The term “third gender” is used in various cultures worldwide to describe a gender identity that is neither exclusively male nor female. This concept is known by different names across cultures, such as hijra in South Asia, two-spirit among some Indigenous North American communities, and fa’afafine in Samoa.

The physical attributes (including genitalia) of third-gender individuals can vary widely. Here’s a basic understanding:

  1. Hijra: In South Asia, hijra individuals might be intersex (born with genitals that don’t fit typical definitions of male or female), eunuchs, or transgender. Some hijras undergo castration, which involves the removal of the testes, and sometimes the penis as well, while others might not undergo any surgical modifications.
  2. Two-Spirit: This is a cultural and spiritual identity among some Indigenous North American peoples. Two-spirit individuals can have a range of physical bodies, from those typically male or female to intersex bodies.
  3. Fa’afafine: In Samoa, fa’afafine are people who are assigned male at birth but take on a feminine gender role. Their physical genitalia typically align with male attributes, though not all fa’afafine undergo medical or surgical interventions.
  4. Intersex: Globally, some individuals are born with intersex traits, meaning that their physical genitals, chromosomes, or internal reproductive systems don’t fit typical definitions of male or female. There’s a wide variety of intersex variations. In some cultures, intersex individuals might be recognized as a third gender, while in others, they might be categorized as male or female.

It’s crucial to approach this topic with sensitivity and respect. Some third-gender individuals might consider discussions about their genitalia intrusive or inappropriate. Understanding and acceptance of third-gender identities and intersex variations are essential for creating inclusive societies.