Blending genders – By Katrina Fox

The transgender liberation movement in the West came into its own in the 1990s, but other cultures have their own take on sex and gender diversity, writes Katrina Fox.

From ancient Greek cults to Mahayana Buddhism, Hinduism and even early Christianity, the concept of transcending or blending gender has been around for centuries. In the West, the German-born sexologist Dr Harry Benjamin coined the term ‘transsexualism’ in 1966 to describe individuals who were born biologically one sex but believed they were the other (such as a woman ‘trapped’ in a man’s body and vice versa).

Transsexualism was subsequently hijacked by the medical profession and deemed a pathology, for which the solution was to undergo psychiatric assessment, take hormones and eventually have genital realignment surgery. Transsexuals were required to comply with stereotypical dress codes and behaviours attributed to their opposite gender, and under no circumstances were they allowed a sexual orientation outside that of strictly heterosexual.