The Third Gender

The division of gender and sexuality into neatly defined and labelled boxes by the new scientific kids on the block, psychology and sociology, from the late 19th century onwards has never sat well with some gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. There have always been queer voices in the west who objected to the limitations of an identity based on sexual attraction, and some who preferred to see gay men and lesbians as sitting firmly in the same camp as transgender people – because of our spiritual nature and energy. This view regards all LGBTQ+ people as part of a ‘third-gender’, one that stands apart and sees life quite differently from that experienced in the binary world of heterosexual men and women.

Victorian philosopher Edward Carpenter called gay, lesbian and trans people ‘Intermediate Types’, pushing forward the evolution of the species. In Intermediate Types among Primitive Folk, published 1914, he wrote:

…between the normal man and the normal woman there exist a great number of intermediate types – types, for instance, in which the body may be perfectly feminine, while the mind and feelings are decidedly masculine, or vice versa…Since the Christian era these intermediate types have been much persecuted in some periods and places…that they might possibly fulfil a positive and useful function of any kind in society is an idea which seems hardly if ever to have been seriously considered… In pre-Christian times and among the early civilisations… the intermediate people and their corresponding sex-relationships played a distinct part in the life of the tribe or nation, and were openly acknowledged and recognised as part of the general polity.”

The book focusses on many examples from around the world which link together same sex erotic behaviour, gender fluidity and the sacred, and speculates on the future of the species:

This interaction in fact between the masculine and the feminine, this mutual illumination of logic and meditation, may not only raise and increase the power of each of these faculties, but it may give the mind a new quality, and a new power of perception corresponding to the blending of subject and object in consciousness. It may possibly lead to the development of that third order of perception which has been called the cosmic consciousness…” Intermediate types among primitive folks

Harry Hay, a founder of the Mattachine Society campaigning for gay rights in 1950s USA and of the Radical Faeries:

“It is time for us to reject the lie by which Organised Religions have attempted to obliterate us for two millennia. Sexual Orientation isn’t the only difference between Us and the Heteros. As a result of the way we had been malignantly demeaned and diminished over the centuries, it is the only difference LEFT between US and the Heteros. It is time we took a leaf from the lessons Third Gender Brothers in other cultures have to teach us in how to re-earn the respect and gratitude of our Hetero Communities for the Different people that we are – as well as for the talents and gifts we bring to share.”

Many traditional cultures around the world recognised more than two genders, and frequently considered third-gender people as having specific qualities, for which they were highly regarded. Hay wrote about:

“…our capacities as Mediators through History – in cultures around the world as diverse as the ancient Sumerians in the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, the Neolithic as well as the Barbarian Celts of the Danube and Rhine Valleys, the Achaeans of Macedonia, the Dyaks of Borneo, the Arabs of 19th and 20th century Morocco, and the Navaho of yesterday’s and today’s Arizona…

… MEDIATORS between the seen and unseen – as Berdache Priests and Shaman Seers, as artists and architects, as Scientists, as Teachers, and as Designers of the possible;

… MEDIATORS between the make-believe and the real – through Theatre and Music and Dance and Poetry;

… MEDIATORS between the Spirit and the flesh – as Teachers and Healers and Counsellors and Therapists.”

Hay proposed that western gays take “a hand-up example from our potential allies” in other cultures,and went as far as to suggest:

...that we Gay Men of all colours prepare to present ourselves as the gentle non-competitive Third Gender men of the Western World with whole wardrobes and garages crammed with cultural and spiritual contributions to share”

Hay: “The Dine say, ‘When all the nadleehe [third-gender men and women] are gone, that will be the end of the Navaho.’ And equally, such different gentle men are seen among the largest Tribe in West Africa, the Hausa, as spirit mediators…”

We Third Gender men of Indo-European stock equally have similar talents and treasures to share. Living in the cracks of Hetero Western World sidewalks for a millennium, we actually have learned a great deal, should we finally begin to put it to use.”

One of those talents, as identified by Hay, is gay men’s capacity for what he called subject-SUBJECT Consciousness, the natural occurrence of what Edward Carpenter had called a new power of perception corresponding to the blending of subject and object in consciousness.”

Hay wrote:

The way out of our comprehensional stalemate, the quagmire into which the Binary inheritances of our brain-training and our cultural superstructure have hurled us…. Humanity must expand its experience to thinking of another, that other, not as object – to be used, to be manipulated, to be mastered, to be consumed – but as subject, as another like him/her self, another self to be respected, to be appreciated, to be cherished.”

Timothy J Leary is a Palm Springs based experimental artist who heard Harry Hay’s call to embrace the spiritual ‘third-genderness’ of his gay sexual orientation. In an article for the White Crane Journal in the 1990s Timothy asked “Who Are the Third Sex in the 20th Century?” He concludes that many gay men are in fact third-gendered souls with a spiritual calling. Having learned of the Native American Two-Spirit ‘berdache’ shamans he:

“…felt a strong kinship toward these Native Americans. The berdache were considered a third sex in their tribes. Many were shamans and artists. It was as if I was reading a story about myself. Never before had I identified so closely with historical figures. They embodied qualities that I felt I had. They were sensitive, creative and homosexual. I was thrilled to learn that they had a place in their culture and an integral role to play in their tribes. They were not discarded as lesbians and gay men are in this day and age. I was sure that if I had been born Native American I would have been a berdache.

