court found that sex affirmation "surgery did not resolve her sexual ambiguity".
Intersex organisations in Australia, such as Organisation Intersex International Australia are keen to establish a difference between intersex status and non-binary gender identities, stressing that third options must be voluntary and not imposed, and stating that many intersex people regard themselves as men or women.
Germany is thought to be the first European country that recognizes "indeterminate" sex on birth certificates, which is materialized by the absence of any gender marker, from November 2013. A report by the German Ethics Council stated that the law was passed because, "Many people who were subjected to a 'normalizing' operation in their childhood have later felt it to have been a mutilation and would never have agreed to it as adults." Deutsche Welle reported that an "indeterminate" 'option' was made available for the birth certificates of intersex infants with ambiguous genitalia on 1 November 2013. The move is controversial with many intersex advocates in Germany and elsewhere suggesting that it might encourage surgical interventions, or simply fails to address the key health concerns of intersex people. On 21 January 2015, the Celle Court of Appeals confirmed in a judgment  that intersex people cannot obtain a gender marker other than "female" or "male" in their birth certificate, but only the absence of any such marker. The court held at the same time that even an adult intersex person who was registered with a gender marker at birth can obtain the deletion of that gender marker. This judgment is currently being reviewed by the Federal Court of Justice.
The Hijra of India are probably the most well known and populous third sex type in the modern world – Mumbai-based community health organization The Humsafar Trust estimates there are between 5 and 6 million hijras in India. In different areas they are known as Aravani/Aruvani or Jogappa. Often (somewhat misleadingly) called eunuchs in English, they may be born intersex or apparently male, dress in feminine clothes and generally see themselves as neither men nor women. Only eight percent of hijras visiting Humsafar clinics are nirwaan (castrated). Indian photographer Dayanita Singh writes about her friendship with a Hijra, Mona Ahmed, and their two different societies' beliefs about gender: "When I once asked her if she would like to go to Singapore for a sex change operation, she told me, 'You really do not understand. I am the third sex, not a man trying to be a woman. It is your society's problem that you only recognise two sexes.'" Hijra social movements have campaigned for recognition as a third sex, and in 2005, Indian passport application forms were updated with three gender options: M, F, and E (for male, female, and eunuch, respectively). Some Indian languages such as Sanskrit have three gender options.
In November 2009, India agreed to list eunuchs and transgender people as "others", distinct from males and females, in voting rolls and voter identity cards. On April 15, 2014, the Supreme Court of India recognized a third gender that is neither male nor female, and as a class entitled to reservation in education and jobs, stating "Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue." This verdict made India one of the few countries to give this landmark judgment.
In addition to the feminine role of hijras, which is widespread across the subcontinent, a few occurrences of institutionalised "female masculinity" have been noted in modern India. Among the Gaddhi in the foothills of the Himalayas, some girls adopt a role as a sadhin, renouncing marriage, and dressing and working as men, but retaining female names and pronouns. A late-nineteenth century anthropologist noted the existence of a similar role in Madras, that of the basivi. However, historian Walter Penrose concludes that in both cases "their status is perhaps more 'transgendered' than 'third-gendered.'"
In 2012 Gopi Shankar, a gender activist from The American College in Madurai, coined the regional terms for genderqueer people in Tamil. Gopi said that, apart from male and female, there are more than 20 types of genders, such as transwoman, transmen, androgynous, pangender and trigender etc. and in ancient India it was referred to as Trithiya prakirthi (loosely translates to "Third Type"). "
In April 2014, Justice KS Radhakrishnan, of Supreme Court of India declared transgender to be the third gender in Indian law, in a case brought by the National Legal Services Authority (Nalsa) against Union of India and others. The ruling said:
Seldom, our society realises or cares to realise the trauma, agony and pain which the members of Transgender community undergo, nor appreciates the innate feelings of the members of the Transgender community, especially of those whose mind and body disown their biological sex. Our society often ridicules and abuses the Transgender community and in public places like railway stations, bus stands, schools, workplaces, malls, theatres, hospitals, they are sidelined and treated as untouchables, forgetting the fact that the moral failure lies in the society's unwillingness to contain or embrace different gender identities and expressions, a mindset which we have to change.
Justice Radhakrishnan said that transgender people should be treated consistently with other minorities under the law, enabling them to access jobs, healthcare and education. He framed the issue as one of human rights, saying that, "These TGs, even though insignificant in numbers, are still human beings and therefore they have every right to enjoy their human rights", concluding by declaring that:
(1) Hijras, Eunuchs, apart from binary gender, be treated as "third gender" for the purpose of safeguarding their rights under Part III of our Constitution and the laws made by the Parliament and the State Legislature.
(2) Transgender persons' right to decide their self-identified gender is also upheld and the Centre and State Governments are directed to grant legal recognition of their gender identity such as male, female or as third gender.
In Japan, X-gender or X-sex is a third gender or genderqueer identity known as Xジェンダー.
On Dec. 27, 2007, the Supreme Court of Nepal issued a decision mandating that the government scrap all laws that discriminated based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity and establish a committee to study same-sex marriage policy. The court took the unique approach of establishing a third-gender category. Nepalese official documents afford citizens three gender options: male, female, and "others". This may include people who present or perform as a gender that is different from the one that was assigned to them at birth. Nepal's 2011 census was the first national census in the world to allow people to register as a gender other than male or female. The 2007 supreme court decision ordered the government to issue citizenship ID cards that allowed "third-gender" or "other" to be listed.
Birth certificates are available at birth showing "indeterminate" sex if it is not possible to assign a sex. The New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs states, "A person’s sex can be recorded as indeterminate at the time of birth if it cannot be ascertained that the person is either male or female, and there are a number of people so recorded."
On 17 July 2015, Statistics New Zealand introduced a new gender identity classification standard for statistical purposes. The classification has three categories: male, female, and gender diverse. Gender diverse can be further divided into four subcategories: gender diverse not further defined, transgender male to female, transgender female to male, and gender diverse not elsewhere classified.
The political correct terminology in Pakistan is khawaja sara (Urdu: خواجه سرا), as Hijra and Khusra are considered derogatory by the khawaja sara community and human rights activists in Pakistan. As most of Pakistan's official government and business documents are in English, the term "third gender" has been chosen to represent individuals (either male or female, neither, and/or both) that identify themselves as, transexual, transgender person, cross-dresser (zenana in Urdu), transvestite, and eunuchs (narnbans in Urdu).
In June 2009, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered a census of khawaja sara, who number between 80,000 and 300,000 in Pakistan. In December 2009, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, ordered that the National Database and Registration Authority issue national identity cards to members of the community showing their distinct gender. "It's the first time in the 62-year history of Pakistan that such steps are being taken for our welfare", Almas Bobby, a khawaja sara association's president, said to Reuters, "It's a major step towards giving us respect and identity in society. We are slowly getting respect in society. Now people recognize that we are also human beings."
