Lars Eighner (
4 Sep 1996 02:08:02 -0500

In our last episode <50hsqp$>,
Broadcast on alt.folklore.urban,sci.anthropology
The lovely and talented (Bryant) wrote:

>In article <>, Lars Eighner <> wrote:
>>The lovely and talented (Bryant) wrote:
>>>What happens in the cultures you have in mind when a husband finds out
>>>about the trysts? What cultures, in fact, are you describing?
>>I say "he," but of course in a number of societies the husband
>>may be a woman. [...]
>I have learned of only one culture in which women could play the
>role of husbands (Sioux, I recall). What are the others?

Many of the Bantu-speaking peoples have these customs.
Female-female marriage was very widespread in sub-Saharan Africa.
>That I pose the question shows that I am not familiar with
>the cultures you seem to be discussing. Name them, please.
>Asking for references or the names of the cultures you're thinking of should
>not be taken as some kind of insult. Clarification helps the rest of us
>understand your points. Since you appear to have thought my request for
>information a challenge of some sort, I forgive your arrogant reply.

It was not that request, but the prejudicial way in which you
frame your questions. Moreover, requesting information on matters that are
common knowledge and so widely discussed suggest
disingenuousness, since this is all pretty much Into to Cultural
Anthropology stuff--and I'm pretty sure most of it must be in
sections for non-majors too.

In the Americas same-sex marriage *USUALLY* occurs in the
context of one of the parties being differently gendered.
Whether this is an intermediate gender or a gender off of
the male-female axis is a matter of considerable controversy.

Blackwood has prefered the term "cross-gendered" female
and has identified the phenomenon in some 33 American groups.
In theory any cross-gender female may be a husband,
at least of a female wife. And actual occurrences of such
marriages are recorded for almost all of these groups,
since "being the husband of a woman" is the main way of
identifying cross-gendered females. Quite a few specific
observations and a number of societies not covered in Blackwood
can be found in Williams' chapter on Woman-Woman marriages.

In *GENERAL* the African pattern for female-female marriage
is very different in that women who are husbands are not
differently gendered. "Husband" and "father" (=pater)
are merely roles that women may adopt while being of the
same gender as their wifes and as of women who are wives of
men. The female husband is pater to the children of her
wife. Perhaps it would be best to begin with Oboler
(below) for an overview of the basic Bantu pattern of
female-female marriage.

Allen, Paula Gunn. "Lesbians in American Indian
Cultures," Conditions 7 (1981), pp. 67-87.
Bass-Hass, Rita. "The Lesbian Dyad," Journal of Sex
Research 9 (1968), pp. 108-126.
Dorsey, James O. "A Study of the Siouan Cults," Bureau
of American Ethnology Annual Report 11
(1889-1890): 378-467
Evans-Pritchard, Edward Evan. (1902-1973) Kinship and
Marriage Among the Nuer. (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1960) xi, 183 p. illus. 23 cm. DD:572.9624 EV16K.
Evans-Pritchard, Edward Evan. "Kinship and Local
Community Among the Nuer," in Radcliffe-Brown.
Gluckman, Max. "Kinship and Marriage among the Lozi of
Northern Rhodesia and the Zulu of Natal" in
Huntingford, George Wynn Brereton. The Nandi of Kenya:
Tribal Control in a Pastoral Society. With a
Foreword by Sir Claud Hollis (London: Routledge &
Paul, 1953) xiii, 169 p. illus., maps (part fold.)
23 cm. Bibliography: p. 159-160. DD:572.96762
H92N. (p. 19)
Oboler, Regina Smith (1947- ). "Is the Female Husband a
Man? Woman/Woman Marriage among the Nandi of
Kenya," Ethnology 19 (1980), pp. 69-88.
O'Brien, Denise. "Female Husbands in Southern Bantu
Societies," in Schlegel, Alice, editor.
Sexual Stratification: A
Cross-cultural View. (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1977) xix, 371 p.; 24 cm.
Includes bibliographies and indexes. LC:GN 479.7
Schapera, Isaac (1905- ) A Handbook of Tswana Law and
Custom. (London: 1938).
Uchendu, Victor Chikezie. The Igbo of Southeast
Nigeria. (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston,
1965) xiii, 111 p. illus., map, port. 24 cm.
Includes bibliographies. DD:309.9669 UC4I

Of course male-male marriage (either very much more common
or one suspects, very much better reported) follows somewhat
different patterns, for there is only one clear-cut example
that is known in which males may become wifes while remaining
in the masculine gender. In Africa *GENERALLY* they must adopt
the feminine gender to be wives (their husbands, of course,
are males in the masculine gender), where as in America
they must be differently gender (in general).

Mentioned above:

Blackwood, Evelyn. "Sexuality and Gender in Certain
Native American Tribes: The Case of Cross-Gender
Females," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and
Society 10 (1984), pp. 27-42.
Radcliffe-Brown, Alfred Reginald (1881-1955) and Daryll
Forde, editors. African Systems of Kinship and
Marriage (London: Published for the International
African Institute by the Oxford University Press,
1960) viii, 399 p. illus., maps. 22 cm.
Bibliographical footnotes. DD:392 R116A.
Williams, Walter L. (1948- ). The Spirit and the Flesh:
Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture.
(Boston: Beacon Press, c1986) xi, 344 p., (8) p.
of plates: ill.; 24 cm. Includes index.
Bibliography: p. 317-333. LC:E 98 S48 W55 1986.
ISBN: 0807046027.

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