Going beyond the Western gender binary - unlearning our backward cultural conditioning
In Western colonial society (which dominates many aspects of the globalized, capitalist world today) we operate under the presumption that there are only two genders, male and female. But gender is a social construction. One’s options for what gender they identify with are shaped by the culture they are born into. Biological factors are most-often the primary driving forces that choose among the available socially-constructed gender categories.
Cultures around the world have different ways of talking about, thinking about, and identifying gender. It’s often a challenge for (particularly cis-sexual) Westerns to think about other ways gender can be socially constructed. Westerns have the false equivalency of gender and sex drilled into their eternal psyche from the time they are very young, and re-enforced through examples in popular culture. There is no biological reality to gender. Many Westerners have the bizarre belief that one’s XY-sex-determination should also inform one’s gender identity, a socially constructed role in society.
In some cultures, there is no distinction made between gender and sexual orientation and the same can be said for sexual orientation - our culture socially-constructs the options and our biology helps us identify which socially-constructed option feels most ‘right’ and best resonates with us.
I’ve attached some photos to offer some examples of non-colonial, non-Western construction of gender. They’ve all been uploaded onto our Facebook page photostream in case you’d like to ‘like’ or ‘share’ them there. There are literally hundreds of ‘third-gender’ identifying peoples around the world. The eight I’ve chosen are mostly examples I remember from some of my anthropology courses but if you google ‘third genders’ you can find many lists and examples.
Who cares? Why it matters.
The most obvious reason to care about the way our culture has constructed gender and sexual orientation is to deepen one’s capacity for solidarity with people who identify as transgender, transsexual, and others whose gender or sexual identity exists outside of binary Western culture.
But there are other reasons as well. Western culture’s binary nature often creates non-sensical, problematic binary identity constructions that are inherently problematic. For example, I believe that Western masculinity (dominance, aggression, lack of communication, lack of emotional expression, etc) is inherently problematic. I believe that to be the reason why most acts of large-scale-violence and terror are committed by men (see: 100% of the mass school shootings in the United States), and I believe it fosters a degree of internal misery within people who heavily adopt these particular ‘masculine’ traits.
In the age of information, and the age of global connectivity, there is no longer any reason (particularly for young people) to feel isolated or restricted to Western definitions of gender, sexual orientation and identity in general. I think the social ramifications of a generation where more and more people begin to identify outside of the gender binary would be tremendous, and I think we should all consider how we can unlearn our cultural conditioning to embrace other, perhaps less exploitative and dominating identities.
Background information on the identities depicted in the above images:
Hijras are male-body-born, feminine-gender-identifying people who live in South Asia (mostly in India & Nepal). Many Hijras live in well-defined, organized, all-Hijra communities, led by a guru.
Although many Hijras identify as Muslim, many practice a form of syncretism that draws on multiple religions; seeing themselves to be neither men nor women, Hijras practice rituals for both men and women.
Hijras belong to a special caste. They are usually devotees of the mother goddess Bahuchara Mata, Lord Shiva, or both.
Nandi female husbands
Among the Nandi in Western Kenya, one social identity option for women is to become a female husband, and thus a man in society’s eyes. Female husbands are expected to become men and take on all of the social and cultural responsibilities of a man, including finding a wife to marry and passing on property to the next generation through marriage. Female husbands may have lived their lives as women and may even be married to a man, but once she becomes a female-husband, she is expected to be a man. Women married to female-husbands may have sex with single men uninterested in commitment in order to become pregnant, but the female-husband (who is often an older woman, often a widow) will father the child of said pregnancy and treat the child like her own.
Two-Spirit is an umbrella term sometimes used for what was once commonly known as ‘berdaches’, Indigenous North Americans who fulfill one of many mixed gender roles found traditionally among many Native Americans and Canadian First Nations communities. The term usually indicates a person whose body simultaneously manifests both a masculine and a feminine spirit. Male and female two-spirits have been “documented in over 130 tribes, in every region of North America.”
In South America (with a large presence in Brazil), a travesti is a person who was assigned male at birth who has a feminine gender identity and is primarily sexually attracted to masculine men. Therefore, sometimes the distinction between gender identity and sexual orientation is not made. Travestis have been described as a third gender, but not all see themselves this way.Travestis often will begin taking female hormones and injecting silicone to enlargen their backsides as boys and continue the process into womanhood.
The work of cultural Anthropologist Don Kulick (a gay male by Western definitions) in Brazil demonstrated that gender construction in Brazil is binary (like Western gender construction), but unlike Western gender construction, instead of having a male-female binary, there is a male-notmale.
In this particular construction of gender:
- Males include: men who have sex with women, men who have sex with Travestis but are never on the receiving end of anal sex, men who have sex with men but are never on the receiving end of anal sex.
- Not-males include: women, men who receive anal sex from ‘male’ gay men or from Travestis.
Fa’afafine are the gender liminal, or third-gendered people of Samoa. A recognized and integral part of traditional Samoan culture, fa’afafine, born biologically male, embody both male and female gender traits. Their gendered behavior typically ranges from extravagantly feminine to mundanely masculine
Waria is a traditional third general role found in modern Indonesia. Additionally, the Bugis culture of Sulawesi (one of the four larger Sunda Islands of Indonesia) has been described as having three sexes (male, female and intersex) as well as five genders with distinct social roles.
