The local Zapotec people have made room for a third category, which they call “muxes” (pronounced MOO-shays) — men who consider themselves women and live in a socially sanctioned netherworld between the two genders...Not all muxes express their identities the same way. Some dress as women and take hormones to change their bodies. Others favor male clothes. What they share is that the community accepts them; many in it believe that muxes have special intellectual and artistic gifts.
Every November, muxes inundate the town for a grand ball that attracts local men, women and children as well as outsiders. A queen is selected; the mayor crowns her...Muxes are found in all walks of life in Juchitán, but most take on traditional female roles — selling in the market, embroidering traditional garments, cooking at home. Some also become sex workers, selling their services to men.
Excerpted from "A Lifestyle Distinct: The Muxe of Mexico," by Marc Lacey, New York Times, Sunday, Dec. 7, 2008. Go here for the full article and the not-to-be-missed slide show. Here's a sample (photo: Katie Orlinsky.)
NYT caption: "Beth-Sua enjoys a smoke at a vela in Oaxaca City. She traveled there from the Isthmus to represent her city’s muxes. Beth-Sua, born as Octavio, is a local organizer and H.I.V.-AIDS activist. She makes a living embroidering huipiles, the traditional blouse of the Isthmus region."