Tag: Tales of the Waria

Ancient and Worldwide

If one were to track the commentary on articles which focus on a transperson in singular or transpeople as a group, one would nearly universally discover someone stuck in opposition to our existence because transgender is “new” and/or a western/American phenomenon.

But it is neither new, nor western in origin.

The only thing that is relatively new is the fact that there are now medical procedures to treat the transgender condition.  And the word itself, I guess.  Etymology online dates it to 1988, although it dates the word “transsexual” to 1957.  The derogatory “she-male”, on the other hand, dates to the 19th Century.

Not surprisingly, it’s an English term…which is what probably spurs the thought that it is a Western phenomenon.  But the words for the phenomenon in non-western cultures are ancient.  In ancient Rome some of us were the Gallae, the castrated followers of the goddess Cybele.

Cybele’s religion was a bloody cult that required its priests and priestesses as well as followers to cut themselves during some rituals.  The cult was a mystery religion, which meant that it’s inner secrets and practices were revealed to initiates only.  The priests castrated themselves at their initiation; there was wild music, chanting, and frenzied dancing.  Cybele’s retinue included many priestesses, including Amazonian, transgendered female priests as well as traditional masculine functionaries such as the dendrophori (tree-bearer) and cannophori (reed-bearer), and transgendered males known as the Gallae.