Go into any U.S. toy store. There are toys for boys, and toys for girls. Go to a clothing store, and there is a women’s and a men’s section. Go to a university, and there are fraternities for boys and sororities for girls. Our society is based on two genders, and since there are two biological sexes (see my prior post in which I clarify that this is a great simplification), that’s the way it is everywhere. Right?
In fact, there are numerous societies and cultures in which gender is not binary (male or female). On almost every continent there are examples of biological men taking on a feminine gender, or biological women taking on a masculine gender, or a class of people recognized as both genders, or something else completely different. This is a fascinating interactive map that takes us across the world looking at the way different societies interpret gender (the Bugi of Indonesia recognize five genders!) We’re not just talking small, isolated tribes; people have recognized more than two genders in Italian, Indian, and Native American societies.