“I have concluded that many of us already lead lives like a man-woman, and that we can amplify certain qualities of our lives so that we can fulfill our destiny and follow in the footsteps of our spiritual ancestors, the berdache. But how do we identify our place in the 1990’s? For those gay men who grew up being called “sissy” and “faggot” this can be a very important question. We were robbed of our identity as children and not allowed to develop our individual personalities with proper respect for our natural inclinations. We were taught to disdain our most natural ways of being. But in spite of the efforts of our ministers and teachers, we have managed to maintain much of our personal difference. This is evidenced in how we live.

“I developed into a person who was different from the others, not better or worse, just different. Someone who perhaps could have represented a third sex in another place and time. Someone who embodied, at once, both genders and neither gender. I grew up to become a gay man in the twentieth century; complete with the advances made in the last few decades, but not having escaped the bitter hatred of society.

“One way I dealt with the isolation of growing up gay was by turning to my spiritual life. Many of us learn to build relationships with the spiritual world because we have very few peers to support us and from whom we can learn to be ourselves. So we find out how to be ourselves from the spirits. Because of our isolation, we learn to trust our instincts and our experiences when others tell us we are wrong or that our feelings are mistaken. This strong spiritual inclination was also common among the berdache.

“Those of us who openly identify with this spiritual androgyny live lives of celebration. We celebrate our differences by exaggerating what is different about us from the mainstream. We are more familiar than most with the idea of Carnival. At public gay events one sees drag queens and leathermen celebrating their individuality and their sexuality. We own our differences instead of trying to bury them. We’ve had to hide our differences for so long that we are happy to (and need to) celebrate them. This happens at Gay Pride Parade… The streets are filled with people in every imaginable kind of costume. A true celebration of diversity! When we celebrate our ability to embody the “other” sex, as drag queens and transgendered people do, we are celebrating that part of our spirit which can cross the typical gender boundaries. This is truly a gift. We are special because the spirit makes us different. There is only a relatively small percentage of the population who can access this special spirit, this special way of being. We are gifted by our differentness.

“The ways in which we express our neither-gender status come to us from a spiritual lineage. We are simply being our most natural selves and following in the footsteps of our spiritual ancestors.

“These experiences are not universal among all gay men. There are plenty of jocks who like to suck dick. But for those of us who were classified as sissies growing up, it is important for us to see that we have a place. We were told as children that we did not have a place, but we do; we always have. We were just unfortunate enough to grow up in an era when our natural state of being was devalued. We grew up as refugees from another time, and were forced to try to be something we were not; that is the most damaging spiritual exercise of all. We were denied our divine essence by the ones who were supposed to be showing us the way to he divine. They were damaged too by what they taught us, either by suffering the same fate they tried to impose on us or by not sharing and appreciating our gifts. The spirits will not tolerate this behavior forever. They have started the stirrings in us to be the best and most natural beings we can be. It is up to us to take the courage to follow their lead.

“Today’s society recognizes only two genders. Since there is no existing place for a third sex today, we need to forge one. Like the berdache, the spirits have gifted us with our difference and our neither-gender status. The gift is freedom from society’s polarization of masculine and feminine energy. Our experience and self expression are more fluid because we are not hemmed-in to society’s restrictive gender roles. This gives us the freedom to explore and express ourselves from a broader range of human experience. Our neither-gender status gives us freedom from societal expectations as well as the responsibility to create our own way of life. The only way we can do that is to turn off the old tapes about gender conformity. We must live our lives honoring what makes us different.”

Who Are the Third Sex in the 20th Century? (

Home – Tim J Leary Studios

On the whole, the gays and lesbians of the world have not embraced their third-gender nature, have not woken up to the spiritual calling inside, which is why IN THE 2020s TRANS PEOPLE ARE MORE VISIBLE AND VOCAL THAN EVER BEFORE. They are holding the flame of third-gender power, usually supported by the rest of the gay and lesbian community, but unfortunately sometimes not. Some queers have themselves fallen into the gender binary illusion – some gay men deny their inner feminine, some lesbians feel femaleness itself is under threat from the trans emergence!

The evolution of the species is taking us into the realm of the SOUL – the core spiritual nature within all of humanity – to the inner place where we are all MASC, FEM AND NON-BINARY at once! Transgender/Third Gender people are here to lead this spiritual evolution, and there are many more of them on the planet than we currently know – for many are disguised as gay men or lesbians, as bisexuals – unaware that our sexual orientations are in fact spiritual callings, and in that calling so much passion and power awaits us.

Published by shokti

i am shokti, lovestar of the eurofaeries, aka marco queer magician of london town. i explore the links between our sexual-physical nature and our spirits, running gatherings, rituals and Queer Spirit Festival. i woke up to my part in the accelerating awakening of light love and awareness on planet earth during a shamanic death-and-rebirth process lasting from January 1995 to the year 2000, and offer here my insights and observations on the ongoing transformation of human consciousness, how to navigate the waves of change, and especially focusing on the role of queer people at this time.

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