Third Gender

Third Gender – Marie Czaplicka, Marjorie Balzer, and Bernard Saladin d’Anglure demonstrate the importance of broadening the notion of gender to include not only male and female but also various mediating positions and roles. Czaplicka, for example, notes that shamans are a “third class,” separate from males and females. This separation enables shamans to mediate because they are already, by nature or initiation, “in-between” persons. This use of the term third gender to refer to shamans as a gender separate from male and female overlaps its use as a reference to homosexuality as a third gender. The marriage of some shamans to otherworld partners sometimes leads to their practice of transvestitism, but can also result in homosexual marriages in the “ordinary world.” Whether this is acceptable within the wider culture or a specific aspect of the strangeness of shamans varies from culture to culture, and perhaps from village to village.


Historical Dictionary of Shamanism by Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis 2007


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