In today’s society, things are not always easy for transpeople. They often face discrimination and have higher rates of poverty. It wasn’t always this way. Many ancient cultures honored those with transgender identities in a variety of ways.
In early Islamic culture a certain type of transgender woman, called a mukhannathun, was a woman who had been born a male but whose femininity was natural. It was accepted for them to have relations with either men or women.
In Native American Cultures, the two-spirit nature was recognized in people who were what we now consider transgender, or even simply gay or lesbian. These people were given special privileges within the community. In certain tribes, no matter would be decided on without first consulting the tribe’s two-spirit person or people. These people were seen as having two spirits living inside of them, and thus had more sage advice to give.
Ancient Greece brought on the legend of the Amazons, often thought to be a tribe comprised of trans women. They are also the origin of the term androginae, meaning a combination of the two sexes. In South America in the 1500’s, certain tribes were discovered to have similar transgender roles. There were many male-to-female priestesses, and even some female-to-male warriors. It is from these people that the Amazon River got it’s name, after the Greek legend.
Many Eastern Asia societies also revered transgender people. In areas of Japan, some priests were able to undergo the process of “becoming female.” In Indonesia, there are religious ceremonies which require the presence of a trans person to perform certain functions. Fanchuan, the historical term used to describe crossdressing for theatre in China, was widely accepted around the turn of the 20th century.
While some modern cultures seem to be trailing the past, there has been progress through communities like TSmeet, opening up the eyes of curious browsers to a world which includes many shades of gray.