Accepting People For Who They Are: The Five Genders of the Bugis People of Indonesia

I’ve long thought that our North American society forces people into strict, confining boxes and roles, especially around gender. It’s very easy to see the fear and hatred that comes out when a young boy wants to wear a dress or play with a doll, a girl wants to play football, or a child or teen is thought to be gay. Homophobia is part of that–but there’s also a very strong, oppressive gender bias and control. And I think we’re all affected, and especially lesbians, gay men, transgender and intersex people.

So I found it inspiring and hopeful to learn that the Bugis people of Indonesia embrace five genders: female; male; Bissu (in which all aspects of gender are combined to make a whole. This can be intersex but isn’t always); Calabai (someone who is physically male at birth but whose gender identity is a woman, or a trans woman); and Calalai (someone who is physically female at birth but whose gender identity is a man, or a trans man).

The Bugis people believe that all five genders must coexist for universal harmony. They believe that if one of the genders is separated, the world would become unbalanced. They pray that everything–animals, plants, and people–stay connected to each other and coexist harmoniously around the world. And their acceptance of five genders for them is just normal. In this aspect, I think they are far ahead of North American culture. So much less pain and trauma, so much less trying to control and hurt other people. It’s something I hope we embrace more and more–that each of us should just be the way we are, what feels most right to us, without judgement.


3 Responses to “Accepting People For Who They Are: The Five Genders of the Bugis People of Indonesia”

  1. Val Says:

    I agree! No judgement. If you are not hurting anybody, then why should it bother somebody?

  2. Cheryl Rainfield Says:

    I agree, Val! Our lives should be our own. 🙂

  3. Cheryl Rainfield Says:

    As long as we’re not hurting anyone–like you said. And our sexuality or gender is not something that hurts other people. It’s about ourselves.

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