In Pakistan the khawaja sara live in groups (generally 4-12 members) headed by a Guru, normally the oldest. The group earns livelihood by performing/dancing/singing in family functions e.g. birthdays, marriages or child births. It is obligatory for hosts to pay khawaja sara in money, grain or other things. In central Punjab (Pakistan), khawaja sara groups divide areas among themselves and one group may not interfere with another's territory as it is considered unethical.
Also commonly referred to as a third sex are the kathoeys (or "ladyboys") of Thailand. Are people whose assigned sex was male who identify and live as female, a significant number of Thais perceive kathoeys as belonging to a third gender, including many kathoeys themselves, others see them as second category women. Although they are born genetically as male, kathoeys claim to possess a female heart which is the gender they truly are. Males undergoing sex-change operations are not uncommon occurrences but they are still regarded as men on their identification documents. Despite this, the Thai society remains one of the world's most tolerant attitude towards kathoeys or the third gender. Researcher Sam Winter writes:
We asked our 190 [kathoeys] to say whether they thought of themselves as men, women, sao praphet song ["a second kind of woman"] or kathoey. None thought of themselves as male, and only 11 percent saw themselves as kathoey (i.e. ‘non-male’). By contrast 45 percent thought of themselves as women, with another 36 percent as sao praphet song... Unfortunately we did not include the category phet tee sam (third sex/gender); conceivably if we had done so there may have been many respondents who would have chosen that term... Around 50 percent [of non-transgender Thais] see them as males with the mistaken minds, but the other half see them as either women born into the wrong body (around 15 percent) or as a third sex/gender (35 percent)."
In 2004, the Chiang Mai Technology School allocated a separate restroom for kathoeys, with an intertwined male and female symbol on the door. The 15 kathoey students are required to wear male clothing at school but are allowed to sport feminine hairdos. The restroom features four stalls, but no urinals.
Kathoeys in the work force
Although Kathoeys are still not fully respected, they are gradually gaining acceptance and have made themselves a very distinct part of the Thai society. This is especially true in the entertainment, business, and fashion industries in Thailand, where the Kathoeys play significant roles in leadership and management positions. In addition, Kathoeys or second-category-women are very sought after when businesses are hiring salespeople. In many job posts, it is common to see companies state that second-category-women are preferred as their sales force because they are generally seen as more charismatic and expressive individuals.
Third gender and the concept of homosexuality
Some writers suggest that a third gender emerged around 1700 AD in England: the male sodomite. According to these writers, this was marked by the emergence of a subculture of effeminate males and their meeting places (molly houses), as well as a marked increase in hostility towards effeminate and/or homosexual males. People described themselves as members of a third sex in Europe from at least the 1860s with the writings of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs and continuing in the late nineteenth century with Magnus Hirschfeld, John Addington Symonds, Edward Carpenter, Aimée Duc and others. These writers described themselves and those like them as being of an "inverted" or "intermediate" sex and experiencing homosexual desire, and their writing argued for social acceptance of such sexual intermediates. Many cited precedents from classical Greek and Sanskrit literature (see below).
In Wilhelmine Germany, the terms drittes Geschlecht ("third sex") and Mannweib ("man-woman") were also used to describe feminists – both by their opponents and sometimes by feminists themselves. In the 1899 novel Das dritte Geschlecht (The Third Sex) by Ernst Ludwig von Wolzogen, feminists are portrayed as "neuters" with external female characteristics accompanied by a crippled male psyche.
Throughout much of the twentieth century, the term "third sex" was a common descriptor for homosexuals and gender nonconformists, but after the gay liberation movements of the 1970s and a growing separation of the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity, the term fell out of favor among LGBT communities and the wider public. With the renewed exploration of gender that feminism, the modern transgender movement and queer theory has fostered, some in the contemporary West have begun to describe themselves as a third sex again. One well known social movement that includes male-bodied people that identify as neither men nor women are the Radical Faeries. Other modern identities that cover similar ground include pangender, bigender, genderqueer, androgyne, intergender, "other gender" and "differently gendered".
The term transgender, which often refers to those who change their gender, is increasingly being used to signify a gendered subjectivity that is neither male nor female – one recent example is on a form for the Harvard Business School, which has three gender options – male, female, and transgender.
Indigenous cultures of North America
Also very much associated with multiple genders are the indigenous cultures of North America, who often contain social gender categories that are collectively known as Two-Spirit. Individual examples include the Winkte of Lakota culture, the ninauposkitzipxpe ("manly-hearted woman") of the North Peigan (Blackfoot) community, and the Zapotec Muxe of Mexico. Various scholars have debated the nature of such categories, as well as the definition of the term "third gender". Different researchers may characterise a Two-Spirit person as a gender-crosser, a mixed gender, an intermediate gender, or distinct third and fourth genders that are not dependent on male and female as primary categories. Those (such as Will Roscoe) who have argued for the latter interpretation also argue that mixed-, intermediate-, cross- or non-gendered social roles should not be understood as truly representing a third gender. Anthropologist Jean-Guy Goulet (1996) reviews the literature:
To summarize: 'berdache' may signify a category of male human beings who fill an established social status other than that of man or woman (Blackwood 1984; Williams 1986: 1993); a category of male and female human beings who behave and dress 'like a member of the opposite sex' (Angelino & Shedd 1955; Jacobs 1968; and Whitehead 1981); or categories of male and female human beings who occupy well established third or fourth genders (Callender & Kochems 1983a; 1983b; Jacobs 1983; Roscoe 1987; 1994). Scheffler (1991: 378), however, sees Native American cases of 'berdache' and 'amazon' as 'situations in which some men (less often women) are permitted to act, in some degree, as though they were women (or men), and may be spoken of as though they were women (or men), or as anomalous 'he-she' or 'she-he'.' In Scheffler's view (1991: 378), '[e]thnographic data cited by Kessler and McKenna (1978), and more recently by Williams (1986), provide definitive evidence that such persons were not regarded as having somehow moved from one sex (or in Kessler and McKenna's terms, gender) category to the other, but were only metaphorically "women" (or "men")'. In other words, according to Scheffler, we need not imagine a multiple gender system. Individuals who appeared in the dress and/or occupation of the opposite sex were only metaphorically spoken of as members of that sex or gender.
The term "berdache" is seen as very offensive by many Two-Spirit and Native people because of its historical roots; It was first applied by European settlers as a derogatory term, meaning a submissive, effeminate man. The term "Two-Spirit" was created in 1990 as an English word to convey an identity already recognized by many Nations, and is usually the preferred and most respectful term.
