Thursday, May 7, 2009
Hermaphrodites: The "Muxe" Of Mexico
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.
Muxes means gay men but translates culturally as a third gender. A muxe has one major dissimilarity to the the gay male in the United States. They're raised to forsake their masculinity and encouraged to embrace the femininity of a woman, a girl. Playing with dolls and dressing as girls is orchestrated by their mothers. Two reasons why, one is to increase future economic growth for their family.
A family which has a muxe is considered one of the elite. They earn higher wages. Mostly by designing dresses gowns and blouses. Their creative talents are sought out for the towns many parades and festivals. Several times per week Juchitan holds one of these events. Secondly, seeing as the muxes income far exceeds that of the father and his sisters the mother grooms her son in order to have herself provided for through out life. He's to remain in her household.
Muxes very seldom have intimate relations with men, even though they're dressing and living life as women. A rites of passage ceremony happens at a certain age. Whereby it's confirmed an announced to the community by taking on a woman's name. This event is a marked celebration by a huge gathering of people of all ages. A 'coming-out' party, so-to-speak.
According to anthropologists, this third "gender" category was more widespread until Spanish colonists wiped it out in favor of Catholicism and a gender binary system:
...pointing to accounts of cross-dressing Aztec priests and Mayan gods who were male and female at the same time. Spanish colonizers wiped out most of those attitudes in the 1500s by forcing conversion to Catholicism. But mixed-gender identities managed to survive in the area around Juchitán, a place so traditional that many people speak ancient Zapotec instead of Spanish.
at 11:21 PM