Third gender is a concept in which individuals are categorized, either by themselves or by society, as neither man nor woman. It is also a social category present in societies that recognize three or more genders. The term third is usually understood to mean “other”, though some anthropologists and sociologists have described fourth[1] and fifth[2] genders.

The state of personally identifying as, or being identified by society as, a man, a woman, or other, is usually also defined by the individual’s gender identity and gender role in the particular culture in which they live.

Most cultures use a gender binary, having two genders (boys/men and girls/women).[3][4][5] In cultures with a third or fourth gender, these genders may represent very different things. To Native Hawaiians and Tahitians, Māhū is an intermediate state between man and woman, or a “person of indeterminate gender”.[6][better source needed] Some traditional Diné Native Americans of the Southwestern US acknowledge a spectrum of four genders: feminine woman, masculine woman, feminine man, and masculine man.[7] The term “third gender” has also been used to describe the hijras of India[8] who have gained legal identity, fa’afafine of Polynesia, and sworn virgins.[9] A culture recognizing a third gender does not in itself mean that they were valued by that culture, and often is the result of explicit devaluation of women in that culture.[10]