Third, Fourth, and Fifth Genders In Cultures Around The World

Via PBS, a fascinating tour around the globe of societies which did not or do not recognize a male-female gender binary:

On nearly every continent, and for all of recorded history, thriving cultures have recognized, revered, and integrated more than two genders. Terms such as transgender and gay are strictly new constructs that assume three things: that there are only two sexes (male/female), as many as two sexualities (gay/straight), and only two genders (man/woman).

Skoptsy were a Christian religious sect with extreme views on sex and gender. The community, discovered in 1771 in Western Russia, believed that Adam and Eve had had halves of the forbidden fruit grafted onto their bodies in the form of testicles and breasts. Therefore, they routinely castrated male children and amputated the breasts of women to return themselves the the state prior to original sin. Sex, vanity, beauty, and lust were considered the root of evil.

Long before Cook’s arrival in Hawaii, a multiple gender tradition existed among the Kanaka Maoli indigenous society. The mahu could be biological males or females inhabiting a gender role somewhere between or encompassing both the masculine and feminine. Their social role is sacred as educators and promulgators of ancient traditions and rituals.

In pre-colonial Andean culture, the Incas worshipped the chuqui chinchay, a dual-gendered god. Third-gender ritual attendants or shamans performed sacred rituals to honor this god. The quariwarmi shamans wore androgynous clothing 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.”

Prior to colonization, the Ankole people in what is now Uganda elected a woman to dress as a man and thereby become an oracle to the god Mukasa.

Among the Sakalavas of Madagaskar, little boys thought to have a feminine appearance were raised as girls. The Antandroy and Hova called their gender crossers sekrata who, like women, wore their hair long and in decorative knots, inserted silver coins in pierced ears, and wore many bracelets on their arms, wrists and ankles.

Read the rest at PBS.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/KaneVonDoom Kane VonDoom

    Interesting article and great find. A lot of this thought makes sense given the context of the archetype of the Divine Androgyne in Alchemy or Anima/Animus in Jungian psychology.

  • http://www.facebook.com/KaneVonDoom Kane VonDoom

    Interesting article and great find. A lot of this thought makes sense given the context of the archetype of the Divine Androgyne in Alchemy or Anima/Animus in Jungian psychology.

  • Antediluviancurrent

    Eurocentrism having the monopoly on intellectual thought has been a scourge on thinking as such. When it comes to anything transcending the binary, the whole system shudders because its existence depends on simplistic generalizations and essentializing of the other.
    Most can’t let go of it because some old white men once said “all men are equal”, which is somehow better than anything a confucianist or a muslim theologian ever said. I’m getting tired of seeing every internet debate get slided with the idea that Western thought has some special place in the world because of the historical contingency that was the industrial revolution.

    • kowalityjesus

      that is a bit oversimplified. Burning fossil fuels was not the cause of the english language, or tonal harmony, or particle physics. I don’t like to jump to the rescue of Western Civilization, though, because I think it needs no rescuing.

      • Antediluviancurrent

        Very true. But it was the decisive factor in exporting all of that on a global scale.

        • jnana

          perhaps, but the distilled truths of western thought are generally synonymous w/ the distilled truths of eastern thought. corruptions occur from the heavy particles.

        • jnana

          perhaps, but the distilled truths of western thought are generally synonymous w/ the distilled truths of eastern thought. corruptions occur from the heavy particles.

  • joe

    what a bunch of crap…

  • joe

    what a bunch of crap…

  • jnana

    no one can deny the cosmic principle of duality. yes there is such a thing as grey, but its just a mixture of the 2.

  • jnana

    no one can deny the cosmic principle of duality. yes there is such a thing as grey, but its just a mixture of the 2.

    • mannyfurious

      Well, the “cosmic principle” of duality is actually that “two” leads to “three” which leads to “four” which leads to the “ten-thousand things.” Which is what we’re seeing. It used to be “man/woman,” “gay/straight,” “male/female.” Now the list of genders/sexual preferences just keeps growing. It’s not a “bad” thing per se, but I do think it’s superfluous. I’m not so sure why there’s this constant need to label ourselves or to re-label ourselves, or to create new labels to call ourselves. Just be who you are. This kind of stuff just feeds the ego and creates bigger, more impenetrable illusions of who we “are.”

    • mannyfurious

      Well, the “cosmic principle” of duality is actually that “two” leads to “three” which leads to “four” which leads to the “ten-thousand things.” Which is what we’re seeing. It used to be “man/woman,” “gay/straight,” “male/female.” Now the list of genders/sexual preferences just keeps growing. It’s not a “bad” thing per se, but I do think it’s superfluous. I’m not so sure why there’s this constant need to label ourselves or to re-label ourselves, or to create new labels to call ourselves. Just be who you are. This kind of stuff just feeds the ego and creates bigger, more impenetrable illusions of who we “are.”

      • jnana

        let’s be honest. how many types of sexual organs are there? males have penises women have vaginas. 2 genders. any 3rd(or more) gender would simply be a mixture of the 2. that’s what it means when we say one leads to two leads to 3 leads to the multitude. also, creation occurs when the two become one- a cosmic mystery.
        Yes, I thought about this a lot as a stoned teenager. “What if there were an alien race that had 3 genders? how would that work?”

        so, no – there aren’t truly more than 2 genders.

        sorry for bein so un-p.c.