The following gender categories have also been described as a third gender:
- Micronesia: Palao'ana in Chamorro language, Northern Marianas Islands
- Polynesia: Fa'afafine (Samoan), fakaleiti (Tongan), mahu wahine (Hawaiian), mahu vahine (Tahitian), whakawahine (New Zealand Māori) and akava'ine (Cook Islands Māori).
- Indonesia: Waria is a traditional third gender role found in modern Indonesia. Additionally, the Bugis culture of Sulawesi has been described as having three sexes (male, female and intersex) as well as five genders with distinct social roles.
- In the Philippines, a number of local sex/gender identities are commonly referred to as a 'third sex' in popular discourse, as well as by some academic studies. Local terms for these identities (which are considered derogatory by some) include baklâ and binabae (Tagalog), bayot (Cebuano), agi (Ilonggo), bantut (Tausug), badíng – all of which refer to effeminate 'gay' men or transwomen. Gender variant females may be called lakin-on or tomboy.
The traditional tribes of Palawan reserved the position of bayawan for members of the third gender. A bayawan is visible on an exterior mural of Tabon Cave leading a jar burial procession and waving a talisman. Since the jar burial period of Tabon began 5,000 years ago and ended 1,500 years ago this may mean this mural is the oldest representation of the third sex.
- The Balkans: Sworn virgins, females who work and dress as men and inhabit some men-only spaces, but do not marry.
- 18th century England: Mollies
- 19th century England: Uranian
- Femminiello, in Neapolitan culture
- Southern Ethiopia: Ashtime of Maale culture
- Kenya: Mashoga of Swahili-speaking areas of the Kenyan coast, particularly Mombasa
- Democratic Republic of the Congo: Mangaiko among the Mbo people.
Latin America and the Caribbean
- Southern Mexico: Muxe, In many Zapotece communities, third gender roles are often apparent The muxe are described as a third gender; biologically male but with feminine characteristics. They are not considered be homosexuals, rather they are just another gender Some will marry women and have families, others will form relationships with men Although it is recognized[by whom?] that these individuals have the bodies of men, they perform gender in a different manner than men, it is not a masculine persona but neither is it a feminine persona that they perform but, in general, a combination of the two Lynn Stephen quotes Jeffrey Rubin, "Prominent men who where [sic?] rumoured to be homosexual and did not adopt the muxe identity were spoken of pejoratively", suggesting that muxe gender role was more acceptable in the community.
- Biza'ah, In Teotilán, they have their own version of the muxe that they call biza'ah. According to Stephen, there were only 7 individuals in that community considered to be biza'ah in comparison to the muxe, of which there were many. Like the muxe they were well liked and accepted in the community. Their way of walking, talking and the work that they perform are markers of recognizing biza'ah.
- Travestis of Latin America have been described as a third gender, although not all see themselves this way. Don Kulick described the gendered world of travestis in urban Brazil as having has two categories: "men" and "not men", with women, homosexuals and travestis belonging to the latter category.
In Mesopotamian mythology, among the earliest written records of humanity, there are references to types of people who are not men and not women. In a Sumerian creation myth found on a stone tablet from the second millennium BC, the goddess Ninmah fashions a being "with no male organ and no female organ", for whom Enki finds a position in society: "to stand before the king". In the Akkadian myth of Atra-Hasis (ca. 1700 BC), Enki instructs Nintu, the goddess of birth, to establish a “third category among the people” in addition to men and women, that includes demons who steal infants, women who are unable to give birth, and priestesses who are prohibited from bearing children. In Babylonia, Sumer and Assyria, certain types of individuals who performed religious duties in the service of Inanna/Ishtar have been described as a third gender. They worked as sacred prostitutes or Hierodules, performed ecstatic dance, music and plays, wore masks and had gender characteristics of both women and men. In Sumer, they were given the cuneiform names of ur.sal ("dog/man-woman") and kur.gar.ra (also described as a man-woman). Modern scholars, struggling to describe them using contemporary sex/gender categories, have variously described them as "living as women", or used descriptors such as hermaphrodites, eunuchs, homosexuals, transvestites, effeminate males and a range of other terms and phrases.
Inscribed pottery shards from the Middle Kingdom of Egypt (2000–1800 BCE), found near ancient Thebes (now Luxor, Egypt), list three human genders: tai (male), sḫt ("sekhet") and hmt (female). Sḫt is often translated as "eunuch", although there is little evidence that such individuals were castrated.
References to a third sex can be found throughout the texts of India's three ancient spiritual traditions – Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism – and it can be inferred that Vedic culture recognised three genders. The Vedas (c. 1500 BC–500 BC) describe individuals as belonging to one of three categories, according to one's nature or prakrti. These are also spelled out in the Kama Sutra (c. 4th century AD) and elsewhere as pums-prakrti (male-nature), stri-prakrti (female-nature), and tritiya-prakrti (third-nature). Texts suggest that third sex individuals were well known in premodern India and included male-bodied or female-bodied people as well as intersexuals, and that they can often be recognised from childhood.
A third sex is discussed in ancient Hindu law, medicine, linguistics and astrology. The foundational work of Hindu law, the Manu Smriti (c. 200 BC–200 AD) explains the biological origins of the three sexes:
A male child is produced by a greater quantity of male seed, a female child by the prevalence of the female; if both are equal, a third-sex child or boy and girl twins are produced; if either are weak or deficient in quantity, a failure of conception results.
Indian linguist Patañjali's work on Sanskrit grammar, the Mahābhāṣya (c. 200 BC), states that Sanskrit's three grammatical genders are derived from three natural genders. The earliest Tamil grammar, the Tolkappiyam (3rd century BC) refers to hermaphrodites as a third "neuter" gender (in addition to a feminine category of unmasculine males). In Vedic astrology, the nine planets are each assigned to one of the three genders; the third gender, tritiya-prakrti, is associated with Mercury, Saturn and (in particular) Ketu. In the Puranas, there are references to three kinds of devas of music and dance: apsaras (female), gandharvas (male) and kinnars (neuter).
The two great Sanskrit epic poems, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, indicate the existence of a third gender in ancient Indic society. Some versions of Ramayana tell that in one part of the story, the hero Rama heads into exile in the forest. Halfway there, he discovers that most of the people of his home town Ayodhya were following him. He told them, "Men and women, turn back," and with that, those who were "neither men nor women" did not know what to do, so they stayed there. When Rama returned to from exile years later, he discovered them still there and blessed them, saying that there will be a day when they, too, will have a share in ruling the world.
