THE THIRD GENDER FROM A MULTI-CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE
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The paper examines alternative forms of gender in five contemporary societies: hijra in India, fa'afafine from Samoa, kathoey in Thailand, travesti in Brazil, and xanith in Oman. The term 'third gender' refers to males fulfilling roles which are traditionally connected with femininity, as well as looking like and behave like women, while being neither a man nor a woman. What is of importance is that the term 'third gender' may also be linked with alternative models of femininity, but in this paper they are not analyzed. The author focus on several relatively well-documented patterns of transgender men. These forms of gender diversity come from cultures in which the following religions dominate: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. His main aim is to show that modern Western sex and gender ideologies which are based on binary opposites - man vs. woman, masculinity vs. femininity, heterosexuality vs. homosexuality - are not universal. The anthropological perspective makes it clear that there are many different ways of creating gender and sexuality. The examples of gender diversity in this article encourage us to rethink our understanding of what is normal and natural.
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