Ancient Greece and Rome

Plato, in his Symposium, allows Aristophanes the opportunity to speak on the concept of the power of love. In that speech, Aristophanes says:

... For one thing, the race was divided into three; that is to say, besides the two sexes, male and female, which we have at present, there was a third which partook of the nature of both, and for which we still have a name, though the creature itself is forgotten. For though "hermaphrodite" [now called "intersexed"] is only used nowadays as a term of contempt, there really was a man-woman in those days, a being which was half male and half female.The three sexes, I may say, arose as follows. The males were descended from the Sun, the females from the Earth, and the hermaphrodites from the Moon, which partakes of either sex. (Harvey, 1997, p. 32)

The Greeks, forerunners of modern medicine, believed in the concept of more than one sex. It was well within their mythological construct and cultural norms. However, somewhere in between then and now, this concept of a "third sex/third gender" (Herdt, 1996) has been lost. It is not hard to conjecture how this loss came to be. The imposition of Judeo-Christian monotheism replaced the pantheistic view and brought the associated gender/sex continuum of the Greco-Roman era into the digital age (on or off, male or female). Perhaps the more amazing aspect of this disappearance of a conceptual construct is the fact that we now know that there is a population of individuals, currently living in Western cultural environments as well as other locations, whose birth sex should be defined as a third choice "intersexed"—even within the realm of the Western dual-sex perspective.

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