        • jnana

          that said, I believe the androgyne is also a sacred mystery.
          adam n eve were once One.

          • jnana

            I guess I got a down vote for mentioning adam n eve.
            when will people realize the reality of myth?(as well as its vitality)
            or the myth of reality?(as well as its banality)
            prejudice is what holds ya back..

          • Calypso_1

            So Adam n Eve were Proto Proterozoic Protists?

        • mannyfurious

          Well, you’re saying there aren’t more than two “sexes.” “Gender” and “sex” are two different things (which is, perhaps, more problematic than useful). I would agree that there are only two sexes.

        • Aurora Meyer

          I realize you all commented 9 months ago, but I’d still like to point out: actually, a large number of individuals are born with genitals that aren’t specifically “male” or “female.” Google “intersex” to get a better idea of what I mean (the old, inaccurate term was “hermaphrodite”). Biological sex is not based on external genitals alone; it is also determined by chromosones, hormones, and internal genitalia. Sure, “intersex” people are not a huge percentage of the population, but they exist. In order to acknowledge the biological reality of the human race, it’s important to acknowledge their existence. Sex usually shows up as ovaries/XX/more estrogen or testes/XY/more testosterone, but configurations outside the “norm” are a biological fact.

  • BuzzCoastin

    I have a good friend in Bangkok that insists
    that there are at least 6 genders in Thailand
    but when it comes to sexuality
    societies who derive their culture from the Levant
    tend to be the most hypocritical about sexuality
    publicly espousing one standard
    while practicing another in secret

    • jnana

      I’ve noticed that people who are amoral are the most hypocritical.
      “Goddamit, morality is just plain immoral!” ;)

    • jnana

      I’ve noticed that people who are amoral are the most hypocritical.
      “Goddamit, morality is just plain immoral!” ;)

    • http://skadhiblog.wordpress.com/ skadhithjassisdottir

      Huh? There are two genders plus the kathooey category, which is vague but includes the intersexed and primary transsexuals – people who are regarded as congenitally inbetween.

      No Thais recognise six traditional genders.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nick.babishoff Nick Babishoff

    “One of the many singularities that prevailed among these Indians was that of marrying males with males, which has been spoken of by Father Torquemada. It was publicly done, but without the forms, and ceremonies already described in their marriage contracts with the females. Whilst yet in infancy they were selected, and instructed as they increased in years, in all the duties of the women–in their mode of dress–of walking, and dancing; so that in almost every particular, they resembled females. Being more robust than the women, they were better able to perform the arduous duties required of the wife, and for this reason, they were often selected by the chiefs and others, and on the day of the wedding a grand feast was given. To distinguish this detested race at this mission, they were called “Cuit,” in the mountains, “Uluqui,” and in other parts, they were known by the name of “Coias.” At the present time, this horrible custom is entirely unknown among them. I was told by a missionary from the Mission of St. Domingo, in Lower California, that he once enquired of several Indians, from the plains of the river Colorado, if in their confines, were to be found any of the Coias? he replied that they were once very numerous, but a serious plague visited them, many years back, which destroyed them all–unfortunately the time when this great event transpired, they could not tell”-From Chinigchinix(1846) by Geronimo Boscana regarding the Tongva people of the San Gabriel valley.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nick.babishoff Nick Babishoff

    “One of the many singularities that prevailed among these Indians was that of marrying males with males, which has been spoken of by Father Torquemada. It was publicly done, but without the forms, and ceremonies already described in their marriage contracts with the females. Whilst yet in infancy they were selected, and instructed as they increased in years, in all the duties of the women–in their mode of dress–of walking, and dancing; so that in almost every particular, they resembled females. Being more robust than the women, they were better able to perform the arduous duties required of the wife, and for this reason, they were often selected by the chiefs and others, and on the day of the wedding a grand feast was given. To distinguish this detested race at this mission, they were called “Cuit,” in the mountains, “Uluqui,” and in other parts, they were known by the name of “Coias.” At the present time, this horrible custom is entirely unknown among them. I was told by a missionary from the Mission of St. Domingo, in Lower California, that he once enquired of several Indians, from the plains of the river Colorado, if in their confines, were to be found any of the Coias? he replied that they were once very numerous, but a serious plague visited them, many years back, which destroyed them all–unfortunately the time when this great event transpired, they could not tell”-From Chinigchinix(1846) by Geronimo Boscana regarding the Tongva people of the San Gabriel valley.

  • T Faunos

    Thanks for the article and the link too!! A GREAT MAP

  • jnana

    are the genitals of intersex individuals something other than the 1 that is the phallus and the 0 that is the vag? something other than the lock and key? do you understand what i’m trying to get at? there is no true totally separate 3rd gender. intersex is just a mix of male and female. there are only 2 poles, + and -

    • Calypso_1

      needs more slime mold

  • Dr. Applebox

    I thought there was going to be biological proof of there being more than two genders, but no, just traditions involving mutilation or cross-dressing.

    So there AREN’T more than two genders, and anyone who claims there is is an idiot.