Did you know that not all cultures have the same systems of gender?
The Hijra constitute a community representing between half a million and one million people in the Indian subcontinent. The term, derived from Urdu, applies to young people born male who have been emasculated and who through this emasculation become a third gender. The term, originally charged because it is linked to a genital mutilation that is not always voluntary, has since been reclaimed by this caste representing a third gender that can be found in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Today, these are people born male who can decide to emasculate themselves or not, and embrace the Hijra identity. There are also intersex people among the Hijra.
Map of the Hijra territory
Traditionally, these Hijra people have existed to fill specific roles in religious ceremonies such as weddings and births. Their significant contributions to these ceremonies are made through their arts (music and dance). Hijra have two major references Bahuchara Mata, goddess of chastity and fertility considered as the mother of all Hijra and Ardhanarishvara intersex deity representing the whole beyond duality.
Representation of Bahuchara Mata
Currently, Hijra live in communities among Hijra and claim their chosen family as their true family. Unfortunately, their lives are marked by discrimination, especially in housing and work outside of their specific caste role. Their activism led to the legal recognition of a third gender by the Indian Supreme Court in April 2014.
The Lhamana are part of the two-spirit people that can be found in 130 indigenous cultures. Specific to the Zuni people of the Pueblo, these people represent a third gender that complements those of men and women.
Map of the Lhamana territory
Unlike in Europe, among the Zuni, gender does not depend on the child's genitalia. Lhamana are recognized as such from childhood and possess, just as women and men do, their own initiation rites. Lhamana have an appearance (clothing and hairstyle) that borrows elements from both men and women.
Their appearance refers to Kolhamana, the first kachina (spirit) born from the union of the sky father and the earth mother. Kolhamana is born both male and female to the extreme, a characteristic that gave them an aggressive character at birth but which ceased as soon as they were able to express this duality through their clothes.
Mask of Kolhamana
The Lhamana are respected in Zuni culture as hardworking and dedicated to social cohesion. Lhamana have a role of mediation in Zuni culture. The most well-known Lhamana was We'wha (1849–1896) who represented the Zuni people on a trip to Washington D.C. where he met President Grover Cleveland.
The Sekrata of Madagascar are people from the Sakalava community who are similar to the Western concept of trans women. Born male, children with physiological characteristics considered feminine will be raised as girls to become women.
Map of Sekrata's territory
The Sekrata dress in traditionally feminine clothing and learn to speak with a softer and more feminine intonation.
The Sekrata consider themselves as part of the women of the Sakalava population and do not consider their sex as significant in their understanding of gender. They are born women.
Representation of the Sekrata
There is, however, one thing that sets the Sekrata apart from other women. They are highly respected in society because it is believed that they have a supernatural spirit that protects them, so the Sakalava will avoid attacking the Sekrata out of fear of this spirit.