In the Buddhist Vinaya, codified in its present form around the 2nd century BC and said to be handed down by oral tradition from Buddha himself, there are four main sex/gender categories: males, females, ubhatobyanjanaka (people of a dual sexual nature) and pandaka (people of non-normative sexual natures, perhaps originally denoting a deficiency in male sexual capacity). As the Vinaya tradition developed, the term pandaka came to refer to a broad third sex category which encompassed intersex, male and female bodied people with physical and/or behavioural attributes that were considered inconsistent with the natural characteristics of man and woman.
Contrary to what is often portrayed in the West, sex with male (specifically receptive oral and anal sex) was the gender role of the third gender, not their defining feature. Thus, in ancient India, as in present-day India, the society made a distinction between a third gender having sex with a man, and a man having sex with a man. The latter may have been viewed negatively, but he would be seen very much as a man (in modern western context, as 'straight'), not a third gender (in modern western context 'gay').
In Plato's Symposium, written around the 4th century BC, Aristophanes relates a creation myth involving three original sexes: female, male and androgynous. They are split in half by Zeus, producing four different contemporary sex/gender types which seek to be reunited with their lost other half; in this account, the modern heterosexual man and woman descend from the original androgynous sex. The myth of Hermaphroditus involves heterosexual lovers merging into their primordial androgynous sex.
Many have interpreted the "eunuchs" of the Ancient Eastern Mediterranean world as a third gender that inhabited a liminal space between women and men, understood in their societies as somehow neither or both. In the Historia Augusta, the eunuch body is described as a tertium genus hominum (a third human gender), and in 77 BC, a eunuch named Genucius was prevented from claiming goods left to him in a will, on the grounds that he had voluntarily mutilated himself (amputatis sui ipsius) and was neither a woman or a man (neque virorum neque mulierum numero). Several scholars have argued that the eunuchs in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament were understood in their time to belong to a third gender, rather than the more recent interpretations of a kind of emasculated man, or a metaphor for chastity. The early Christian theologian, Tertullian, wrote that Jesus himself was a eunuch (c. 200 AD). Tertullian also noted the existence of a third sex (tertium sexus) among heathens: "a third race in sex... made of male and female in one." He may have been referring to the Galli, "eunuch" devotees of the Phrygian goddess Cybele, who were described as belonging to a third sex by several Roman writers.
In old Israel there were:
- Zachar: male
- Nekeveh: female
- Androgynos: both male and female genitalia (eternal doubt of legal gender)
- Tumtum: genitalia concealed by skin (unknown gender, unless skin removed)
- Aylonit: Barren female. Female genitalia, barren.
- Saris: male-to-female transgender people (castrated male or naturally infertile) (often translated as "eunuch")
The ancient Maya civilization may have recognised a third gender, according to historian Matthew Looper. Looper notes the androgynous Maize Deity and masculine Moon goddess of Maya mythology, and iconography and inscriptions where rulers embody or impersonate these deities. He suggests that the third gender could also include two-spirit individuals with special roles such as healers or diviners.
Anthropologist and archaeologist Miranda Stockett notes that several writers have felt the need to move beyond a two-gender framework when discussing prehispanic cultures across mesoamerica, and concludes that the Olmec, Aztec and Maya peoples understood "more than two kinds of bodies and more than two kinds of gender." Anthropologist Rosemary Joyce agrees, writing that "gender was a fluid potential, not a fixed category, before the Spaniards came to Mesoamerica. Childhood training and ritual shaped, but did not set, adult gender, which could encompass third genders and alternative sexualities as well as "male" and "female." At the height of the Classic period, Maya rulers presented themselves as embodying the entire range of gender possibilities, from male through female, by wearing blended costumes and playing male and female roles in state ceremonies." Joyce notes that many figures of mesoamerican art are depicted with male genitalia and female breasts, while she suggests that other figures in which chests and waists are exposed but no sexual characteristics (primary or secondary) are marked may represent a third sex, ambiguous gender or androgyny.
Andean Studies scholar Michael Horswell writes that third-gendered ritual attendants to chuqui chinchay, a jaguar deity in Incan mythology, were "vital actors in Andean ceremonies" prior to Spanish colonisation. Horswell elaborates: "These quariwarmi (men-women) shamans mediated between the symmetrically dualistic spheres of Andean cosmology and daily life by performing rituals that at times required same-sex erotic practices. Their transvested attire served as a visible sign of a third space that negotiated between the masculine and the feminine, the present and the past, the living and the dead. Their shamanic presence invoked the androgynous creative force often represented in Andean mythology." Richard Trexler gives an early Spanish account of religious 'third gender' figures from the Inca empire in his 1995 book "Sex and Conquest":
And in each important temple or house of worship, they have a man or two, or more, depending on the idol, who go dressed in women's attire from the time they are children, and speak like them, and in manner, dress, and everything else they imitate women. With them especially the chiefs and headmen have carnal, foul intercourse on feast days and holidays, almost like a religious rite and ceremony.
The natives of modern Illinois decided the gender of their members based on their childhood behavior. If a genetic male child used female tools like a spade or ax instead of a bow, they considered them Berdaches, which is a derogatory term, the better term being Two Spirits, as they were considered to encompass the masculine and feminine.
Art and literature
In David Lindsay's 1920 A Voyage to Arcturus there is a type of being called phaen, a third gender which is attracted neither to men nor women but to "Faceny" (their name for Shaping or Crystalman, the Demiurge). The appropriate pronouns are ae and aer.
The Third Sex, a 1959 lesbian pulp fiction novel by Artemis Smith.
Ursula K. Le Guin's 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness posits a world called Gethen, on which humans are androgynes, effectively neuter 12/13 of the time, and for up to two days per month are said to be "in Kemmer", that is, openly available to enter either male or female state as per pheromonal contact with a potential mate.
Kurt Vonnegut's 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five identifies seven human sexes (not genders) in the fourth dimension required for reproduction including gay men, women over 65, and infants who died before their first birthday. The Tralfamadorian race has five sexes.
Isaac Asimov's 1972 novel The Gods Themselves features an alien species that has three sexes — rationals, parentals, and emotionals — each with very specific gender roles, and which are all required to reproduce.
In the 1980s science fiction book trilogy Xenogenesis, by Octavia Butler, the extraterrestrial race has three sexes: male, female, and Ooloi. They also have sexual relationships with humans and interbreed with them.
Their Majesties' Bucketeers (1981) by L. Neil Smith describes a trilaterally symmetric species who develop, during puberty, into one of three genders. In the early parts of the novel, gender roles are quite confined, but there is some loosening during the course of the action.
In Clive Barker's 1991 novel Imajica, one of the characters, Pie 'oh' Pah, is called a mystif, and has the characteristics of a third sex that is neither male nor female but whose body can change according to the desires of a sexual partner, thus enabling them to either fertilize or bear children. Pie marries the male character Gentle, but says ze prefers not to be called his wife.
