Are Anglosphere Gender Variants Like Third Genders Around The World?

Whenever I see people talking about how non-binary and agender and other neo genders with neo pronouns are like the third gender people around the world and throughout history, I groan inwardly – and sometimes outwardly. Like many people, the people who say these things are simply repeating what they have heard other people say without having put any thought or investigation into the matter.


I do not believe for a second that most of the gender variant people we have in the modern Anglosphere bare any relation to the third gender people around the world and throughout history. In many cases, third gender people in other cultures are community and religious figures, and follow a certain pattern and way of life. This clearly contrasts the lives of gender variant people in the Anglosphere.


The hijra people of India are the third gender people that westerners point to the most. They are all male bodied people and refer to themselves as kinnar, meaning mythical beings who excel in song and dance, and they live in communities led by a guru (a religious or philosophical teacher). They worship and live to please the mother goddess Bahuchara, or Lord Shiva, or both, and they practise religious rituals usually performed by both men and women. They refer to each other in female terms as sister or aunt. Some have an intersex condition, most do not. Some have surgeries, others do not. Some are sexually active and others abstain from sex and relationships and focus on the spiritual. Hijras face discrimination due to their low status in society. Many turn to begging or prostitution as a way of raising an income.


In the Balkans are the Burrnesha women. These are female bodied people who take a vow of chastity, wear men’s clothes and live as men. They do this for several reasons; avoiding the need to marry, avoid a certain arranged marriage without slighting the man or his family, to inherit wealth or to gain freedom in a society where women have less rights than men.


Two-Spirit is a term we have become accustomed to hearing, and some people add it to the LGBT alphabet soup. Two-spirit is a new term that first appeared in the 1990s. Some indigenous Americans are not happy about this cultural appropriation. Again, there are religious and cultural meanings that are not often reflected in the lives of non-binary and gender variant people in the Anglosphere. Not every tribe of indigenous Americans accepted two-spirit people. Indigenous Americans are keen to point out that different tribes had different cultures. Two-spirit male bodied people fought in battles and used the male sweat lodge, and they could cook and clean and take up chores around the home. Female bodied two-spirit people usually had relationships solely with other females. In Indigenous American tribes, cross dressing was no sign of being two-spirit or same sex attracted. Two-spirit people were a full part of the community, however some tribes would accuse them of being witches if a crop failed or other calamites came upon the tribe.


Jordan Peterson said that one of the main problems of our modern times – the problem that causes mental distress to individuals as well as communities – is that we have talked about and demanded rights, but not the responsibilities.

Third gender people around the world have their gender expression, but they also take up responsibilities, whether that be a religious commitment or a commitment to their community. Most gender variant people in the Anglosphere do not do this.


The one main exception I know about is in Christianity, with people who have similar beliefs to myself. We believe we were not born LGBT – as all the studies show, but become LGBT as a result of our natural selves mixing with a difficult environment. Many LGBT Christians I know are married to someone of the opposite sex, and some remain single and celibate. In the Christian tradition, and in line with the Bible’s teaching, some people remain single and celibate so that they can do more work for God. Jesus spoke about people who cannot marry because they were born that way, life made them that way, or they choose to be single so that they can serve God more.

I never adopted being third gender as a life style or identity, and I never gave it much attention. It was something in the background. None of my friends at university would have thought to have used words like trans about me. They knew, they saw how I was affected, but it was never something we ever needed to talk about or wanted to talk about. I found other things in life far more interesting than feeling dysphoric. Yes, there were times I wanted to mutilate myself and I felt very uncomfortable about my body being female, but because I never focussed on it, these feelings didn’t happen often. When they did, I took time to pray about it. I gave thanks for the body God gave me and after ten or so minutes, I felt much better.


Gender variance in the Anglosphere, unless the individual makes an individual decision to follow a religious or philosophical pattern and way of life, have absolutely nothing in common with third gender people around the world. Gender variance in the Anglosphere tends to be among people who do not follow a religion, who think far too much about themselves and dwell on unimportant things such as gender and sexual orientation. There is a clear link between autism and gender variance, as well as other conditions such as depression, schizophrenia and ADHD – I have quoted findings of a study published by the Autism Society in a previous blog post.


Gender variance in the Anglosphere, from what I have seen in people I’ve known, is a sign of someone in emotional distress. Although I acknowledge some people who are gender variant might be attention seeking and want an easy fix instead of developing skills, hobbies and a personality, all the gender variant people I have known in the UK have been people in distress. Some were bullied at school, some physically abused by their parents and some were just confused about who they were and their place in the world. Autism or depression were clearly visible in most.


Instead of pouring scorn on gender variant westerners as all being attention seekers as I have seen several social commentators do, I would hope that any person in distress gets the help that they need and lives a life that is full and fulfilled.

About catherinehume

Catherine Hume: Writer, social care worker and a liver of a life less ordinary.
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