Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 109–117 | Cite as

Recalled Separation Anxiety in Childhood in Istmo Zapotec Men, Women, and Muxes

  • Francisco R. Gómez
  • Scott W. Semenyna
  • Lucas Court
  • Paul L. Vasey
Special Section: The Puzzle of Sexual Orientation


The Istmo Zapotec are a pre-Columbian cultural group indigenous to the Istmo region of Oaxaca, Mexico. Istmo Zapotec recognize three genders: men, women, and muxes. Like Istmo Zapotec men, muxes are biological males. However, unlike Istmo Zapotec men, most muxes are exclusively androphilic (i.e., sexually attracted to adult males), relatively feminine, and routinely adopt the receptive role during anal intercourse. Furthermore, the Istmo Zapotec recognize two types of muxes: muxe gunaa, who resemble the transgender androphilic males that are common in many non-Western cultures, and muxe nguiiu, who resemble the cisgender androphilic males (“gay” men) common in Western cultures. Retrospective research conducted in Canada and Samoa demonstrates that cisgender and transgender androphilic males recall elevated indicators of childhood separation anxiety (i.e., feelings of distress related to separation from major attachment figures) when compared to males who are gynephilic (i.e., sexually attracted to adult females). The present study compared recalled indicators of childhood separation anxiety among Istmo Zapotec men, women, muxe gunaa, and muxe nguiiu (N = 454). Men recalled significantly lower levels of childhood separation anxiety compared to all other groups (all p < .042). No additional group differences were found. Our results are consistent with previous research conducted in Canada and Samoa, suggesting that elevated childhood separation anxiety is a developmental correlate of male androphilia that is cross-culturally universal. This research is also consistent with the conclusion that cisgender and transgender male androphiles share a common biological and developmental foundation despite being different in appearance.


Sexual orientation Male androphilia Childhood separation anxiety Zapotec Cross-cultural universals 



We thank Dan Weeks, Felina Santiago, Julio C. Jiménez Rodríguez, René Díazleal Vega, Cesar Miravette Cortés, and Francisco J. López Bartolo. Funding for this study was provided by a University of Lethbridge Research Fund Grant and through a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Grant to PLV.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


This study was funded by a University of Lethbridge Research Fund Grant (Institutional Grant Number 13261) and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Grant (Institutional Grant Number 41140).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. An institutional human subjects research ethics committee reviewed and approved this research.

Informed Consent

Participants were required to provide informed written consent prior to taking part in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francisco R. Gómez
    • 1
  • Scott W. Semenyna
    • 1
  • Lucas Court
    • 1
  • Paul L. Vasey
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of LethbridgeLethbridgeCanada

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