In the world of Carolyn Ives Gilman's 1998 novel Halfway Human, all children are born with indeterminate sex, and develop into male, female, or "bland" in adolescence. Blands are a neuter category lacking sexual characteristics, who are disparaged and treated as servants – the "halfway humans" of the book's title.
In Matt Groening's cartoon series Futurama (1999-2003), "smizmar" is used as a term for a third sex, the name for the individuals who inspire the feeling of love (and thus conception, for that species), regardless of genetic relationship, to Kif Kroker's species, the Amphibiosians. This is explained in the episode "Kif Gets Knocked Up a Notch".
On Star Trek: Enterprise episode 22 of season 2 entitled "Cogenitor" which first aired April 30, 2003, the Enterprise encounters a species called the Vissians who have three genders (e.g. male, female and cogenitor). Only 3% of their population make up the third gender and because of their limited number and because reproduction requires their participation, the cogenitors are passed from couple to couple in order to facilitate population growth. As a consequence, cogenitors are not given names or an education and are treated much like property.
In Stephenie Meyer's 2008 novel The Host the narrator describes an alien race she has encountered who are similar to dolphins and have three distinct sexes, all of which are required for reproduction and have separate societal roles.
Third gender and spirituality
In Hinduism, Shiva is still worshipped as an Ardhnarishwara, i.e. half-male and half-female form. Shiva's symbol, which is today known as Shivalinga, actually comprises a combination of a 'Yoni' (vagina) and a 'Ling' (phallus). The third genders have been ascribed spiritual powers by most indigenous societies. In the Indian subcontinent, e.g., the Hijras are supposed to have supernatural powers, through which they can bless people or curse them. This gives Hijras a unique space in the society, and traditional Indians still invite Hijras to seek their blessings on important occasions such as marriage.
At the time of the birth of Christ, cults of men devoted to a goddess flourished throughout the broad region extending from the Mediterranean to south Asia. While galli were missionizing the Roman Empire, kalû, kurgarrû, and assinnu continued to carry out ancient rites in the temples of Mesopotamia, and the third-gender predecessors of the hijra were clearly evident. To complete the picture we should also mention the eunuch priests of Artemis at Ephesus; the western Semitic qedeshim, the male “temple prostitutes” known from the Hebrew Bible and Ugaritic texts of the late second millennium; and the keleb, priests of Astarte at Kition and elsewhere. Beyond India, modern ethnographic literature documents gender variant shaman-priests throughout southeast Asia, Borneo, and Sulawesi. All these roles share the traits of devotion to a goddess, gender transgression and receptive anal sex, ecstatic ritual techniques (for healing, in the case of galli and Mesopotamian priests, and fertility in the case of hijra), and actual (or symbolic) castration. Most, at some point in their history, were based in temples and, therefore, part of the religious-economic administration of their respective city-states.
As Holly Boswell notes, "it is very interesting to note that the majority of older world religions perceived their deities as hermaphroditic and whole-gendered. Ardhanarisvara in Hinduism, Avalokitesvara and Kuan Yin in Buddhism, and Dionysus in the Greek pantheon are examples of this. Divine androgyny is reflected in subsequent representations of avatars such as Sri Krsna in Vedanta, Lan Ts'ai Ho in Taoist China, and even Jesus Christ. In the Qabbalah, Adam mirrored an androgynous God before the split into Eve and subsequent fall from grace. As with many nobles, the Pharaohs of Egypt emulated their gods, which were mostly androgynous throughout Africa. Angels and Faeries too, are usually perceived as androgynous beings. The reflections of Transgender Spirit are ancient and deep."
Third gender and sexual orientation
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One such term, Uranian, was applied in the 19th-century term that referred to a person of a third sex—originally, someone with "a female psyche in a male body" who is sexually attracted to men, later extended to cover homosexual gender variant females, and a number of other sexual types. It is believed to be an English adaptation of the German word Urning, which was first published by activist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825–95) in a series of five booklets (1864–65) which were collected under the title Forschungen über das Räthsel der mannmännlichen Liebe ("Research into the Riddle of Man-Male Love"). Ulrich developed his terminology before the first public use of the term "homosexual", which appeared in 1869 in a pamphlet published anonymously by Karl-Maria Kertbeny (1824–82). The word Uranian (Urning) was derived by Ulrichs from the Greek goddess Aphrodite Urania, who was created out of god Uranus' testicles; it stood for a homosexual gender, while Aphrodite Dionea (Dioning) is representing the heterosexual gender. Lesbian activist Anna Rueling used the term in her 1904 speech, "What Interest does the Women's Movement have in Solving the Homosexual Problem?"
According to some scholars, the West is trying to reinterpret and redefine the ancient third gender identities to fit into the Western concept of "sexual orientation". In Redefining Fa'afafine: Western Discourses and the Construction of Transgenderism in Samoa, Johanna Schmidt argues that the Western attempts to reinterpret Fa'afafine, the third gender in Samoan culture, in terms of sexual orientation, i.e. homosexuality, influences it to have more to do with sexual orientation rather than being a gender. She also argues that this is actually changing the nature of Fa'afafines itself, and making it more 'homosexual.'
As a Samoan Fa'afafine says, "But I would like to pursue a masters degree with a paper on homosexuality from a Samoan perspective that would be written for educational purposes, because I believe some of the stuff that has been written about us is quite wrong".
In How to become a Berdache: Toward a unified analysis of gender diversity, Will Roscoe writes that "This pattern can be traced from the earliest accounts of the Spaniards to present-day ethnographies. What has been written about berdaches reflects more the influence of existing Western discourses on gender, sexuality and the Other than what observers actually witnessed."
According to Towle and Morgan:
Ethnographic examples [of ‘third genders’] can come from distinct societies located in Thailand, Polynesia, Melanesia, Native America, western Africa, and elsewhere and from any point in history, from Ancient Greece, to sixteenth century England to contemporary North America. Popular authors routinely simplify their descriptions, ignoring...or conflating dimensions that seem to them extraneous, incomprehensible, or ill suited to the images they want to convey (484).
Western scholars often do not often make a distinction between the third gender and males; they are often lumped together. The scholars usually use gender roles as a way of explaining sexual relations between the third gender and males. E.g., when analyzing the non-normative sex gender categories in Theraveda Buddhism, Peter A Jackson, says that it appears that among the early Buddhist communities men who engaged in receptive anal sex were seen as feminized and thought to be hermaphrodites. In contrast, men who engaged in oral sex were not seen as crossing sex/gender boundaries, but rather as engaging in abnormal sexual practices without threatening their masculine gendered existence.
