The Five Genders of the BugisSouth Sulawesi’s Calalai, Calabai, & BissuThe Bugis of South Sulawesi have a detailed system of gender identification which has been described by one young Bugis as “one of those puzzles that doesn’t mean anything until you put all the pieces together” (Graham, 2004, p. 109). Indeed there are five distinct gender identities specified in Bugis society, which include: makkunrai (woman), calalai (transgendered female) bissu (androgynous priest), calabai (transgendered male), and oroané (man). The determination of individual gender is composed of many elements and is conveyed by Graham (2004) as a holistic consideration of physical, spiritual, social, and sexual attributes.
~The physical body is very important in determining gender. A person’s sex determines their potential to procreate and as males can never be women or calalai and females can never be men or calabai the matter is not taken lightly (Davies, 2006). As for the other factors, in many ways an individual’s spirituality, sexuality, and preference for typical male or female social roles, will first clearly determine what they are not, since the categories of ‘man’ and ‘women’ are extremely strict. As Davies (2006) describes: A woman is female-bodied, heterosexual, married, a mother, and dressed modestly and appropriately (e.g. her sarong is tucked-in rather than rolled down like a man’s). A woman acts demurely, speaks politely, is refined and reserved, and identifies and is identified as, a woman … A man is male-bodied, heterosexual, married, and a father. A man is assertive and aggressive and controlled (p. 4-5). Those unable or unwilling to conform to these rigid categories are thus excluded and necessarily relocated in another gender category - quite likely calabai or calalai depending of course upon your physiology.
~An agreed upon understanding of Bugis gender conceptualization and the role of multiple genders in South Sulawesi is difficult to convey, as many scholars have conflicting view points on the matter. While some seem mainly focused on the potential for diversity and self-expression in a society that recognizes the gender variation of its members as legitimate, others point out that forcing people into additional gender categories simply reinforces dichotomy and binary gender ideals (Davies, 2006; Graham, 2004; Idrus, 2005; Murray, 2002).