A culture-specific identity is an identity that is exclusive to a particular culture and that often does not have an equivalent in another culture; common examples are related to non-binary gender identities.[1] A cultural identity in general is a way a person identifies themself "based on various cultural categories, including nationality, ethnicity, race, gender, and religion".[2] Cultural identity can also encompass other aspects of identity such as sexual orientation.[3] Note that the rest of this article will be focused on culture-specific identities that are related to gender, sexuality, or both, and thus may have ties to the LGBTQIA+ community overall.

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Many culture-specific identities have existed in their respective cultures for hundreds of years. For example, Two-Spirit and hijra people have existed as part of the culture and society of indigenous peoples in North America and South Asia respectively for centuries.[4][5]

Culture-specific identities have been stigmatized and discriminated against, largely by Western European colonizers, which then became part of the country's society at large due to suppression of native cultures.[6][7] In more recent times, various movements and organizations throughout the world have fought to protect these identities and give them proper respect and recognition.[5][6][8]

Use of "Third Gender"

Some culture-specific gender identities have been referred to with the term "third gender". However, this term has been criticized due to having roots in colonialism.[7] Essentially, genders outside of man and woman were grouped together under this label in order to impose "new bureaucracies of gender assignment" on colonized individuals, particularly to discriminate against individuals who were a culture-specific gender identity.[7][9]

A particular view point on the use of "third gender" by archaeologist Meghan Walley states as follows: "We must move away from interpretations that position nonbinary gender as a third element or an anomaly and instead embrace the critical and challenging work that will be necessary to construct understandings of complex gender systems that [don't] assume binary gender as a precondition for nonbinary gender".[10]

Examples of Culture-specific Identities

The following are examples of culture-specific identities from around the world. Note that there may be more identities out in the real world that what is listed here.


Two-Spirit refers to a strictly Native North American identity[4] that describes a person who identifies as having both a masculine and feminine spirit. It is an umbrella term used by some Indigenous people as a way to describe their sexual, gender, and/or spiritual identity.[11] Two-Spirit is all-encompassing of LGBTQIA+ identities.[4]


Waria is a label that originates from Indonesia and can be interpreted in many ways. One prevalent use is to describe men who live as women.[12] Waria has many other meanings, including being synonymous with transfeminine, nonbinary, and other interpretations.[8]


Hijra is a culture-specific identity found in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal. It is a separate identity from man and woman, and also separate from the concept of transgender.[5] In most cases, hijra are individuals who were assigned male at birth and have a feminine presentation,[6][13] but may also include individuals who are intersex or assigned female at birth as well.[5] Hijra may or may not undergo surgery to transition.[13][14]

During British rule of India, hijras were criminalized and discriminated against as part of the Criminal Tribes act of 1871. They were decriminalized in 1952, but stigmatization against hijras continued for some time afterwards.[6] In 2014, hijras gained official government recognition as a separate gender in India.[5][14][15]


Muxe is an identity from Mexico, specifically from the Zapotec culture of Oaxaca. Similar to hijra, muxes are usually individuals who were assigned male at birth and present femininely, but it is still seen as a separate gender from man and woman, as well as separate from the idea of transgender.[6][16]


Māhū is a native Hawai'ian gender role that is "somewhere between or encompassing both the masculine and feminine", and anyone regardless of what gender they were assigned at birth can be a māhū. Due to the colonization of Hawai'i ad suppression of the native culture by the British, māhū were and continue to be discriminated against in modern times.[6]

Sworn Virgin

Also known as burrnesha, sworn virgins are individuals assigned female at birth who take an oath of virginity in order to live as men in Albanian society. This included being able to wear men's clothes without any stigma, and carrying out traditionally masculine activities such as hunting. This was usually done in cases where a family would otherwise not have a male heir or head of the household. In recent times, with women gaining more rights and becoming equal with men, there is less of a need for a person to become a sworn virgin, and thus this practice is becoming less common.[6][17]

