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Hijra are people who have a penis (not sure if sexually active) but look much like a female (perhaps for some feminine biological property). Wikipedia says they are "physiological males who have feminine gender identity"

Also, I just came to know there are some more types of third gender people.

Now, is there really any BIOLOGICAL third gender which cannot be categorized as male or female? Or its always possible to categorize them to male or female?

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4 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

When dealing with humans, there are only two Biological genders as defined by the presence or absence of the Y-Chromosome. If the Y-Chromosome is not present, or through some process gets totally deactivated, the human will appear and function as a Female.

XX = Female

XY = Male

XXY = Male (Klinefelter's Syndrome)

XYY = Male (Aneuploidy - Normal Functioning Males)

XXX = Female (Aneuploidy - Normal Functioning Females)

X = Female (Turner's Syndrome - Generally infertile, other issues)

Y = Fatal (The Y-Chromosome is drastically smaller than the X-Chromosome, which contains many necessary genes)

XXYY = Male

...

The list goes on, since there have been records of up to XXXXX.

If there is a Y-Chromosome present, the human born will be male.

However, that is not to say that a person cannot psychologically identify as something else. It's also worth noting that the majority of known species are asexual and do not have genders, and that those which do have genders do not always follow the same rules (Fruit Flies, for instance, use the ratio of genes to determine sex).

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That one is really a nice answer. I did not take biology in school (planned to be engineer) but I did know about X-Y chromosomes. However, I always thought its only XX and XY! –  Mohayemin Aug 26 '12 at 12:02
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There is also the barr body test to determine sex. When present, the organism is said to be female. Using the barr body test XXY is female and X is male. There is a certain lack of consensus on what makes a sex male or female and we normally revert to how the individual identifies, which is not particularly scientific. –  fredsbend Jan 13 at 17:50
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As I read the Wikipedia article you reference, its useful to remember that conventional chromosomal definitions of gender, the genitals are soft tissue which has many recorded morphological abnormalities. hermaphrodites and a spectrum of tissue shapes do occur to the extent that the conventional gender identity is not acceptable.

Physiological definition of gender, despite the chromosomes do need to be medically and socially addressed. I am not sure that all these 'intersex' people really should be grouped into a single 'third sex', but some way of recognizing their essential human rights should be out there in my opinion.

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I think you might be confusing sex and gender. The terms are often used interchangeably, but strictly speaking, they have different biological meanings. Sex refers to the biological categorization based on genetics, reproductive organs, or similar things, whereas gender is based on social identity.

For humans, there are only two sex chromosomes, X and Y, and they determine the male and female sexes. But there are many situations that don't fall under the XX/XY categorization, and people with these conditions are usually referred to as intersex. These can include conditions such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia, androgen insensitivity syndrome, and 5-alpha-reductase deficiency. So in short, there is no biological third sex, but that doesn't mean you can always categorize a person as biologically male or female.

As you quoted, the hijira are usually physiologically male but have a different gender identity.

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Yeah, I was not aware of the difference between gender and sex. But I mentioned Biological Gender which IMO implies the technical term sex as you explained. Thanks for explaining the distinction. –  Mohayemin Aug 27 '12 at 4:15
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Adding to @MCM answer, there are also chromosomal crossover that might happen between non homologous. You can have some of the genes of Y chromosome going to X chromosome or elsewhere, for instance, further expanding the possibilities for different sexualities...

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