Earlier this month NPR profiled Alex Hernandez, a member of a Mexican third gender. This prompted me to re-post our discussion of muxes from 2008. Images of Hernandez, taken by photographer Neil Rivas, are added at the end.
A New York Times article this week briefly profiles muxes, a third “gender” widely accepted in Oaxaca, Mexico. According to the article, this part of Mexico has retained many of the pre-colonial traditions. One of these included flexibility around gender and sexual orientation. From the article:
There, in the indigenous communities around the town of Juchitán, the world is not divided simply into gay and straight. The local Zapotec people have made room for a third category, which they call “muxes” (pronounced MOO-shays) — men who consider themselves women and live in a socially sanctioned netherworld between the two genders.
“Muxe” is a Zapotec word derived from the Spanish “mujer,” or woman; it is reserved for males who, from boyhood, have felt themselves drawn to living as a woman, anticipating roles set out for them by the community.
Not all muxes express their identities the same way. Some dress as women and take hormones to change their bodies. Others favor male clothes. What they share is that the community accepts them; many in it believe that muxes have special intellectual and artistic gifts.
Robin B. pointed us to a slide show at NPR.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.