Whether binary or a spectrum, innate or a construct, or soon to be irrelevant, gender is one of the most divisive questions on the world's lips. Are there more than two genders? What are the sides to the gender debate?
Yes, there are more than two gendersShow moreShow less
Gender expression is not exclusively male and female. There are many forms that reside on a spectrum. This spectrum offers tremendous freedom to transgender persons as well as to people born intersex.
Many societies have historically recognized more than two genders
Being nonbinary is not something new; there is great historical precedent for there being more than two genders. There have been many historic instances of people who are not male or female, so we should accept that there are more than two genders.
One cannot argue that there are only two genders just because some people and governments don’t recognize more than two genders. Though most European and (post-colonization) North American cultures have historically only recognized two genders, there are many other cultures that have historically recognized more than two genders.
Many cultures that recognize more than two genders are Indigenous peoples of North America, Africa, and Asia. One of the most prominent examples is the hijras of India. Hijras are generally people who were assigned male at birth who do not identify as a man or woman, along with some intersex people and transgender women. However, hijras are not just any person who does not identify as a man or woman; to be a hijra is also a spiritual identity. Individuals who want to be hijras must undergo a ritual process that can take months or even years to complete. Many ancient Indian texts acknowledge that three genders are part of the natural order of the world. Additionally, the Hindu god Shiva is sometimes portrayed as a genderfluid, androgynous individual, leading to Hindu communities regarding hijras with holy reverence. Thus, hijras are not just accepted as people of a “third” gender, but are also praised and highly respected for their identities. Other similar examples include the Indigenous māhū of Hawaii and the fa’afafine of Polynesia.
A Native American example of a gender besides male or female is being Two Spirit. Two Spirit people are believed to have both male and female spirits inside them, so they do not fit neatly into a gender binary. Two Spirit people have been documented for decades.
Claiming that there are only two genders erases all of these histories of people who are not male or female. There is great historical precedent for there being more than two genders, so there is no justifiable reason to deny their existence.