We grow up formulating thoughts and feeling about gender around just two options: male and female. However, dichotomy of gender must be realized as a Western Judeo-Christian belief, which is not generalizable. Many people do not fit entirely into one notion and instead spill over into the realm of the other.
I wish to distinguish between physical hermaphroditism (which is purely physical) and gender mixing, which refers to elements such as role expectations, mannerisms and sexual orientation.
In this and a few entries to follow, I would like to present what I hope to be thought-provoking information about gender as a spectrum according to various other cultures.
The most commonly known and discussed of these is the berdache of Native American cultures. A berdache is a person who identifies with any of a variety of gender identities, which may or may not be related to their biological sex. An often preferred term for a berdache is niizh manidoowag, meaning “two-spirit.” This is essentially a third way of gender-typing and venerates those who do not fit neatly into the role of “female” or “male.”
I very much like the term two-spirit, as I believe it speaks to something that most people in Western culture can relate to: a feeling of containing elements of both male and female. It is refreshing to consider that one need not fit into one or the other label. For many, this is a very strange concept! Two-spirit people are not only recognized and accepted in Native American cultures, they are revered. They are believed to be especially spiritual, beings who “bridge the gap between the temporal and spirit worlds.”
I encourage trying on this concept. Imagine what would change internally and in interpersonal relationships if we were to organize ourselves around these ways of thinking. What would it mean for you if you were completely unlimited by gender expectations?
DRK. (1999) A native american perspective on the theory of gender continuum. Retrieved fromhttp://members.tripod.com/berdache_two/twospirit.htm
Jacobs, S. (1997). Two-spirit people. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.