Gender may be organized differently in different cultures. In some non-western cultures, gender is not binary and one can cross freely between male and female. This is seen as mediating between the spirit and mundane world. It is seen as a positive, and is almost revered in most eastern cultures. Whereas in western cultures people who don’t conform to heteronormative ideals are seen as sick, disordered, or insufficiently formed.
In Africa women can be recognized as a “female husband” in which they enjoy all of the privileges of men and are recognized as such, their femaleness although not acknowledged, nor is it forgotten. Hijras, of India, are one of the most recognized and socially accepted groups of third genders. This may be due to the notion of reincarnation which reduces not only gender categorization but sex and species, believing in a more fluid and mutable categorization. There are countless other cultures in which the third gender is recognized as an intermediate being rather than being seen as a movement from one sex to the other conventional gender, either male to female or vice versa.
Based on a study of those who thought themselves to be a member of a third gender in the United States, Ingrid M. Sells found that they were aware of feeling different typically from the age of 5. Because of both peer and parental pressure, those growing up with the most ambiguous appearance led the most troubled childhoods and difficulties later on in life. Strangely enough in Sells study she discovered similarities between the third-genders of the east and those of the west. They both tended to have healing powers in that nearly half interviewed were healers or in the medical profession. A majority of them, again like their eastern counterparts, were artistic, to the degree that they were able to make a living from their abilities. The ability to mediate between men and women was again a common skill and oftentimes were considered to possess a wider than typical perspective with the ability to understand both sides. The most notable results of Sell’s study is that 93% of the third genders interviewed appeared to, again like their eastern counterparts, possess “paranormal” type abilities. These findings indicate that there are numerous similarities between the third genders of both the eastern and the western cultures.[verification needed] This illustrates that there may be elements of these individuals that are transcultural and innate in gender intermediacy.
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- Harvard Business School Profile form online.
- See, for example, Hollimon, S. E. (1997), The third-gender in native California: two-spirit undertakers among the Chumash and their neighbors. In Women in Prehistory, C. Claassen and R. Joyce (Ed.). Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 173–188.
- Goulet, J. G. A. (1996). "The 'Berdache'/'Two-Spirit': A Comparison of Anthropological and Native Constructions of Gendered Identities Among the Northern Athapaskans". The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 2 (4): 683–701. doi:10.2307/3034303. JSTOR 3034303. Retrieved 2 April 2011.
*The works cited in this overview are:
Angelino, H. & C. Shedd, (1955). A note on Berdache. Am. Anthrop. 57, pp. 121–6.
Blackwood, E. (1984). Sexuality and gender in certain Native American tribes: the case of cross-gender females. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 10, pp. 27–4
Callender, C. & L.M. Kochems (1983a). The North American berdache. Current Anthropology 24, 443–56.
—(1983b). Reply. Curr. Anthrop. 24, 464–7.
Jacobs, S.-E. (1968). Berdache: a brief review of the literature. Colorado Anthrop. 1, pp. 25–40.
—(1983). Comment. Curr. Anthrop. 24, 462.
Kessler, S. & W. McKenna (1978). Gender: an ethnomethodological approach. New York: Wiley.
Roscoe, W. (1987). Bibliography of berdache and alternative gender roles among North American Indians. Journal of Homosexuality. 14, 81–171.
—(1994). How to become a berdache: toward a unified analysis of gender diversity. In "Third sex, third gender: beyond sexual dimorphism in culture and history" (ed.) G. Herdt. New York: Zone Books.
Scheffler, H.W. (1991). Sexism and naturalism in the study of kinship. In "Gender at the crossroads of knowledge: feminist anthropology in the postmodern era" (ed.) M. di Leonardo. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
Whitehead, H. (1981). The bow and the burden strap: a new look at institutionalized homosexuality in Native North America. In "Sexual meanings: the cultural construction of gender and sexuality", (eds) S.B. Ortner & H. Whitehead. New York: Cambridge University
Williams, W.L. (1986). The spirit and the flesh: sexual diversity in American Indian culture. Boston: Beacon Press.
- B.C. on Gender: The Berdache Tradition
- Wikan, Unni (1991). The Xanith: a third gender role? in Behind the veil in Arabia: women in Oman. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
- Sua'aIi'i, Tamasailau, "Samoans and Gender: Some Reflections on Male, Female and Fa'afafine Gender Identities", in: Tangata O Te Moana Nui: The Evolving Identities of Pacific Peoples in Aotearoa/New Zealand, Palmerston North (NZ): Dunmore Press, 2001, ISBN 0-86469-369-9
- National fono for Pacific "third sex" communities, media release from New Zealand Aids Foundation, August 5, 2005. Article online.
- Oostvogels, Robert (1995). The Waria of Indonesia: A Traditional Third Gender Role, in Herdt (ed.), op cit.
- Nanda, Serena (1999). Gender Diversity: Crosscultural Variations. Waveland Pr Inc, 7 October 1999. ISBN 1-57766-074-9
- It is believed to be an English adaptation of the German word Urning, which was first published by activist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs
- The Femminiello in Neapolitan Culture
- Donham, Donald (1990). History, Power, Ideology. Central Issues in Marxism and Anthropology, Cambridge
- Towles, Joseph A. (1993). Nkumbi initiation: Ritual and structure among the Mbo of Zaire, Musée royal de l'Afrique Centrale (Tervuren, Belgique)
- Lynn Stephen. Sexualities and Genders in Zapotec Oaxaca. Latin American Perspectives. 29(2)41-59
- Kulick, Don (1998). Travesti: Sex, Gender, and Culture among Brazilian Transgendered Prostitutes (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998)
- Murray, Stephen O., and Roscoe, Will (1997). Islamic Homosexualities: Culture, History, and Literature. New York: New York University Press.
- Roscoe, W. (1996). "Priests of the Goddess: Gender Transgression in Ancient Religion". History of Religions 35 (3): 195–230. doi:10.1086/463425. JSTOR 1062813. Retrieved 2 April 2011. Roscoe identifies these temple staff by the names kalû, kurgarrû, and assinnu.
- Nissinen, Martti (1998). Homoeroticism in the Biblical World, Translated by Kirsi Stjedna. Fortress Press (November 1998) p. 30. ISBN 0-8006-2985-X
See also: Maul, S. M. (1992). Kurgarrû und assinnu und ihr Stand in der babylonischen Gesellschaft. Pp. 159–71 in Aussenseiter und Randgruppen. Konstanze Althistorische Vorträge und Forschungern 32. Edited by V. Haas. Konstanz: Universitätsverlag.
- Nissinen (1998) p. 28, 32.
- Leick, Gwendolyn (1994). Sex and Eroticism in Mesopotamian Literature. Routledge. New York.
*Leick's account: Sumerian: sag-ur-sag, pilpili and kurgarra; and Assyrian: assinnu. Leick describes them as "hermaphrodites, homosexual transvestites, and other, castrated individuals".
