The Bugis’ Five Genders

A National Geo clip about the Bugis people in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Contrasting the Bugis’ understanding of complex gender, the voice-over claims that these 3rd, 4th, & 5th gendered people “would be considered transvestites” in the West.


Posted by on February 7th, 2009 at 11:40 am

Category: video 6 comments »

6 Responses to “The Bugis’ Five Genders”

  1. Dharma Kelleher

    So in essense the five genders according to this culture are cismen (oroané), ciswomen (makkunrai), transmen (calalai), transwomen (calabai) and genderqueer (bissu). I love the wisdom of this.

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  2. Liz

    Crazy… how is it that this is the only culture I’ve ever heard of that formally accepts more than two genders? And why isn’t this catching like wildfire? Seems like everyone would be happier if however they expressed their gender was a non-sequiter, so long as they worked hard and didn’t go out of their way to harm people, basically like what that calabai woman said.

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  3. genderkid

    I love learning about cultures with more than two genders like the hijras in South Asia. I don’t know if adopting another gender system would be a solution to gender-rigidness; but the more gender systems I encounter, the sillier some of our own gender rules seem.

    I hope this gets National Geographic viewers thinking about gender!

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    Matt replied:

    Why would it not be a solution? You even say yourself that our gender rules seem silly. It is THE solution. There can be no acceptance if we don’t change our rules, which would intrinsically change the system. I’m genderqueer, and I for one and sick of feeling like I can’t go where I want without being judged. Again, it is THE solution, and everyone in positions that afford them to go against society should do so, so everyone else can have an easier time.

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  4. Anonymous

    I think this is a very nice system, the truth is that “5 Genders” exist everywhere in the world, it is sad that westerners are still hung up on the rules of religion and what is considered taboo. Transexuals in our culture either live on the fringe of society, or they are literally trapped inside a false gender and afraid to present themselves as they feel for fear of harsh judgement and ostracization. I do believe that many people are born trasgendered and it is not merely a choice that one makes. For our society to realize this and begin accepting others for who they are truly would bring infinitely more peace to the universe and to the lives of those souls whose sexuality and gender falls outside of the mainstream.

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  5. James

    Homosexuality was legalised in New Zealand about 15 years ago. That makes it seem much less acceptable to beat people up for being transsexual.

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