Characteristics of individuals who fit into the category of a “third sex” in New Guinea, among Native American cultures, in India, and in Afghanistan

In the western culture, people are usually aware of two sexes, male and female, men or women. Not many people who understand or have ever heard of “third sex”. In most western cultures “third sex” is usually termed as an abnormality or even a birth defect and is normally medical attention. However, in none- western cultures, the “third sex” is viewed to be special as it is considered to have healing or magical abilities. The term third sex is used in describing people who are categorized to be neither men nor women. (“Third Gender | Sexuality, Gender, And The Body”)

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A high frequency of 5- alpha-reductase deficiency leads to the birth of individuals whose internal genitals represents those of a normal male while the external genitals are similar to those of a girl than a boy. For example, a clitoris which looks like a penis. During the time of birth, these babies are mostly identified as boys but they end up being reared as girls. When these individuals attain the puberty age they usually produce the male hormones and start showing the changes of a male. This disorder is found in New Guinea and as even after the individuals start showing the male characteristics they do not grant them the male status but instead, they are used as healers in their culture. in the native America, these people were referred as two-spirit people. They were not intersex but they were those people who chose to mix their feminine and masculine roles. In India, there is also the “third sex” which is made of those men who are willing to become women. These men may either be intersex that is those individuals whom genitals are not clearly defined as either male or female. They can also be transvestites that are those men who usually dress in women’s clothing or maybe transgendered that is those men who wish to or have already performed a genital surgery so as to be a female. (“Third Gender | Sexuality, Gender, And The Body”)

In conclusion, some cultures usually have a category of “third sex” whereby those people who have not be defined clearly by biology to be either male or female fit. There is however some cultures who categorizes their women as third sex when they perform duties which are set by their culture to be only performed by the men.


Works cited

“Mistaken Sex: Culture, Biology And The Third Sex In New Guinea”. Trans Bodies Across The Globe, 2017,

“Native American Indian Berdache Or “Two-Spirit” Tradition”. Owlcation, 2017,

Third Gender | Sexuality, Gender, And The Body”. Genderbodyreligion.Wordpress.Com, 2017,