Meet The Gender-Smashing Muxes Of Mexico Giving Pride A Whole New Meaning

All around the world members of the LGBTQ+ community are celebrating Pride Month, and this includes Mexico’s traditional muxe community. Originating in the state of Oaxaca, the muxe community – people who identify as a sort of third gender – is considered a blessing by the Indigenous Zapotec culture.

The word muxes – also spelled muxhes in some instances – comes from the Spanish word for woman “mujer,” and it generally represents people who are assigned male at birth, but identify as non-binary. Muxes have their own gender identity, different from what the West has traditionally dubbed to be female, male, or even transgender.

Mexico’s muxes allegedly originate from ancient seeds

According to legend, Mexico’s muxes sprang to life from seeds carried by the patron saint of the town of Juchitán – located in Oaxaca. Saint Vicente Ferrar was carrying three bags filled with seeds, one of which carried a mixture of fertile and non-fertile seeds. It’s the latter bag that had a hole in it and its seeds were dispersed throughout the region.

It’s from these mixed seeds that muxes were born.

So how do muxes identify when it comes to their gender?

Many people want to put Mexico’s muxe into a box when it comes to their gender-identity, in an effort to better understand the community’s gender. But Damián Gerardo – who identifies as muxe and is from Oaxaca – explained to Mitú that from their point of view, he is simply muxe.

“To refer to us a third gender is wanting to place us in a box. As soon as we started living our muxe lives we never decided that we were a third gender, we’re just the gender we identify as. In fact, our language doesn’t even allow for this option. It’s a very Western concept,” they told Mitú.

They’re considered an integral part of the community in many parts of Oaxaca.

Credit: Courtest of Damián Gerardo

The city of Juchitán is often considered the birthplace of the muxe. And it remains a very common place for the muxe commnunity to organize and meet others from the community. However, Gerardo points out that to this day it is not quite the ‘paradise’ that it’s often made out to be.

“It’s only after generations of fighting for respect and equal treatment that we are respected by the community,” says Gerardo. Gerardo also pointed out the work still being done by many muxe to make sure that younger sisters are safe and welcomed.

In contrast, other rural areas in Mexico still live with limited definitions and gender stereotypes. It’s not dissimilar to the continued intolerance of trans and queer-identifying people across the globe – much like the U.S.’s ongoing battle over transgender bathroom bills, muxes in Mexico face a similar backlash for using gender-assigned restrooms.

Gerardo is also quick to point out to Mitú that he and his muxe sisters are opening paths where there were none before – for example in education and politics. “Since before we had to put aside the appearance of a woman and adopt that of a man to be able to exercise or participate in these activities,” he explains.

There’s even an annual festival to celebrate muxes in Oaxaca.

Every November in Juchitán, Oaxaca, the four-day long celebration ‘La Vela de las Auténticas Intrépidas Buscadoras del Peligró’ (The Celebration of the Bold Seekers of Danger) takes over the streets, as locals gather in honor of the muxe community.

Although the world is getting to know more about muxes, there are still many misconceptions.

Los muxes are a distinct gender. They are not necessarily gay. Some take female lovers, some take male lovers. And while many dress as women, some do not. The less common pintadas wear make up but dress as men.

“If a muxe aspires to be a woman or to identify as a woman, then it’s not a different gender,” they said. “In the muxe community, there are many layers and not all self-identify, or are identified in the same way,” according to Mexican artist Lukas Avendaño.

Nevertheless, muxes continue to represent their community across the country. In 2003, Amaranta Gómez Regalado’s candidacy at age 25 in the México Posible party marked a national moment of pride and awareness for muxes. Despite the fact that Regalado was not elected to office, the now 41-year-old takes pride in leading the way for her community. For over a decade now, Regalado has served as a leading advocate in Mexico’s LGBTQ communities.

“I believe that it is vitally important that the people of this culture play an active part in the diffusion and defense of it,” Regalado wrote in an essay for Desacatos.

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