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Among certain Native American peoples, a person, usually a male, who assumes the gender identity and is granted the social status of the opposite sex.

[North American French, from French bardache, catamite, from Italian dialectal bardascia, from Arabic bardaj, slave, from Persian bardah, prisoner, from Middle Persian vartak, from Old Iranian *varta-; see welə- in Indo-European roots.]

ber·dach′ism n.


a Native American transvestite



(in some American Indian tribes) a man who adopts the dress and social roles traditionally assigned to women.
[1800–10; < North American French; French bardache boy prostitute < South Italian bardascia < Arabic bardaj slave < Persian bardag]
References in periodicals archive ?
On the contrary, they symbolically sacrificed the berdache before the newcomers.
When David Halperin, who seems to stand on only one piece of ground, "insists on the non-universality of homosexuality" by stating that it is impossible to consider the attractions of a classical Greek male adult, a berdache in woman's clothing, or an Asmat tribesman in New Guinea, in any way comparable either to each other or to anyone in, say, modern Manhattan, I keep wondering if Halperin has ever read the love poetry of ancient Greece, which often sounds as if it came directly out of Chelsea.
While we do not suggest that the Hirschlanden figure depicts some form of Hallstatt berdache (a man who takes on female gender roles), there are clearly hints that the intended 'readings' of the statue may have been ambiguous.
Many Native American traditions have celebrated homosexuals as healers and shamans, referring to them as berdache or "two-spirited.
179) in 1657 if one does not know the central role the lifelong transvested male berdache had long played in traditional native culture, for presumably, the noteworthy amount of cross-dressing in Garza's documents traces back at least in part to this (by Garza unexamined) institution of the berdache.
The important role of the berdache in many Native American nations provides a useful example.
Some chieftains might establish a berdache brothel that produced an income for them from active homosexual clients.
See generally Niko Besnier, Polynesian Gender Liminality Through Time and Space, in THIRD SEX, supra note 64, at 285 (discussing the "intermediate" gender categories of the islands of Polynesia); Serena Nanda, Hijras: An Alternative Sex and Gender Role in India, in THIRD SEX, supra note 64, at 373, 373 (discussing the "cultural notions of hijras as `intersexed' and 'eunuchs,' emphas[izing] that they are neither male nor female, man nor woman"); Will Roscoe, How to Become a Berdache: Toward a Unified Analysis of Gender Diversity, in THIRD SEX, supra note 64, at 329 (discussing the berdache tradition in Native American societies).
Recounting the life of Wewha, a Zuni berdache, Roscoe documents the existence among the Zuni of a "third gender" -- an alternative, socially (rather than sexually) determined role adopted by homosexual and bisexual males and females.
I am struck by the often highly romanticized (and hence suspect) image of the berdache in Aboriginal cultures: an individual that might be (in contemporary terms) a homosexual or cross-dresser or transsexual or hermaphrodite but accepted as a manifestation of the natural and spirit worlds and celebrated as a gift and a power, and not shunned as a deviance or a perversion.
Kiowa Jim's bride is a berdache, or "two-spirit"--a respected figure in Native American culture who embodied the power and energy of both sexes.
4) On the one hand there was the repressive, Anglo society which had in truth exterminated a good part of native America, on the other the freedom-loving and carefree Indian, whose berdache brother had chosen his own gender identity and was proud of it.