Burns, John Barclay (2000). "Devotee or Deviate: The "Dog" (keleb) in Ancient Israel as a Symbol of Male Passivity and Perversion". Journal of Religion & Society 2. ISSN 1522-5658. Retrieved 2 April 2011.
*Burns defines the assinnu as "a member of Ishtar’s cultic staff with whom, it seems, a man might have intercourse, whose masculinity had become femininity" and who "lacked libido, either from a natural defect or castration". He described the kulu'u as effeminate and the kurgarru as transvestite. In addition, he defines another kind of gender-variant prostitute, sinnisānu, as (literally) "woman-like."
- Sethe, Kurt, (1926), Die Aechtung feindlicher Fürsten, Völker und Dinge auf altägyptischen Tongefäßscherben des mittleren Reiches, in: Abhandlungen der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-Historische Klasse, 1926, p. 61.
- The Third Gender in Ancient Egypt, Faris Malik. (web site)
- Wilhelm, Amara Das (2004). Tritiya Prakriti (People of the Third Sex): Understanding Homosexuality, Transgender Identity and Intersex Conditions through Hinduism (XLibris Corporation, 2004).
- Zwilling, L; Sweet, MJ (1996). ""Like a city ablaze": The third sex and the creation of sexuality in Jain religious literature". Journal of the history of sexuality 6 (3): 359–84. JSTOR 4629615. PMID 11609126.
- Jackson, Peter A. (April 1996). "Non-normative Sex/Gender Categories in the Theravada Buddhist Scriptures". Australian Humanities Review. hdl:1885/41884.
- Alternate transliteration: trhytîyâ prakrhyti
- Penrose, Walter (2001). "Hidden in History: Female Homoeroticism and Women of a "Third Nature" in the South Asian Past". Journal of the History of Sexuality 10: 3–39 . doi:10.1353/sex.2001.0018.
distinct social and economic roles once existed for women thought to belong to a third gender. Hidden in history, these women dressed in men's clothing, served as porters and personal bodyguards to kings and queens, and even took an active role in sex with women.
- Manu Smriti, 3.49. Text online.
- Not to be confused with the Patañjali who was the author of the Yoga sutras.
- Lord Arjuna takes a "vow of eunuchism" to live as the third sex for a year: "O lord of the Earth, I will declare myself as one of the neuter sex. O monarch, it is, indeed difficult to hide the marks of the bowstring on my arms. I will, however, cover both my cicatrized arms with bangles. Wearing brilliant rings on my ears and conch-bangles on my wrists and causing a braid to hang down from my head, I shall, O king, appear as one of the third sex, Vrihannala by name. And living as a female I shall (always) entertain the king and the inmates of the inner apartments by reciting stories. And, O king, I shall also instruct the women of Virata's palace in singing and delightful modes of dancing and in musical instruments of diverse kinds. And I shall also recite the various excellent acts of men..." Mahabharata (Virata-parva), Translated by Ganguli, Kisari Mohan. Project Gutenberg.
- Gyatso, J. (2003). "One Plus One Makes Three: Buddhist Gender, Monasticism, and the Law of the Non-Excluded Middle". History of Religions 43 (2): 89–115. doi:10.1086/423006. JSTOR 3176712.
- Non-normative Sex/Gender Categories in the Theravada Buddhist Scriptures, compiled by Peter A. Jackson; quote: "it appears that among the early Buddhist communities men who engaged in receptive anal sex were seen as feminized and thought to be hermaphrodites. In contrast, men who engaged in oral sex were not seen as crossing sex/gender boundaries, but rather as engaging in abnormal sexual practices without threatening their masculine gendered existence."
- Jackson, Peter A. (1995) Kathoey: The third sex. In Jackson, P., "Dear Uncle Go: Male homosexuality in Thailand." Bangkok, Thailand: Bua Luang Books
See also: Peltier, Anatole-Roger (1991). Pathamamulamuli: The Origin of the World in the Lan Na Tradition. Chiang Mai, Thailand: Silkworm Books. The Yuan creation myth in the book is from Pathamamulamuli, an antique Buddhist palmleaf manuscript. Its translator, Anatole-Roger Peltier, believes that this story is based on an oral tradition which is over five hundred years old. Text online.
- S. Tougher, ed., (2001) Eunuchs in Antiquity and Beyond (London: Duckworth Publishing, 2001).
Ringrose, Kathryn M. (2003). The Perfect Servant: Eunuchs and the Social Construction of Gender in Byzantium. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2003.
- Historia Augusta, Severus Alexander xxiii.7.
- Valerius Maximus, (7.7.6).
- Hester, J. David (2005). "Eunuchs and the Postgender Jesus: Matthew 19:12 and Transgressive Sexualities" (PDF). Journal for the Study of the New Testament 28 (1): 13–40. doi:10.1177/0142064X05057772. Retrieved 2 April 2011.
- Note: There is some controversy in this statement as in context, spado, which in most cases means eunuch, is generally translated as virgin as in here and a fuller explanation can be found here . Tertullian, On Monogamy, 3: "...He stands before you, if you are willing to copy him, as a voluntary spado (eunuch) in the flesh." And elsewhere: "The Lord Himself opened the kingdom of heaven to eunuchs and He Himself lived as a eunuch. The apostle [Paul] also, following His example, made himself a eunuch..."
- Tertullian, Ad nationes, 1.20.4. Text online.
- e.g. "Both sexes are displeasing to her holiness, so [the gallus] keeps a middle gender (medium genus) between the others." Prudentius, Peristephanon, 10.1071-3
-  Classic Jewish terms for Gender Diversity
-  Gender Diversity in Halakha
- Looper, Matthew G. (2001). Ancient Maya Women-Men (and Men-Women): Classic Rulers and the Third Gender, In: "Ancient Maya Women", ed. Traci Ardren. Walnut Creek, California: Alta Mira, 2001.
- Stockett, M. K. (2005). "On the Importance of Difference: Re-Envisioning Sex and Gender in Ancient Mesoamerica". World Archaeology 37 (4): 566–578. doi:10.1080/00438240500404375. JSTOR 40025092.
In addition to Looper (above) and Joyce (below), Stockett cites:
Geller, P. (2004). Skeletal analysis and theoretical complications. Paper presented at Que(e)rying Archaeology: The Fifteenth Anniversary Gender Conference, Chacmool Archaeology Conference, University of Calgary, Calgary.
Joyce, R. A. (1998). "Performing the Body in Pre-Hispanic Central America". RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics (33): 147–165. JSTOR 20167006.
