A culture-specific identity, also sometimes written as "culture specific identity",[1] 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.[2][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".[3] Cultural identity can also encompass other aspects of identity such as sexual orientation.[4] Cultural identities that are gender identities in particular will sometimes be referred to as "culturally specific genders".[5] 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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This page contains discussions of colonization, its generational impacts, and the historical usage of terms throughout. Reader discretion is advised.


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.[6][7]

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.[1][8][9] In more recent times, various movements and organizations throughout the world have fought to protect these identities and give them proper respect and recognition.[1][7][8][10]

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.[9] 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.[9][11]

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".[12]

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 than what is listed here.

Androgynos, Tumtum, Ay'lonit, and Saris[]

Androgynos (Hebrew: אנדרוגינוס), tumtum (Hebrew: טומטום), ay'lonit (Hebrew: איילונית) and saris (Hebrew:סריס) as well as zachar (Hebrew:זָכָר) and nekevah (Hebrew: נקבה) are sex categories originating in Jewish law that took into account different expressions of sexual development when discussing rights and duties of different perisex and intersex people. [13]

Zachar and nekevah, derived from the words for memory and chasm respectively, refer to people of the binary male and female sexes respectively. [14]

Androgynos and tumtum refer to people whose sex expressions are noticeable from birth. Androgynos referring to "male and female characteristics" and tumtum referring to "lack of sexual characteristics" or ambiguous genitalia. Ay'lonit on the other hand refers to people who had female sex characteristics manifest later in life, the reverse being the case for saris. Saris and ay'lonit can further be subdivided into hamah and adam. Hamah refers to when these discordant sex characteristics develop from dormancy whereas adam refers to when these sex characteristics were achieved through human intervention. In total, zachar, nekevah, androgynos, tumtum, ay'lonit hamah, ay'lonit adam, saris hamah and saris adam results in 8 total sex categories. [14]

These labels are sometimes used in modern day by Jewish people in order to identify their gender identity as well as to refer to their natal sex, or in the case of adam, adjusted sex expression. These labels were originally used in Jewish law to determine the differing religious rules for different sexes. [13]

Brotherboy and Sistergirl[]

Brotherboy and sistergirl are both culture-specific gender identities used in Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.[15][16] Brotherboy is used by "transgender, nonbinary and other gender diverse individuals who have a 'male' spirit and take on male roles within the community".[15] In comparison, sistergirl is used by individuals who have a 'female' spirit and thus take female roles within a community.[16]

Calalai, Calabai, and Bissu[]

Calalai, calabai, and bissu are three of five gender identities acknowledged in traditional Bugis society. Calalai is comparable to trans women or feminine nonbinary, calabai is comparable to trans men or masculine nonbinary, and bissu is neutral between male and female.[17]

Faʻafafine and Faʻafatama[]

Considered "third" and "fourth" genders in Samoan cultural knowledge[18] just as many other non-binary gender identities within non-western cultures, they hold integral expected roles. Faʻafafines and faʻafatamas have fluid gender roles between men and women who are valuable thanks to their ability to discuss and educate on taboo subjects and care for elders. One such taboo subject is sex and sexuality, something that is considered taboo for men and women in public.[19]

One cultural performance that has been preserved in Samoan culture that has been enhanced by faʻafafines and faʻafatamas is the taupou. Where the taupou traditionally represents traditional feminine values of Samoan people that was favored by Christian missionaries for its "virginal" and "virtuous" nature. The taupou is typically selected by the chief to represent and entertain visitors. In modern day faʻafafines and faʻafatamas perform and preserve the taupou with a twist of humor while wearing the traditional clothing. To this day, faʻafafines and faʻafatamas continue to do both the taupou and care for the elderly at the same time by raising money through pageants.[19][20]


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.[7] In most cases, hijra are individuals who were assigned male at birth and have a feminine presentation,[8][21] but may also include individuals who are intersex or assigned female at birth as well.[7] Hijra may or may not undergo surgery to transition.[21][22]

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.[8] In 2014, hijras gained official government recognition as a separate gender in India.[7][22][23]


Machi is a fluid gender identity determined by the spirituality and internal identity of the machi rather than biological sex that originates in the Mapuche culture. Balance is important in Mapuche culture and so a machi's ability to be fluid between the male and female, the physical and spiritual worlds is important.[24]


Māhū is a native Hawaiian gender role that is "somewhere between or encompassing both the masculine and feminine". Anyone, regardless of what gender they were assigned at birth, can be a māhū. Due to the colonization of Hawaiʻi and suppression of the native culture by the United States, māhū were and continue to be discriminated against in modern times.[8]


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.[8][25]

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.[8][26]


