The Third Gender/Third Sex and the Two-Spirit are notions I just happened to cross by. I have never heard of them before, but the terms make sense when referring to someone who considers themselves gender different, but not exactly sexually different. I have usually associated gender difference with sexual difference, which is not always the case. I think if we, as a society, understand the differences between sex and gender, that they are not just one and the same, that my prejudice about gender correlating with sex can be erased, understood, and that sexual difference will not automatically be connected to gender inversion or difference, etc.
Below is some information, that is now considered to relate to the transgender community (referred to as “thirdness”), about the Third gender in society, biology, extensive resources, and a personal account into what “thirdness” is.
“The terms third gender and third sex describe individuals who are considered to be neither women nor men, as well as the social category present in those societies who recognize three or more genders.
The state of being neither male nor female may be understood in relation to the individual’s biological sex, gender role, gender identity, or sexual orientation. To different cultures or individuals, a third sex or gender may represent an intermediate state between men and women, a state of being both (such as “the spirit of a man in the body of a woman”), the state of being neither (neuter), the ability to cross or swap genders, or another category altogether independent of male and female. This last definition is favored by those who argue for a strict interpretation of the “third gender” concept.
The term has been used to describe Hijras of India and Pakistan, Fa’afafine of Polynesia, and Sworn virgins of the Balkans, among others, and is also used by many of such groups and individuals to describe themselves. In the Western world, lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex people have been described as belonging to a third sex or gender, although some object to this characterization.
Third Sex in Biology
“In animals that exhibit sexual dimorphism, a number of individuals within a population will not differentiate sexually into bodies that are typically male or female. In non-human animals, this is called hermaphroditism, and in humans, it is called intersexuality. The incidence varies from population to population, and also varies depending on how femaleness and maleness are understood. Biologist and gender theorist Anne Fausto-Sterling proposed in a 1993 article that five sexes may be more adequate than just two, for describing human bodies.
In addition to male and female sexes (defined as the production of small or large gametes), evolutionary biologist Joan Roughgarden argues that more than two genders exist in hundreds of animal species. Species with one female and two male genders include red deer who have two male morphs, one with antlers and one without, known as hummels or notts, as well as several species of fish such as plainfin midshipman fish and coho salmon. Species with one female and three male genders include bluegill sunfish, where four distinct size and color classes exhibit different social and reproductive behaviours, as well as the spotted European wrasse (Symphodus ocellatus), a cichlid (Oreochromis mossambicus) and a kind of tree lizard, Urosaurus ornatus. Species with two male and two female genders include the white-throated sparrow, in which male and female morphs are either white-striped or tan-striped. White-striped individuals are more aggressive and defend territory, while tan-striped individuals provide more parental care. Ninety percent of breeding pairs are between a tan striped and a white striped sparrow. Finally, the highest number of distinct male and female morphs or “genders” within a species is found in the side-blotched lizard, which has five altogether: orange-throated males, who are “ultra-dominant, high testosterone” controllers of multiple females; blue-throated males, who are less aggressive and guard only one female; yellow-throated males, who don’t defend territories at all but cluster around the territories of orange males; orange-throated females, who lay many small eggs and are very territorial; and yellow-throated females, who lay fewer larger eggs and are more tolerant of each other.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_gender)
Third Sex in Contemporary Societies
“Since at least the 1970s, anthropologists have described gender categories in some cultures which they could not adequately explain using a two-gender framework. At the same time, feminists began to draw a distinction between (biological) sex and (social/psychological) gender. Contemporary gender theorists usually argue that a two-gender system is neither innate nor universal. A sex/gender system which only recognizes the following two social norms has been labeled “heteronormativity“:
- female genitalia = female identity = feminine behavior = desire male partner
- male genitalia = male identity = masculine behavior = desire female partner” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_gender)
This section, as introduced above, covers Thailand, India, the Western World, Indigenous cutlures, and many others.