Six Genders of old Israel
In the old Kingdom of Israel (1020–931 BCE) there were six officially recognized genders:
- Zachar: male
- Nekeveh: female
- Androgynos: both male and female
- Tumtum: gender neutral/without definite gender
- Aylonit: female-to-male transgender people
- Saris: male-to-female transgender people (often inaccurately translated as “eunuch”)
Kathoey (often called ‘ladyboys’)
Australian scholar of sexual politics in Thailand Peter Jackson’s work indicates that the term “kathoey” was used in pre-modern times to refer to intersexual people, and that the usage changed in the middle of the twentieth century to cover cross-dressing males, to create what is now a gender identity unique to Thailand. Thailand also has three identities related to female-bodied people: Tom, Dee, and heterosexual woman.
Excellent overview of non-binary gender categories. Sadly, Western imperialism has all but extirpated many traditional concepts of non-dualistic sex and gender categories through residential schools and religious indoctrination. -Q
This gives me all kinds of gender life and power.
MY MOM SAID IF THIS GETS 500,000 NOTES SHE WILL FINALLY CALL ME “KHYLE” AND REFER TO ME AS HER SON PLEASE THIS IS A HUGE STEP FOR ME AND HER
we’re gonna get you your 500k notes. I swear. Idgaf if i have to reblog this 4000000x myself.
^thats the fucking spirit!!!!!
I reblog this every time I see it
a moment of recognition for those ships you shipped before you knew what shipping was
Jack Sparrow’s way of telling you your hair is ratchet.
That’s Captain Jack Sparrow you uneducated shit
is there some way to filter all the fucking depressing things off my dash? I really can’t handle any of this shit right now.
every now and then i remember things that i did as a child and i’m like “why didn’t i know i was gay sooner” because my god i was like a raging homo at age 9
Two exclusive games from the new Whose Line is it Anyway airing this summer on The CW
a dead albino guy and a canadian
a buff anal retentive man who physically cannot understand emotions and a overly touchy, loud, italian womanizer.
an hyperactive spainard with life energi enough to power the sun and a moody italian who makes love to tomatoes
theres this kid who is kinda dumb and likes stupid movies and hes making out with an anime douchebag
this douchewad guy makes out with his wife who used to be fucking his worst enemy and cheats on her with his best friend who’s a cripple
a huge native dude who kills people for a living and is angry 800% of the time and a smoking hot half-black woman who also kills people
they both have shitty lives
a snarky bitch who makes fun of this wannabe eminem and then they end up making out even if theyre related
Some dumbass ginger northern girl who doesn’t know what fainting is and a fucking loreal haired overglorified hall monitor
an introverted friendless chick that only likes to hang out with dead people and a brash sarcastic asshole woman who sleeps with ugly dick men she doesnt even like
This really bitchy woman who used to wear a lot leather and this dumb blonde who use to steal things. Now they fight over this kid and can’t afford clothes so they wear the same things.
stuff you ask your mom:
- mom where’s my towel
- mom what do we eat for dinner
- mom what time is it
- mom where’s my phone
- mom when do you come back
- mom what day is it
stuff you ask your dad
- dad where is mom
i‘m just going to sit here and cry now
I made a series of Calming Bunnies (based off of the Calming Manatee meme) for my friend Gab, who isn’t a huge fan of manatees!
We can always use more bunnies, I think.
queer hogwarts kids making buttons w/ preferred pronouns on them that are charmed to yell when ppl use the wrong ones
• Accidentally close a tab? Ctrl+Shift+T reopens it.
• Bananas release dopamine, eat them when you’re sad.
• CTRL+SHIFT+ESC is the one handed version of CTRL+ALT+DEL
• Don’t brush your teeth hard, it makes them sensitive and removes enamel.
• Don’t like spiders? Put citronella oil on your walls and they will not go there.
• Drink one glass of water for every alcoholic drink you have, you’ll get drunk without getting a hangover.
• Get clear ice cubes by boiling water before freezing it
• Heal paper cuts and immediately stop the pain with chapstick.
• If you accidentally write on your dry erase board with a permanent marker, scribble over it with a dry eraser marker to remove it.
• If your shoes smell, put them in the freezer overnight, it will kill the bacteria.
• Make bug bites stop itching with a banana peel.
• Make a paper longer with 12-point text, but 14-point periods and commas.
• Need to get around a blocked website at work? Try replacing the http:// with https://
• Never send your resume as a word file (unless asked) Instead, save it to a pdf file, it’s much cleaner and professional looking.
• Pick a flavor of gum you don’t normally chew, and chew it while studying during a test.
• Place a piece of bread in a container with your homemade cookies and they will stay soft.
• Put a dry towel into a dryer with wet clothes, they will dry faster.
• Put toothpaste on a pimple and it will dry out.
• Practise fake smiling in the mirror every day before going to work/school, you’ll genuinely start to feel happier.
• Rub canola/olive oil on knives before cutting onions, you won’t cry, alternatively chew gum and you won’t either.
• Short on time with a wrinkled dress shirt? Hang it up in the bathroom while showering to steam it flat.
• The night before, place things you don’t want to forget the next morning on top of your shoes.
• Use hydrogen peroxide to remove blood stains from clothing.
• When cleaning windows use newspapers or coffee filters instead of paper towels, they will not leave streaks.
• When microwaving bread products/pizza put a glass of water in with it, it will keep your bread from going spongy.
• When you move into a new place you’re renting, take pictures of any and all damage, then post them on facebook (privately if preferred) so you can use the reference date as proof you didn’t do it.
• When searching plane tickets online delete your cookies prior, prices go up when you visit a site multiple times.