Gender Diversity: Muxe

The muxes are a kind of gender diversity found primarily in rural Mexico, specifically in southern Oaxaca among the Zapotec people. They are assigned male at birth, but express themselves in feminine ways. Some muxe identify as men, some as women, and some as simply muxe.

The Zapotec language is gender-neutral, so there is no indigenous reason to force a specific gender on the muxe. The muxe identity is a part of Zapotec culture and does not translate neatly into the assumptions of other cultural contexts. The culture allows for some significant ambiguity in regards the the muxes, which is only amplified by globalization and contact with LGBT organizing outside of the region.

Even the Roman Catholic Church in that region accommodates the muxes. Legend suggests that the muxe are connected to Saint Vicente Ferrer, but muxes are actually believed to pre-date colonization. They play an important role in preparing fiestas.

The acceptance of muxes within Mexico is not universal. Bullying and discrimination remain an issue, despite high levels of acceptance in Oaxaca. Some muxe who have been rejected by their families in other parts of the country flock to Juchitán to experience acceptance.

Life Outside the Binary: Meet Mexico’s Muxe Community Celebrating Genderqueerness (Culture Trip, 2019)

The Third Gender of Southern Mexico (BBC, 2018)

Guardian story (2017):

Compiled by Mx. Chris Paige on October 17, 2019.

Note: This blog is intended to be an on-going work in progress. Please contact us if you have additions, corrections, or concerns.

Gender Diversity: Hijra

In India, there are centuries of traditions around hijras. Hijras are also called Kinnar, Kothi, Aravanis, Jogtas/Jogappas, Khusras, or Shiv-Shaktis, depending on the community. India is a very large country and conditions vary by geography. Hijras were previously respected as spiritual authorities in the region and frequently played a role in religious and spiritual ceremonies. They are understood to be connected to the half-male, half-female image of Shiva in Hindu teaching.

Language about eunuchs was imported by the British, during the time that the British were colonizing India (19th century). Hijras were criminalized. As a result, hijras were relegated to high-risk and low-paying economies such as dancing, entertainment, sex work, and begging. Hijras survived in part by creating their own communities with other hijras forming their own families complete with parental figures. Continue reading “Gender Diversity: Hijra”

Gender Diversity: Two Spirit

Yesterday, I wrote about gender diversity around the world. “Two spirit” is a particularly important term in North America, but it is still an umbrella term.

Two spirit is a translation of an Ojibwe term, but the English translation was selected by Native Americans in 1990 as a Pan-Native term to be used instead of a pejorative, French word (the b-word) that had been used by anthropologists and other cultural outsiders. Continue reading “Gender Diversity: Two Spirit”

Gender Diversity Around the World

Wednesday night, we went over Chapter 3 of OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation in my OtherWise Self-Defense course. One of the most common questions I get in readings is about the non-English terms that I list in this section. People want to learn more.

In considering this topic, it is important to be clear that terms from other cultures and languages are almost never an equivalent to “transgender” or other modern terms that are based in a Western worldview. Each term is embedded in a cultural context that has its own assumptions about gender and sexuality–and which may have been influenced in various ways by violent colonization. Sometimes these terms may be considered pejorative in the modern world, even if they were honored identities historically. Continue reading “Gender Diversity Around the World”