You know how they say we can learn from the past? That applies to so many things. War. Economics. Fashion. And yes, even gender.
Maybe, just maybe, previous generations were on to something. Like the Native Americans, who recognized five genders. FIVE!
I find that fascinating. I learned so much in a great article my sister shared with me. (The whole article is here.) In a nutshell, many many years ago, Native Americans recognized these five genders: male, female, Spirit male, Spirit female, and transgendered. They weren’t just inclusive … the article said people then were REVERED for being different:
In fact, people who had both female and male characteristics were viewed as gifted by nature, and therefore, able to see both sides of everything.
Sadly, that acceptance went by the wayside when European Christians got into the mix and started enforcing their own gender roles onto others. Religious influence brought prejudice with it, and forced openly androgynous people into choosing to live as either male or female.
Know another interesting thing? The Native Americans weren’t alone. Other older cultures were also more open minded than we are today, and seemed to live in harmony that way for eons.
Check out an article in the New York Times about how a Mexican town recognizes three genders, and has for generations. “Muxes” are people are born into male bodies but who identify as neither male nor female. They’re not only not ostracized, they’re also recognized as special. And they have been accepted as part of the everyday culture for years. According to the article:
A mixed-gender way of life was accepted in several pre-Columbian communities across Mexico, according to anthropologists and colonial accounts. It is unclear when the muxe tradition originated in Juchitán, or how it endured.
Unfortunately, like our own recent news, a bathroom controversy is brewing in this small Mexican community. Students at a local university there have recently complained – claiming hygiene issues – and now muxes are left without a bathroom when they’re at school. I am intrigued by the fact that muxes are mixed on whether having a third bathroom is a solution. Some think it’ll ease tensions; others feel it will create a bigger divide.
That’s something I haven’t seen discussed much here in the US. It’s easy to assume that labeling a bathroom as ‘non-gendered’ would fix our recent fights and calm the fears.
But would it? Or would it simply serve to further ostracize a group that already feels like outsiders, often even in their own bodies?
I’m sad to think this small Mexican community, which for generations has accepted its own for who and what they are, now has had even a slight shift in how it views its mixed-gender residents. I can only hope that they’ll consider the past … and rethink the future.
I guess I wish that for all of us.