Yinyang Ren

Yinyang Ren (pinyin: 阴阳人) is an identity from China, and is used to describe a person who is equal parts feminine and masculine in their gender. Alternatively, they are often described as having an equal amount of both feminine and masculine qualities.[18] In some contexts, yinyang ren is also used to refer to intersex people.[19]


This identity is often considered Japan's equivalent to nonbinary. Some individuals who are x-gender may describe themselves as transitioning from their assigned gender to x-gender (i.e. FTX or MTX).[20] There have been continuing pushes in modern Japan for proper recognition of x-gender individuals, but progress has been overall slow.[21]


This section should be used to elaborate on the portrayal and representation of this identity in various forms of media, which can include a listing or links to various artists or movies, series, etc. Subheadings like Film, Television, Literature, and Music should be used where appropriate.


Here you can place useful resources relevant for the described topic.


  1. "About". Society for the Acceptance of Non-Binary Genders. (Archived on May 10, 2022).
  2. Vivian Hsueh-Hua Chen: "Cultural Identity" (2014). Center for Intercultural Dialogue. (Archived on March 31, 2022).
  3. Grothe, Tom: "Exploring Specific Cultural Identities". Butte College. (Archived on May 10, 2022).
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 John Garry: "What it really means to identify as Two-Spirit in Indigenous culture" (2020-08-21).
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 "The Hijra Community and Decolonizing Gender" (2021-06-24). Asian Indian Family Wellness SEWA-AIFW. (Archived on February 2, 2022).
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 "A Map of Gender-Diverse Cultures" (2015-08-11). PBS. (Archived on April 24, 2022).
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Nuarey, Afra: "Why 'third gender' is a problematic label" (2021-08-16). The Business Standard. (Archived on August 16, 2021).
  8. 8.0 8.1 Kortschak, Irfan: "Defining Waria" (2007-09-08). Inside Indonesia.
  9. Neela Ghoshal: "Transgender, Third Gender, No Gender: Part II" (2020-09-08). Human Rights Watch. (Archived on February 16, 2022).
  10. Meghan Walley: "Examining Precontact Inuit Gender Complexity and Its Discursive Potential for LGBTQ2S+ and Decolonization Movements" (2014). (Archived on March 17, 2022).
  11. Re:Searching For LGBTQ2S+ Health: "Two-Spirit Community". (Archived on January 20, 2022).
  12. Murtagh, Ben. "Genders and Sexualities in Indonesian Cinema: Constructing Gay, Lesbi and Waria Identities on Screen". Asian Journal of Social Science. Vol. 43, No. 4, 2015. (web archive)
  13. 13.0 13.1 Rhude, Kristofer: "The Third Gender and Hijras" (2018). (Archived on March 26, 2022).
  14. 14.0 14.1 McCarthy, Julie: "A Journey Of Pain And Beauty: On Becoming Transgender In India" (2014-04-18). NPR. (Archived on October 2, 2021).
  15. Phillip Baumgart and Shariq Farooqi: "India’s hijras find themselves further marginalized amid the pandemic" (2020-07-17). Atlantic Council. (Archived on May 5, 2022).
  16. Luis Cobelo: "Cooking with Muxes, Mexico's Third Gender" (2016-11-26). VICE. (Archived on May 14, 2021).
  17. "At home with Albania's last sworn virgins" (2008-06-27). The Sydney Morning Herald. (Archived on May 10, 2022).
  18. Robin R. Wang. Dong Zhongshu's Transformation of "Yin-Yang" Theory and Contesting of Gender Identity. Featured in "Philosophy East and West", Vol. 55, No. 2, University of Hawai'i Press, 2005-04. ISSN 0031-8221.
  19. "Half Yin, Half Yang: Xie Jianshun and Intersexuality in 1950s Taiwan" (2020-12-12). Rice University. (Archived on May 10, 2022).
  20. "Non-Binary in Japan" (2019-10-17). ABNRML JAPAN. (Archived on January 18, 2022).
  21. Tokoi Miyuki and Mochizuki Mami: "Pushing for 'X-gender' recognition" (2019-06-11). (Archived on April 17, 2022).