Much like the waria of Indonesia, the third gender of Mexico, the Muxe (pronounced Mooshay using English pronunciation) have arrived at their place in society through many of the same historical events: religion (cross dressing priests and Mayan gods that were male and female at the same time), colonization, and the justification of self-identity. In the region of Oaxaca, Mexico, lies the district of Juchitán where the land of the ancient Zapotec civilization, whose language and culture still thrives, is much like it used to be before Spanish colonization. The Muxe are very welcomed in Juchitán, even considered an important aspect of society by both their communities and local governments and even though life is not perfect for many Muxe, my research suggests that there is little to no feeling of segregation between the three genders-male, female and Muxe-in the region of Juchitán.
The outer appearance of Muxe and warias are similar, however, there is a very significant difference between the warias and the Muxe; the warias, although considered a third gender in Indonesian society, still identify as transgender-saying they are the soul of a woman born in a man’s body. Alternatively, the Muxe identify not as transgender, but as an entirely different entity- saying that they are neither man nor woman.
Another very important distinction is that of sexuality. The muxe recognize themselves as being homosexual because they have male reproductive organs and are attracted to people also with male reproductive organs. Referencing my previous article once more, the warias do not categorize themselves as being homosexual and neither do their partners; the warias are attracted to ‘straight’ men and those men are attracted to their feminine soul. The question of reproductive parts does not affect the label used in the case of the warias as it does with the muxe.
The organization of society in both cases is clearly very different when analyzing from the point of view of gender, sex and sexuality and the outcome of these alternative modes of societal organization have had different affects. For example the warias were fitted to the niche of ‘entertainers’ in quite literally all aspects of the word, however, the muxe have been fitted to the niche of caregiver. This is due to a few reasons. The first that comes into play is the fact that they can’t have children of their own, and therefore adhere to the expectation of taking care of the parents in the family as they grow older and can no longer take care of themselves. The second is that the majority (not all), of muxe take on skills and chores deemed feminine by the rest of society, such as cooking, cleaning, making clothes, and hairdressing. These roles that most muxe tend to fill have coded them as having feminine qualities, the most significant of which is that of the caregiver or natural mother to reference Donna Haraway’s book Primate visions.
To give justice to the gender spectrum that the muxe have established in the Zapotec culture, I would like to point out that not all muxe are the same, in fact they have a spectrum of their own. In particular there are two labels on either side of the muxe spectrum: the less common pintadas (translated to graffiti) who wear men’s clothing and make-up, and the vestidas (derived from the Spanish word of dress) who often get breast implants and nose jobs. This spectrum holds value for western feminist theory which still holds rigid, the border between feminine and masculine and the necessity of the two genders to align with female and male sex as well as heterosexuality. What a look into this organization of this south western Mexican society has done is bring to the light that fact that these three aspects of identity are just that, three, individual aspects that should be treated as independent from each other in a societal organization that is fluid rather then rigid.