In the Western World
“Some writers suggest that a third gender emerged around 1700 AD in England: the male sodomite. According to these writers, this was marked by the emergence of a subculture of effeminate males and their meeting places (molly houses), as well as a marked increase in hostility towards effeminate and/or homosexual males. People described themselves as members of a third sex in Europe from at least the 1860s with the writings of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs and continuing in the late nineteenth century with Magnus Hirschfeld, John Addington Symonds, Edward Carpenter, Aimée Duc and others. These writers described themselves and those like them as being of an “inverted” or “intermediate” sex and experiencing homosexual desire, and their writing argued for social acceptance of such sexual intermediates. Many cited precedents from classical Greek and Sanskrit literature (see below).
In Wilhelmine Germany, the terms drittes Geschlecht (“third sex”) and Mannweib (“man-woman”) were also used to describe feminists — both by their opponents and sometimes by feminists themselves. In the 1899 novel Das dritte Geschlecht (The Third Sex) by Ernst Ludwig von Wolzogen, feminists are portrayed as “neuters” with external female characteristics accompanied by a crippled male psyche.
Throughout much of the twentieth century, the term “third sex” was a popular descriptor for homosexuals and gender nonconformists, but after Gay Liberation of the 1970s and a growing separation of the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity, the term fell out of favor among LGBT communities and the wider public. With the renewed exploration of gender that feminism, the modern transgender movement and queer theory has fostered, some in the contemporary West have begun to describe themselves as a third sex again. One well known social movement of male-bodied people that identify as neither men nor women are the Radical Faeries. Other modern identities that cover similar ground include pangender, bigender, genderqueer, androgyne, intergender,”other gender” and “differently gendered”.
The term transgender, which often refers to those who change their gender, is increasingly being used to signify a gendered subjectivity that is neither male nor female — one recent example is on a form for the Harvard Business School, which has three gender options — male, female, and transgender.”
Third Sex in History
This covers a range of countries from Mesopotamia, Egypt, Indic culture, and Mediterranean among others .
If you are interested in this subject you can go to this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_gender
Two-Spirit (also two spirit or twospirit) people are American Indians who fulfill one of many mixed gender roles found traditionally among many American Indian and Canadian First Nations indigenous groups. Traditionally the roles included wearing the clothing and performing the work of both male and female genders. The term usually implies a masculine spirit and a feminine spirit living in the same body and was coined by contemporary gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Native Americans to describe themselves and the traditional roles they are reclaiming. There are many indigenous terms for these individuals in the various Native American languages as “what scholars generically refer to as ‘Native American gender diversity’ was a fundamental institution among most tribal peoples”.
As of 1991, male and female bodied Two-Spirit people have been “documented in over 130 North American tribes, in every region of the continent, among every type of native culture”.”
To see the historical and modern examples of a Two-Spirit, go to the link above.
The older term “berdache” is a generic term used primarily by anthropologists, and is frequently rejected as inappropriate and offensive by Native Americans. This may be largely due to its pejorative etymology as it is a loan from French bardache via Spanish bardaxa or bardaje/bardaja via Italian bardasso or berdasia via Arabic bardaj meaning “kept boy; male prostitute, catamite” from Persian bardaj < Middle Persian vartak < Old Iranian *varta-, cognate to Avestan varəta- “seized, prisoner,” formed from an Indo-European root *welə- meaning “to strike, wound” (which is the same in English as vulnerable). It has widely been replaced with two-spirit.
“Two-spirit” originated in Winnipeg, Canada in 1990 during the third annual intertribal Native American/First Nations gay and lesbian conference. It is a calque of the Ojibwa phrase niizh manidoowag (two spirits). It was chosen to distance Native/First Nations people from non-natives as well as from the words “berdache” and “gay.”“
Other Examples of Third Sex/Two-Spirit
“The following gender categories have also been described as a third gender:
- North America
- Middle East:
- Polynesia: Fa’afafine (Samoa), fakaleiti (Tonga), mahu wahine (Hawaii), mahu vahine (Tahiti), whakawahine (Māori) and akava’ine (Cook Islands).
