Gender Revolution," the journalist Katie Couric met with a group of LGBT students at Yale University who schooled her in contemporary Western gender terminology."Why are we suddenly seeing such huge changes in the way people are looking at their gender?" Couric asked."It's not new," one of the students told Couric. "I mean, people who might identify as trans, they've always existed in cultures for as long as we've had history and we find it now everywhere across the world."Well, sort of.
Like the student schooling Couric, we all cull bits and pieces of information from the historical past and other cultures to construct an authoritative sense of who we are, but in doing so, we risk overlaying Western gender ideology onto non-Western ways of thinking.For almost two decades, I have conducted research in two non-Western cultures that are frequently cited in Western discussions about transgender people: the Polynesian island nation of Samoa in the south Pacific, and the Istmo region of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, where the indigenous Zapotec people predominate.
In both places, I work with individuals who are male, but who present a markedly feminine manner. For example, many wear female-typical clothing and adopt feminine names.In Samoa, these individuals self-identify and are identified by others as "fa'afafine." In the Istmo, they are known to themselves and others as "muxe gunaa" or muxes for short.
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