Re: Cultural 'homosexuality'

From: James Carman <>
Date: Wed, 20 Sep 2000 08:49:51 +1000

The Glorantha Digest wrote:
> Date: Mon, 18 Sep 2000 22:50:32 +0100
> From: Madeleine Eid <>
> Subject: Re: Nandani
> > I agree heartily with what you say about Nandani. They are men (not
> > magical transexuals) who function culturally as women. I believe there is a
> > class of men in India who have similar status.
> >
> They are, as I recall, eunuchs in the Arabian Nights/Chinese court sense
> (rather than as a consequence of a medical condition). They are usually
> prostitutes, and are (I think) classed as Untouchables, although they are
> considered good luck and fertility bringers at weddings. Their numbers are
> declining; if I recall correctly, they were formerly attached to a cult or to
> a court (can't remember exactly which one) - modern 'recruits' are usually
> transexuals obtaining the money for the next stage of the procedure; the older
> members of the group did originally have a religious or ceremonial function.
> Maddy E

You have something similar to Nandan in several cultures - most notably Pacific Islander, but also some Native American and a few others. John Hughes will know more than I, most likely, since most of the studies of these cultural elements are Anthropological.

In Samoa and many nearby ones, you have what some people describe as a 'third gender'. In Samoa, they're called the Fa'afafine, in Tonga the fakaleiti, and other things in other places. Essentially, they're a group of people who take on the characteristics and tasks of the opposite gender. They don't become women, though some people regard them as daughters and not as sons. Many become entertainers (taking on many elements of the western Drag Queen). Most just stay at home and do women's tasks. However, they /are/ capable of men's tasks as well - - some parents say they love having fa'afine, because out in the fields they're men, inside they're women. Many fa'fafine regard those who wear women's clothes as strange - they dress as men, act as men, they just do women's tasks. This would appear to be the more traditional interpretation, merley taking on tasks. But many of the modern ones are adopting the western 'queer' lifestyle.

As far as homosexuality goes, however: they don't see themselves as gay, and few others do, either. Men having sex with a fa'afine is normal, but to have a prolonged relationship with one is considered rather strange and will put your manhood into doubt. Fa'fafine, by and large, don't want to have sex with each other. And having sex with a woman isn't talked about, it seems.

So, as you can see, you don't have to 'become a woman' in order to take on a woman's role - it all depends on how women are defined. In many cultures, it's by their tasks ('tomboys'). Orlanthi society doesn't seem to be quite like this - - Vingans are still considered women, it appears. So Nandans would likely still be considered men, unless something magical does actually happen. That, or cultural values may just be uneven - women can act like men, but men who act like women may no longer be men. Just a few options for Your Glorantha. :)

(John, can you correct me if I'm wrong anywhere? I'd hate to be embarrassed. Only picked up anthropology this year.)

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