Sunday, 5 July 2009

Holy Transgender?

Through many options for gender expression, including recognising five genders, this Indonesian community finds balance and peace, and prays to share this with the world. ["Taboo: Third Sex", NatGeo Channel, October 2008]


In many cultures, a person existing outside the two accepted genders is seen as confronting, even threatening. But gender is defined by culture. And on South Sulawesi, the Bugis believe that in addition to men, women and Bissu, there are two more. These two additional genders are made up of people who in the West would be considered transvestites.

Taboo's gender is calalai. Biologically she is female but she lives as a man.

Taboo: "I feel comfortable as a calalai. My family is also comfortable. As long as I'm a good person and I work hard, people accept me."

Abdul Rahman or Poppy is calabai. He has male genetalia but has lived as a woman since he was six years old.

Poppy: "I am not special. The Bugis culture accepts all five genders."

Taboo and Poppy join the fertility ceremony.

Because according to high priest Poangmatoa all five genders must co-exist for there to be universal harmony.

Bissu priest Poangmatoa: "There are five genders and we don't need to separate people based on their gender because everything must live in harmony."

"If one of the genders is separated, then the world will become unbalanced."

At a sacred cave, three miles from Segary(?), the Bissu begin the first stage of the blessing, an offering to the earth. The Bugis believe the universe has three levels.

Heaven where Partote(?) lives, the Middle World where humans live, and the Underworld where the Spirits live.

Poangmatoa: "We pray that everything -- animals, plants, people -- everything stays connected with each other. Not only from this village or the district, but the whole country ... the whole world is kept in balance and safe."

The second stage of the blessing is an offering to the Spirits. Because of their Bissu gender, the Bugis believe that Bissu priests can communicate with them. Poangmatoa must be possessed by a spirit from the Underworld before the fertility ritual can be completed.

"In order for a Bissu to be to be able to bestow particular blessings, they have to be able to contact the Spirit-world and part of the reason they can contact the Spirit-world is because they are male and female embodiments."

"And then the Bissu with all of those combinations of female-male spiritual powers can bestow a very strong blessing."


It is a pity that here, in the Philippines, things have been the other way around for the past 400 something years. I can only think of one force to blame. (to be continued)

No comments:

Post a Comment