Lopez-Austin, A. (1988). The Human Body and Ideology: Concepts of Ancient Nahuas (trans T.O. de Montellano and B.O. de Montellano). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
- Joyce, Rosemary A. (2000). Gender and Power in Prehispanic Mesoamerica. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-74065-5
- Horswell, Michael J. (2006). Transculturating Tropes of Sexuality, Tinkuy, and Third Gender in the Andes, introduction to "Decolonizing the Sodomite: Queer Tropes of Sexuality in Colonial Andean Culture". ISBN 0-292-71267-7. Article online.
- Trexler, Richard C. (1995). Sex and Conquest. Cornell University Press: Ithaca. p. 107
- Pierre Liette. Memoir of Pierre Liette on the Illinois Country as quoted in Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornsten
- Rosemary Joyce. 2000. Gender and Power in Prehispanic Mesosamerica. University of Texas Press.
- Michael (1924)
- Maiwald, Michael (2002). "Race, Capitalism, and the Third-Sex Ideal: Claude McKay's Home to Harlem and the Legacy of Edward Carpenter". Modern Fiction Studies 48 (4): 825–857. doi:10.1353/mfs.2002.0077.
- The Third Sex (1934)
- Anders als du und ich (1957)
- Vonnegut, Kurt. (1999). Slaughterhouse-five. New York: The Dial Press, p145–146.
- Monier Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary (2008 revision)
- "Thevesselofgod.com". Retrieved 27 December 2014.
- Paths to The Divine: Ancient and Indian By George McLean, Vensus A. George, Quote: Siva: The Hermaphrodite The Lord Siva is the underlying neutral and changeless reality, the undifferentiated absolute Consciousness, who is the foundation of every change and becoming. The hermaphrodite reality is one which is independent of all distinctions of male and female, the phenomenal and the non-phenomenal, and yet forms the basis of all such distinctions. The Puranas speak of Lord Siva as the Hermaphrodite reality, though distinctionless within Himself, letting the distinctions of the manifold world spring up from Him. The Puranic thinkers interpreted and represented this hermaphrodite aspect of the Lord Siva in various ways. One such symbol expression is the figure of His Sakti. Another such symbol is the Phalus *(the male reproductive part) and the Yoni (the female reproductive part). A third, a more anthropomorphic metaphor, is that of the union between Siva and His many consorts, such as, Parvati, Uma and others. All these symbolisms express the truth that the variety of this universe stems from the lord Siva through his Sakti. To explain this point very picturesquely, the Puranas apply the mythological story of creation by way of the sexual union between Prajaapati and his daughter to Siva who, by His eternal union with His Sakti creates the world. The Puraanas also use another more sacrificial symbollism to expound the hermaphrodite characteristic of Siva, according to which the male principle is represented as Fire, the devourer of the offering, and the female principle is the Soma, the devoured offering. In this symbolism, the hermaphrodite is the embodiment of the cosmic sacrifice, through which the universe emerges from the Lord Siva.
- Hijras of Muslim India and Pakistan etransgender.com; Quote: In North India and in Pakistan hindus and muslims alike believe in the powers of hijras to bless or curse others. To hindus and hindu hijras this is connected to the worship of Bahuchara Mata. Hindus believe that the powers of this feminine aspect of the divine flows in an almost shamanic way through the "eunuchs". In Pakistan and in traditional Indian muslim families the mukhannath´ power to curse is called "bad du`a". This implies the faith that every supplicational prayer ("du`a") done by a faithful hijra will be fulfilled because she is specially blessed as a compensation for the fact that she is denied to have children and a "normal" family life as a born woman.
- Priests of the Goddess: Gender Transgression in Ancient Religion by Will Roscoe
- The Spirit of Transgender by Holly Boswell
- Ross, E. Wayne (2006). The Social Studies Curriculum: Purposes, Problems, and Possibilities. SUNY Press. ISBN 0-7914-6909-3.
- Kennedy, Hubert C. (1980) The "third sex" theory of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, Journal of Homosexuality. 1980–1981 Fall–Winter; 6(1–2): pp. 103–1
- Michael Matthew Kaylor, Secreted Desires: The Major Uranians: Hopkins, Pater and Wilde (Brno, CZ: Masaryk University Press, 2006)
- text of Rueling's speech
- Redefining Fa'afafine: Western Discourses and the Construction of Transgenderism in Samoa Johanna Schmidt; Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context; Issue 6, August 2001 Quote: In this article, I argue that fa'afafine are both viewed through the lens of and influenced by Western understandings of sexuality. This argument is based on the analysis of various representations of fa'afafine and discusses the impact of Western discourses of gender and sexuality have had on fa'afafine identities.
- Redefining Fa'afafine: Western Discourses and the Construction of Transgenderism in Samoa Johanna Schmidt; Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context; Issue 6, August 2001
- How to become a Berdache: Toward a unified analysis of gender diversity Will Roscoe Archived February 26, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- The Great Third Gender Debate; BELOW THE BELT, theory-q Archived April 22, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
- Non-normative Sex/Gender Categories in the Theravada Buddhist Scriptures Compiled by Peter A. Jackson[dead link]
- Sell, Ingrid M. "Third gender: A qualitative study of the experience of individuals who identify as being neither man nor woman." The Psychotherapy Patient. 13.1/2 (2004): p.132
- Sell, Ingrid M. "Third gender: A qualitative study of the experience of individuals who identify as being neither man nor woman." The Psychotherapy Patient. 13.1/2 (2004): p.135
- Hines, Sally, and Tam Sanger. Transgender Identities: Towards a Social Analysis of Gender Diversity. New York: Routledge, 2010. Print. p.244
- Sell, Ingrid M. "Third gender: A qualitative study of the experience of individuals who identify as being neither man nor woman." The Psychotherapy Patient. 13.1/2 (2004): p.139
- Sell, Ingrid M. "Third gender: A qualitative study of the experience of individuals who identify as being neither man nor woman." The Psychotherapy Patient. 13.1/2 (2004): p.141
- Aldous, Susan; Sereemongkonpol, Pornchai (2008). Ladyboys: The Secret World of Thailand's Third Gender. Maverick House. ISBN 978-1-905379-48-4.
- Herdt, Gilbert H. (1996). Third sex, third gender: beyond sexual dimorphism in culture and history. New York: Zone Books. ISBN 0-942299-82-5.
- Mahapatra, Dhananjay (April 15, 2014). "Supreme Court recognizes transgenders as 'third gender'". The Times of India.
- Morris, Rosalind (1994). "Three Sexes and Four Sexualities: Redressing the Discourses on Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Thailand" (PDF). Positions 2 (1): 15–43. doi:10.1215/10679847-2-1-15.
- Wilhelm, Amara (2004). Tritiya-Prakriti: People of the Third Sex. Xlibris Corporation. ISBN 978-1-4134-3534-4.