Gut Check: Making simple sense out of life
By Lenore Skomal Erie Times-News staff blogger
Lenore Skomal is an award-winning author and veteran journalist in all forms of media. She is a weekly columnist and daily blogger for the Erie Times-News. She’s authored 17 published books, including an anthology of her columns, Burnt Toast available on her website www.lenoreskomal.net.   Read more about this blog.
Posted: January 23rd, 2013
What exactly is third gender?

I’ve learned a lot since my son left for college. Actually, thanks to his experiences in college. When he spoke to me with some authority about someone he knew who was third gender, I couldn’t pretend to know what he meant. So I asked him. He said basically it was someone who didn’t identify as either a male or a female.

This sparked my curiosity, and since I studied neither anthropology nor sociology in college or grad school, I had no foundation of understanding. And it would appear I’m not alone.

While a relatively new and often times misunderstood concept in Western society, third, fourth and even fifth genders, according to Wikipedia, have been around for a long time elsewhere on this globe. The article sites the hijra of India and Pakistan, who have won legal identity. They are typically born male (biologically) but take on a feminine gender role.

But not always.

Third genders often prefer to not be classified, despite their biological identities. “Other modern identities that cover similar ground include pangender,bigendergenderqueerandrogyneintergender, “other gender” and “differently gendered.”

Nepal has recently recognized third genders, as well, and will begin issuing citizenship certificates basically legalizing their identity.

It makes me wonder if this will ever happen in the United States.

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