Psychology of Gender
In some countries there are people who are characterized as neither women nor men. Usually in this case they are attributed to the third gender, which is a special social category, often with its own rights and liabilities. In this essay I am going to focus on four cultures that recognize the third gender in their society: New Guinea, India, indigenous American tribes and Afghanistan.
In New Guinea the third gender representatives are called kwolu-aatmwol, which means “transforming into a male thing” (intersexed). Often such people are quietly disparaged and made fun of, especially in their early years (Herdt, 1996). Still, they are not excluded from the society and can even become well-recognized and known leaders.
In India representatives of the third sex are called hijras and are officially recognized in the society. They are male or intersex who dress in female clothes and see themselves as neither women nor men. Today there are about 5 to 6 million hijras in India and since 2005 passport application forms in India have three options in the gender field: m, f and e (for eunuch).
In the native tribes of North America there also were multiple genders. This category of people was called Two-Spirit. They can be characterized as gender-crossers, representatives of intermediate gender that don’t depend on the traditional sex categories of males and females. Usually, they were men who chose to act and dress as women (Herdt, 1996).
In Afghanistan the third gender refers to women who come here from other countries. It is conditioned by the way they treat their women. In the past they didn’t have any rights at all, but today the situation changed. Still, there are certain areas where men are not allowed to enter and vice versa. Representatives of the third gender are allowed to behave on equal terms with men and women, which means that they represent a kind of combination of the two sexes – the third gender.
Herdt, G. (1996). Third Sex, Third Gender: Beyond Sexual Dimorphism in Culture and History. New York: Zone.