Transgender Spirituality in World Faiths
What is the difference between a hijra and an androgyne? Well, for
one, most androgynes have a gender identity of neither a man nor a woman,
while hijras tend to have a feminine gender identity closer to that of a
transsexual than an androgyne. Is there a tendency to conflate androgynes
with eunuchs? Perhaps. And yet, not all eunuchs are hijras, not all
hijras are eunuchs, and not all hijras identify as transsexuals or
Traditionally, "real" hijras have been intersex
(formerly referred to as hermaphrodites), a trait they share with Native
who consider "real" two-spirits to be intersex. In this paradigm,
intersex people are "automatically" hijras and "automatically" two-spirited
because they comprise the core of both designations physically as well as
psychologically. In seeming corroboration, both hijras and two-spirits
often describe themselves as "not man, not woman," and this brings to mind
the self-conception of androgynes, who can be said to be the psychological
counterpart to intersex people. Originally, the term androgyne was
synonymous with hermaphrodite, and referred specifically to physical traits,
not to gender identity.
Why are hijras and two-spirits considered to have more in common with
transsexuals than androgynes? That may because of current cultural markers
and may reflect modern thinking more than traditional context. The very
nature of third genderedness is rejected by many layers of culture; it is
easier to reduce hijras and two-spirits to a man/woman binary where an
androgynous gender identity is not an option. Hence hijras and two-spirits
are said to be transsexual, not androgyne, because that keeps things nice
and tidy, making them "men" and "women" -- which they are not.
There is a special type of androgyne or eunuch known as neutrois:
someone who seeks to nullify the genderedness of their outward appearance
-- sartorially if not physically. Neutrois do not consider themselves
to be androgynes, however, and they may well have a point. In 1970s
research into androgyny spearheaded by Sandra Bem, people who scored
high in tests on scales of both masculinity and femininity were deemed
to be androgynous, whereas those who scored low in tests on scales of
both masculinity and femininity were described as undifferentiated.
Today, undifferentiated people would also be considered to be agendered.
Neutrois are undifferentiated and agendered, and are unlike hijras in
that they do no present themselves as women nor play up femininity in any way.
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This page first created 6/7/01. Copyright © Stephe Feldman,
2001, 2010, 2011 & 2012. Last update: 10/10/13.