- Indonesia: Waria. Additionally, the Bugis culture of Sulawesi has been described as having three sexes (male, female and intersex) as well as five genders with distinct social roles.
- In the Philippines, a number of local sex/gender identities are commonly referred to as a third sex in popular discourse, as well as by some academic studies. Local terms for these identities (which are considered derogatory by some) include bakla (Tagalog), bayot (Cebuano), agi (Ilonggo), bantut (Tausug), binabae, bading — all of which refer to effeminate ‘gay’ men/transwomen. Gender variant females may be called lakin-on or tomboy.
- The Balkans: Sworn virgins, females who work and dress as men and inhabit some men-only spaces, but do not marry.
- 18th century England: Mollies
- Southern Ethiopia: Ashtime of Maale culture
- Kenya: Mashoga of Swahili-speaking areas of the Kenyan coast, particularly Mombasa
- Democratic Republic of the Congo: Mangaiko among the Mbo people.
- Latin America and the Caribbean:
- Travestis of Latin America have been described as a third gender, although not all see themselves this way. Don Kulick described the gendered world of travestis in urban Brazil as having has two categories: “men” and “not men”, with women, homosexuals and travestis belonging to the latter category.
- Dominican republic: Guevedoche, intersex girls who become boys at puberty, due to “5-alpha-reductase deficiency disorder”. The same phenomenon is known as kwolu-aatmwol in the “Sambia” community in the eastern highlands of Papua New Guinea.”
Outside Links about Two-Spirits
- NativeOUT A Two-Spirit group in Phoenix, Arizona. Website has Native American LGBT/Two-Spirit News & Information.
- Two-Spirit Society of Denver Traditional Two-Spirit group in Denver, Colorado.
- Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits includes links to other two-spirits groups, based in San Francisco, CA
- NorthEast Two-Spirit Society Based in New York City
- Nations of the 4 Directions San Diego TS organisation
- Directions in Gender Research in American Indian Societies: Two Spirits and Other Categories by Beatrice Medicine
- Berdache on glbtq.com
- Indigenous Literature with a Queer/LGBT/Two-Spirit Sensibility
- International Two Spirit Gathering
-  Two Spirit Author, J. Spencer Rowe MA
- Northwest Two-Spirit Society
- The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture by Walter L. Williams
- Two Spirits: A Story of Life With the Navajo by Walter L. Williams & Toby Johnson
- The Two-Spirit Tradition collection of articles at the Androgyne Online site
- The Two-Spirit Tradition article in the Androphile Project site
- In Search of “Berdache”: Multiple Genders and Other Myths
Here is a link to a JSTOR article about the Third Gender, if you have access to JSTOR: http://www.jstor.org/pss/483350
An Extra: A Blog on Thirdness
Though I do not know this person, or their name (though I could easily find out by liking on the website), I feel as if the information on this website is very useful to consider for personal reflection.
Somewhere in one of the articles, there is a very interesting quote:
“I think that Kate Bornstein’s  words are very important, here. She says:
I know I’m not a man — about that much I’m very clear, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m probably not a woman either, at least not according to a lot of people’s rules on this sort of thing. The trouble is, we’re living in a world that insists we be one or the other — a world that doesn’t bother to tell us exactly what one or the other is.” (http://www.bcholmes.org/tg/tgthird.html)
After discovering all of this information and reading a book at the beginning of this summer on being genderqueer, I have a new concept of gender and its relation to biological sex. I think its going to take me awhile to split the two and digest them and I am sure being a Gender Studies major will aid in that. Hopefully this will be of some use to understanding the sentiments and feelings of someone who is of the third sex, third gender, etc, who does not consider themselves one or the other, bu in between.