Travesti is a Latin-American term meant to refer to a person of a feminine gender identity and born with a male body. The term travesti originally came from Spain, exclusively referring to a crossdresser or "transvestite", although it is no longer applied to trans people in recent times due to the greater awareness of transgender identity. This happened later in Latin-America and thus travesti took on a different connotation to its original negative stereotypes.[27] Travestis as well as other trans* people play a major role, especially as a local identity, in fostering thoughts of LGTBIQ+ and specifically trans* possible futures.[28]


Two-Spirit refers to a strictly Native North American identity[6] 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.[29] Two-Spirit is all-encompassing of LGBTQIA+ identities.[6]


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.[30] Waria has many other meanings, including being synonymous with transfeminine, nonbinary, and other interpretations.[10]


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).[31] There have been continuing pushes in modern Japan for proper recognition of x-gender individuals, but progress has been overall slow.[32]

Yinyang Ren[]

Yinyang Ren (Simplified Chinese: 阴阳人, Traditional Chinese: 间性人, Pinyin: jiānxìngrén/yīnyángrén) 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.[33] In some contexts, yinyang ren is also used to refer to intersex people.[34]



  • The Truth About Me: A Hijra Life Story, an autobiography by A. Revathi[35][36]
  • X-Gender, an autobiographical manga by Asuka Miyazaki[37][38]

Public Figures[]

  • Simran Shaikh, a hijra social activist who is also studying trans physiology[39]
  • Amaranta Gómez Regalado, a muxe anthropologist and social activist[39][40]
  • Yūki Kamatani, an X-gender mangaka from Japan[41][42]
  • Yuu Watase, an X-gender mangaka from Japan[43][44]


