Berdache
rating: +1+x

Basic Information

Derived from an Amerindian concept the berdache is a person who is physically male but culturally female, adopting the dress, mannerisms and social status of a woman of their culture.

This is far from a universal institution - indeed, most cultures don't possess the concept and regard gender-queer individuals as perverted, mentally ill or otherwise deviant, offering (or compelling) corrective therapies rather than colluding with them.

In societies where berdachism is considered a valid lifestyle choice, it is usually entered into at coming of age when a boy would otherwise be initated as a man. From then on, he is given a woman's adult name, does women's work and lives accordingly. In some cultures, (s)he may even marry a man (normally as a additional wife given her inability to bear children) - but obviously, not a woman (because to her culture she is a woman). Some berdaches may also be eunuchs, but this was far from universal.

Another common role for berdaches - and others of "non-standard gender" - was that of shaman. Indeed, in some cultures it was normal for a shaman to be gender-queer in some way as this was seen to confer advantages in dealing with the spirit world.

Strangely … perhaps … there seems to be little evidence of a mirror image institution for women who fancy living as men. In non-historical settings this can be changed pretty easily.

Sources

Bibliography
1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Could be a source of significant squick both in and out of character.
  • Could make a very interesting PC concept as well.
  • Especially interesting if the berdaching society also has a strong taboo against homosexuality (as some of them did).
  • The female to male berdache is also a possibility for allowing women PCs into roles which it would be illogical for them to occupy in context - especially various species of barbarian warrior.
  • If you have a species with self-determined gender (or a hermaphrodite species with defined gender roles) this suddenly becomes a core social concept.
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License