Why Third Gender?

Towle and Morgan make multiple interesting arguments in their article, “Romancing the Transgender Native.” They discuss the concept of “third gender” and its implications. They look at how this concept has been used in the U.S. to talk about transgendered people. They explain, “Over the past decade there has been an increase in the popular use of cross-cultural examples to provide legitimacy to transgender movements in the United States,” (Towle & Morgan, 666).  Social movements and political activists have taken this term and employed it in their practices in order to prove there are people outside of the two-gender system. Towle and Morgan explain how transgender activists use “third gender” to blame culture for their oppression rather than having to use the “born into the wrong body” argument.

 A news article I found, which you can look at here: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/nepal-issue-gender-ids-article-1.1245786

This article discusses Nepal who is offering “third gender” ID’s to citizens who don’t identify as male or female. Activists have been supporting this decision, saying it will help these people receive jobs, own property, and enroll in school. I however, disagree, especially after reading “Romancing the Transgender Native.”          

Although anthropologists have helped encourage people to think outside of a two-gender system, there have also been flaws after using this concept. One of the things this concept has done is that it lumps way too many non-normative genders into one small category. It ignores the diversity and variations within genders. Therefore, I feel that people in Nepal having “third gender” ID’s, simply reinforces yet another gender category, instead of expanding it as we should be. What is going to be next? Having people carry around fourth and fifth gender ID’s as well? The cycle will just be endless. The only solution is to completely take away having to put “male” or “female” on ID’s because the reality is, these categories do not exist. Also, what makes these activists think that carrying this ID will allow for more acceptance? I feel as if this would just make matters worse for them in the end.

Another compelling argument Towle and Morgan make is how the third gender concept creates problems with how we view non-western societies. They say, “The ‘third gender’ concept encourages Westerners to make poorly informed assumptions about the meaning and significance of gender dynamics in non-Western societies,” (681). They instead, encourage us to think about gender in terms of how it is different in each individual culture or society. This is something I think should be done even further, on an individual level as well. Gender is an individual concept for each and every person, which is another reason why I don’t think third gender ID’s should be implemented in Nepal. If we truly want to understand gender, we need to examine it individually, rather than among groups. 

– Miranda Fencl


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