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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In Western cultures, men who are gynephilic are labeled heterosexual, whereas men who are androphilic are labeled gay or homosexual. These identity categories are not necessarily recognized cross-culturally and therefore represent poor constructs when conducting cross-cultural research. As such, we employ the terms androphilic and gynephilic, which lend themselves much more easily to cross-cultural comparisons. A focus on cross-culturally universal sexual feelings facilitates comparisons in a manner that culturally specific identity categories do not.

  2. 2.

    The terms male and female refer to an individual’s biological sex as indicated by readily observable parameters of sex development at birth (i.e., genitalia), regardless of the individual’s gender role presentation as a boy/man, girl/woman, or otherwise.

  3. 3.

    Gender dysphoria is characterized by strong and persistent cross-gender behavior and identity (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013). Green (1987) and Singh (2012) employed diagnoses based on previous versions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) in which GD was referred to as gender identity disorder.

  4. 4.

    The Istmo region of Oaxaca consists of two districts: Tehuantepec and Juchitán.

  5. 5.

    Cohen’s d statistics were converted to r using the following formula: \( r = \sqrt {\frac{{d^{2} }}{{d^{2} + 4}}} \).

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Acknowledgements

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.

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Correspondence to Francisco R. Gómez.

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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).

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Gómez, F.R., Semenyna, S.W., Court, L. et al. Recalled Separation Anxiety in Childhood in Istmo Zapotec Men, Women, and Muxes . Arch Sex Behav 46, 109–117 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0917-x

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Keywords

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