Four hundred years ago in Japan, a complex social structure existed in which gender involved more than a person’s biological sex. Age, position in the sexual hierarchy, and appearance were also considered. Fundamental to this structure were male youths termed wakashu. Neither “adult man” nor “woman”—each a separate gender—they were objects of desire for both, playing distinct social and sexual roles. They constituted a third gender and are visually represented in approximately 60 beautiful Edo period woodblock prints (ukiyo-e) in the exhibition. A Third Gender is the first North American display on wakashu.
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