Upon speaking with my friend about my blog, I was introduced to a third gender in Bangladesh called hijras. I was told that hijras are born intersex, but they choose a feminine gender identity. Unfortunately they are often shunned by society.
By doing further research on this topic, I came upon a Global Voices article about Bangladesh’s very first Pride Parade held in Dhaka nearly a month ago. The Pride Parade was held to mark the first anniversary of the recognition of hijras as their own gender. The article mentions that a hijra can also be someone who is born male, and like the intersexuals, identify with a feminine gender.
This accomplishment is outstanding considering Bangladesh is a very religious country, majority Muslim. Yet in secular, industrialized countries like the United States the progress is lacking. The only two genders that are acknowledged among institutions is male or female, forcing people to choose one even if they are agender.
This isn’t the first culture to acknowledge a third gender. When I was learning about kinship and gender roles in my Cultural Anthropology class, I found out that various Native American societies have recognized a third gender. Among the Cheyenne and Lakota this gender is known as berdache and nadle among the Navajo. The berdache or nadle is a biological male who takes on a feminine gender identity and fulfills the responsibilities that the women have in those tribes.