Thursday, September 8, 2011

Culture Place Third gender
Navajo Nation (Native American) U.S. Recognizes the "two-spirit," the Nadle, who can be either a female-male or male-female, and are held in high esteem within the tribe as healers.  (More than 155 Native American societies have been documented as having two-spirits).

The Chukchi, Koryak, and Kamchadal peoples
Siberia Recognize a third gender which fulfills the role of androgynous shamans (animistic priests), who are able to marry men.

Blackfoot Nation (Native American)
Recognizes the "manly-hearted woman" as a third gender.

Lakota, Ktunaxa & Sioux nations (Native American)


Recognize the two-spirit gender as a man who lives as a female.
Mohave Nation (Native American) U.S. Recognizes four genders:  men, women, hwame (male-identified females) and alyha (female-identified males).
Zuni Nation (Native American)
Recognizes the lhamana as a two-spirit third gender, typically a man who dressed and lived as a female, performing female duties, and were esteemed as priests, artists, and negotiators.
Zapotec Nation (Native American)
Recognizes the moxhe (men who dress as and carry out the duties of women) as a third gender.

Inca civilization (Native American)

Regarded their third genders as negotiators between the masculine and the feminine, past and present, living and dead.  They were esteemed as shamans.

Kanaka Maoli people (Pacific Islander)

Recognize a third gender who shares feminine and masculine qualities.  Often they were respected educators and preservers of tradition and ritual.  Many Hawaiian societies also recognized the aikane, masculine gay or bisexual men, making traditional Hawaiian societies quite unique in that regard.  Bisexual behavior was actually quite common throughout Polynesia before contact with Europeans.

Samoan (Pacific Islander)

Recognize the fa'afafine, biological males who dress and live as women, as a third gender.  They often assume roles as family caretakers and Sunday school teachers, and are accepted and respected.
Tongan & Tahitian (Pacific Islander) Polynesia
The fakaleiti and mah'u are the Tongan and Tahitian versions, respectively, of the fa'afafine third gender.  They are no longer as respected in Tonga and Tahiti, however, as they are in Samoa, because Protestant fundamentalism has taken root much more deeply in the former.

Maori (Pacific Islander)

New Zealand
The wakawahine and wakatane are recognized as the third gender among the Maori of New Zealand.  They are males who live as females (the former) and females who live as males (the latter).  Intimate companions of the same sex are known as takatapui.

Butaritari people (Pacific Islander)

Kiribati/ Micronesia

Recognize the binabinaaine (female-gendered men who dress, act, and live as women) and the binabinamane (male-gendered women who dress, act, and live as men) as a third gender.  They are not viewed as immoral or disordered, and they can marry and adopt children.
Bugis tribe (Southeast Asian)
Recognizes three sexes (men, women, intersex) and five genders (male, female, calalai, calabai, bissu).  Calabai are biological males who embody a feminine gender identity.  Calalai are biological females who embody a male gender identity.  Bissu are considered a "transcendent gender," either encompassing all genders or none at all.  The latter serve holy roles and are equated with priests.

Indonesian (Southeast Asian)

The waria are biological males who take on a female appearance, and are generally recognized as a third gender.  Very similar to the bakla of the Philippines and the kathoey of Thailand.
Thai (Southeast Asian) Thailand Kathoeys are biological males who are commonly said to have the heart of a woman, practically synonymous with the Filipino bakla.  They are sometimes referred to as sago or sao prapet song: a second type of woman.  Thai tradition holds that a kathoey is neither male nor female, but inhabits the space between genders.
Burmese (Southeast Asian)
The acault are men who assume the dress and social roles of women.  They often serve as spirit mediums in the indigenous animistic traditions, and are viewed as neither men nor women, similar to kathoeys in neighboring Thailand.  A man can have sex with an acault without violating the cultural prohibition on homosexual behavior.

Nepalese (South Asian)


Meti are men who assume feminine dress and roles.  They do not view themselves as gay by Western standards, but as a true male-female hybrid third gender who are attracted to straight men.

South Asian

India & Pakistan
Like the meti of Nepal, India's hijra and Pakistan's khusra do not consider themselves to be men or women, but a distinct third gender.  They have a recorded history in the region that stretches back over 4,000 years.  In Hindu mythology they represent the half-man half-woman image of the god Shiva, but have long been discriminated, misunderstood, and marginalized in society.

Omani (Middle Eastern)

Recognize the xanith as a third gender.  They are men who dress as women and relate as women, but do not necessarily emasculate themselves.

Iranian (Modern Persian)
Iran In Iran homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death, but transsexuality is permitted.  Transgender men are permitted to live lives as straight women and permitted to undergo sex reassignment surgery, after which their official documents are changed to reflect their new identities.

Beninese (African)

The mino of Benin were masculine women who didn't want to marry men, and who often dressed as men and took part in hunting and fighting.  They were considered a third gender, but today have been suppressed.

Bangala (African)


The shamans of the Bangala people were recognized as third gender males who dressed as women.  After the coming of the European colonizers and missionaries, however, this practice was stamped out

Ethiopian (African)

The ashtime of Ethiopia were most often eunuchs, or any non-gender-conforming male.  Protestant missionaries from the early to mid-1900s painted them as unnatural and disordered, and essentially stamped them out.  Today there are still ashtime, but the term has become a blanket term for any type of sexual non-conformity, and they are an oppressed minority.

Kenyan/Tanzanian (African)
Kenya & Tanzania
The mashoga are males who adopt the female gender early in life, and often switch between wearing men's clothes and women's.
Saami Arctic areas of northern Europe
Recognize a double-sexed third gender, the gadniha, who traditionally performed certain religious ceremonies and rites.

Back to The Cultural and Historical Importance of the Third Gender at There's a Cure for That