Episode 11: Religion and the Third Gender: Historical Examples of Transgenderism

After a two-month hiatus, Unorthodoxy with Witch Zaftig returns with a new segment discussing the concept of a “third gender.” As always, the stand-alone segment can be heard here, or listen to the entire 9sense podcast here.

We discuss three cultural examples of third gender status, and how the enveloping society addresses transgenderism:

Native American Berdache or Two-Spirited peoples. Berdache are understood with more complexity than the Euro-American concept of homosexuality, but are instead viewed as having both male and female spirits, and thus doubly spiritually gifted.

South Asia’s Hjira

And finally, Albania’s Sworn Virgins. Check out this short video from National GeographicGQ article, and full photoessay from Jill Peters.


Photographer Jill Peters, jillpetersphotography.com

Additionally, here is the trailer for Rachel Morrison’s documentary He/She/He.

We tie in our discussion with Satanism, and LaVey’s statements about transgenderism, which were few, but consistent:

LaVey’s focus in The Satanic Witch is usually directed at straight women, but there are several (smaller and less detailed) references to persons of differing sexual orientations throughout his writings. In his various texts LaVey: denounces notions that transgendered persons are “nuts” and encourages them to seek medical advice on transitioning from amenable psychiatrists (Letters from the Devil 2010, 40); extolls the virtues of healthy transvestism (ibid 1); claims homosexuals are the only truly sexually liberated (The Devil’s Notebook 1992, 99); and allows for masculine women who want sex changes as an act of self-fulfillment (The Satanic Witch 2003, 38).

[From Holt 2013, “Blood, Sweat, and Urine:The Scent of Feminine Fluids in Anton LaVey’s The Satanic Witch,” International Journal for the Study of New Religions 4.2: 191, footnote 9.]

Episode 11 can be heard as a stand-alone segment here, or listen to the entire episode here.