The Third Gender

You must have come across hundreds of such forms in your life and would have filled them effortlessly. Every form asks which gender or sex you belong to. This section is probably the easiest one for you to fill; because either you are male or female. But have you ever thought of those very few God’s children who are neither male nor female? Where do they tick? They don’t belong to either of the categories! With period of time, the stereotypes created by the society have become so dominant that we fail to notice and acknowledge the needs of the minorities living in our society. The very concept of power in the society is exclusively highlighted by this issue. An American actress, Judith Light rightly said, “Gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people are ‘people’.” Over a period of long years transsexuals have been and are still to some extent been neglected by the society for the very simple reason that they don’t belong to either of the sexes and hence considered to be abnormal. I don’t understand who gives the society the right to decide what is normal and what is abnormal? After all “Nature chooses who will be transgender; individuals don’t choose this.”  According to me, gender is socially created and learned distinctions that specify the ideal physical, behavioural and mental & emotional traits characteristic of males or females. Judith Butler, an American post-structuralist philosopher in his works such as Gender Trouble and Undoing Gender, contends that being female is not “natural”. It appears natural because of repeated performances of gender; these performances in turn reproduce and define the traditional categories of gender. A social constructionist will always look beyond the categories and examine the intersections of multiple identities and the blurring of boundaries of essentialist categories. From a sociological lens, I think there is an urge for the society to acknowledge all kinds of gender, respect and treat them equally. I was overwhelmed with joy when I saw one of the Australian newspaper quoted, “Australian passports to have third gender option.”  To remove discrimination against transgender and intersex people Australian government announced that those born with sexual anatomy that does not fit the typical definitions of male or female , will be able to list their gender on passports as X. Another such example is that of American Samoa. There people recognize 3 genders: males, females and fa’afafine.Fa’afafinesare men dressed as famous female celebrities. Accounts of resistance, compliance and accompanying inner conflicts have been reported due to social strains on individuals about the gender ideals in society which clearly speak of its power in shaping our lives. Not everyone fits easily into two biological categories. We must understand that gender is a social construction and that gender ideals are impossible to realize and maintain. So, it shouldn’t surprise us at all to learn that not every society divides people into so-called opposite sexes/genders. While all societies distinguish between male and female, some also recognize a third category!

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About Shalini Pal

Shalini Pal is a 19 year old girl who is a freelancing fanatic and is currently pursuing Bachelor’s degree in Media Studies from Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication (UG). Presently, she is an amateur writer who is working hard and striving to become a skilled professional. She was born in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh but did her schooling from one of the top cities of India, i.e. Ahmedabad, Gujarat. She loves reading novels, writing, cooking and sketching. Listening to music is one of her favourite pass times. She aspires to become a media professional, preferably a journalist in future. She wants to bring about a revolution in the society with the power of media, to make it a better place to live in.

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