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


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "On visibility; culture specific identities" by van Zeijl, Michael on <>. Published 2023-04-01 by Trans Writes. (Archived on 2023-10-02)
  2. "About" on <>. Published by Society for the Acceptance of Non-Binary Genders. (Archived on 2022-05-10)
  3. "Cultural Identity" by Vivian Hsueh-Hua Chen on <>. Published 2014 by Center for Intercultural Dialogue. (Archived on 2022-03-31)
  4. "Exploring Specific Cultural Identities" by Grothe, Tom on <>. Published by Butte College. (Archived on 2022-05-10)
  5. Nonbinary Gender Identities: History, Culture, Resources by McNabb, Charlie. Published 2018 by Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781442275515.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "What it really means to identify as Two-Spirit in Indigenous culture" by John Garry on <>. Published 2020-08-21. (no backup information provided)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 "The Hijra Community and Decolonizing Gender" on <>. Published 2021-06-24 by Asian Indian Family Wellness SEWA-AIFW. (Archived on 2022-02-02)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 "A Map of Gender-Diverse Cultures" on <>. Published 2015-08-11 by PBS. (Archived on 2022-04-24)
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "Why 'third gender' is a problematic label" by Nuarey, Afra on <>. Published 2021-08-16 by The Business Standard. (Archived on 2021-08-16)
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Defining Waria" by Kortschak, Irfan on <>. Published 2007-09-08 by Inside Indonesia. (no backup information provided)
  11. "Transgender, Third Gender, No Gender: Part II" by Neela Ghoshal on <>. Published 2020-09-08 by Human Rights Watch. (Archived on 2022-02-16)
  12. "Examining Precontact Inuit Gender Complexity and Its Discursive Potential for LGBTQ2S+ and Decolonization Movements" by Meghan Walley on <>. Published 2014. (Archived on 2022-03-17)
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Gender Fluidity in the Torah" on <>. Published 2023-06-16 by Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. (no backup information provided)
  14. 14.0 14.1 "The Eight Genders in the Talmud" on <>. Published 2023-06-16 by My Jewish Learning. (no backup information provided)
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Brotherboy" on <>. Published 2020-12-09 by Albany Pride. (Archived on 2022-08-19)
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Sistergirl" on <>. Published 2020-12-09 by Albany Pride. (Archived on 2022-08-19)
  17. Gender Diversity in Indonesia Sexuality, Islam and Queer Selves [ed. 1] by "Davies, Sharyn Graham". Published 2011 by Routledge. ISBN 9780415695930.
  18. "Fa'afafines and Fa'afatamas: The Four Genders in Samoa" by Samuels, A. J. on <>. Published 2021. (no backup information provided)
  19. 19.0 19.1 "Beyond Gender: Indigenous Perspectives, Fa'afafine and Fa'afatama" on <>(no backup information provided)
  20. "Miss Fa'afafine: Behind Samoa's "Third Gender" Beauty Pageants" by Tan, Yvette on <>. Published 2016. (no backup information provided)
  21. 21.0 21.1 "The Third Gender and Hijras" by Rhude, Kristofer on <>. Published 2018. (Archived on 2022-03-26)
  22. 22.0 22.1 "A Journey Of Pain And Beauty: On Becoming Transgender In India" by McCarthy, Julie on <>. Published 2014-04-18 by NPR. (Archived on 2021-10-02)
  23. "India’s hijras find themselves further marginalized amid the pandemic" by Phillip Baumgart and Shariq Farooqi on <>. Published 2020-07-17 by Atlantic Council. (Archived on 2022-05-05)
  24. "Beyond Gender: Indigenous Perspectives, Mapuche" on <>(no backup information provided)
  25. "Cooking with Muxes, Mexico's Third Gender" by Luis Cobelo on <>. Published 2016-11-26 by VICE. (Archived on 2021-05-14)
  26. "At home with Albania's last sworn virgins" on <>. Published 2008-06-27 by The Sydney Morning Herald. (Archived on 2022-05-10)
  27. "About: Travesti (Gender Identity)" on <>(no backup information provided)
  28. The Archival Riot: Travesti/Trans* Audiovisual Memory Politics in Twenty-First-Century Argentina [Volume 15], 6 by Simonetto, Patricio, Butierrez, Marce. Published 2022 by Sage Journal. (web archive)
  29. "Two-Spirit Community" by Re:Searching For LGBTQ2S+ Health on <>(Archived on 2022-01-20)
  30. "Genders and Sexualities in Indonesian Cinema: Constructing Gay, Lesbi and Waria Identities on Screen" by Murtagh, Ben in Asian Journal of Social Science, Vol. 43, No. 4. Published 2015. (web archive)
  31. "Non-Binary in Japan" on <>. Published 2019-10-17 by ABNRML JAPAN. (Archived on 2022-01-18)
  32. "Pushing for 'X-gender' recognition" by Tokoi Miyuki and Mochizuki Mami on <>. Published 2019-06-11. (Archived on 2022-04-17)
  33. Dong Zhongshu's Transformation of "Yin-Yang" Theory and Contesting of Gender Identity [Featured in "Philosophy East and West", Vol. 55, No. 2] by Robin R. Wang. Published 2005-04 by University of Hawai'i Press. ISSN 0031-8221.
  34. "Half Yin, Half Yang: Xie Jianshun and Intersexuality in 1950s Taiwan" on <>. Published 2020-12-12 by Rice University. (Archived on 2022-05-10)
  35. The Truth About Me: A Hijra Life Story by A. Revathi. Published 2010 by Penguin (India), New Delhi. ISBN 978-0-143-06836-5.
  36. "The Truth About Me—A Hijra Life Story; Book Review By Yoginder Sikand" by Sikand, Yoginder on <>. Published 2010-08-08 by Countercurrents. (Archived on 2022-10-15)
  37. X-Gender, volume 1 by Miyazaki, Asuka. Published 2022-06-14 by Seven Seas Entertainment. ISBN 978-1-63858-399-8.
  38. "X-Gender" on <>. Published by Seven Seas Entertainment. (Archived on 2022-10-12)
  39. 39.0 39.1 "About - TvT" on <>. Published by Transrespect versus Transphobia Worldwide. (Archived on 2022-10-29)
  40. "“Soy la primera muxe en obtener un título profesional”: Amaranta Gómez" (in Spanish) by Vázquez, Claudia Peralta on <>. Published by Universidad Veracruzana. "Translation of title: '"I am the first muxe to obtain a professional degree": Amaranta Gómez' Full article discusses Amaranta Gómez Regalado's work on her degree and activism." (Archived on 2019-08-01)
  41. "鎌谷悠希 on Twitter" (in Japanese) by Kamatani,Yuhki on <>. Published 2012-05-07. "Translation of tweet: 'I know it's not something to hide, say or categorize, but there are times when I feel asexually angry at myself for trying to live safely. I don't want to be fooled. I am an X-gender and asexual sexual minority. That's the kind of person I am.'" (Archive link)
  42. "Yuhki Kamatani" on <>. Published by MyAnimeList. (Archived on 2022-05-16)
  43. "渡瀬悠宇/「アラタカンガタリ~革神語」サンデーうぇぶり連載中 on Twitter" (in Japanese) by Watase, Yuu on <>. Published 2019-05-20. "Translation of tweet: 'I muttered it on my blog and here, but again. I think it affects comics too. I've been diagnosed as X-gender by a doctor, and I'm neither male nor female. If you want to look good (in your late 20s and in line with society), do it anyway, make up and be fashionable, that's all. I don't deny the female body'" (Archived on 2022-10-18)
  44. "Best LGBTQ+ Characters of 2019" by Liu, Michelle on <>. Published 2020-01-01 by Anime News Network. "The same year, Fushigi Yugi creator Yuu Watase came out as X-gender" (Archived on 2022-09-06)