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?


5 Answers 5


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).

  • $\begingroup$ 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! $\endgroup$
    – Mohayemin
    Commented Aug 26, 2012 at 12:02
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ 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. $\endgroup$
    – user3970
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 17:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How do you deal with XX males without SRY gene and with infertility? $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 22:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Remi.b -- The missing SRY gene in a phenotypical male with XX chromosomes is a really interesting exception to the general rule I described above. Thanks for bringing it up in the comments! I didn't know it existed. $\endgroup$
    – MCM
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 19:50

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.

  • $\begingroup$ 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. $\endgroup$
    – Mohayemin
    Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 4:15

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.


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...


There is an actual third gender. That is true hermaphroditism. Some humans are true hermaphrodites. The most common cause of this? 2 eggs fusing, 1 male and 1 female before they start differentiation.

These have both male and female characteristics and so they can't be classified as either male or female.

Here is my source:


  • $\begingroup$ Do you have a source for this? $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 6:27
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah I just now added it $\endgroup$
    – Caters
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 14:37
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ From your source: "There are no documented cases in which both types of gonadal tissue function." Based on this, human "true hermaphrodites" can always be classified as either "reproductively male" or "reproductively female", never a mix. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 18:16
  • $\begingroup$ 1) Hermaphrodites don't occur in humans — you may be confusing this with intersexuality. 2) Eggs don't have a sex and I don't think there's ever been a record of an egg containing an Y-chromosome so this doesn't seem to make any sense. 3) if you have evidence that two egg cells have ever been observed to fuse and lead to a viable child please post it here – since even small trisomies are typically fatal or in rare cases only have severe developmental problems (e.g. Down's syndrome) the current understanding is that a triploid human is not possible. $\endgroup$
    – tyersome
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 21:53

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