Previous research has consistently demonstrated that both transgender and cisgender androphilic males (i.e., males attracted to adult males) display and recall higher levels of childhood female-typical behavior (CFTB) and lower levels of childhood male-typical behavior (CMTB) compared to gynephilic males (i.e., males attracted to adult females). In adulthood, the recalled CFTB and CMTB scores of cisgender androphilic males tend to be intermediate to those of opposite-sex-attracted men and women, whereas transgender androphilic males tend to score similar to women. These studies have been mostly conducted in Euro-American cultures. We examined recalled childhood sex-typed behavior (CSTB) among the Istmo Zapotec—a pre-Colombian culture in the Istmo region of Oaxaca, Mexico, where cisgender and transgender androphilic males are recognized as a third gender, known locally as muxes. The present study sought to determine whether Istmo Zapotec men (n = 180), cisgender muxe nguiiu (n = 63), transgender muxe gunaa (n = 120), and women (n = 138) differ with respect to recalled CFTB and CMTB. Our results indicate that men recalled significantly less CFTB and more CMTB than women. Cisgender muxes scored in between men and women. Transgender muxes scored similar to women. These findings provide further evidence that childhood sex-atypical behavior is a cross-culturally universal and normative developmental aspect of male androphilia, regardless of whether it manifests in the cisgender or transgender form. This is the first study to present quantitative data comparing the recalled CSTB of cisgender and transgender androphilic males from within the same non-Euro-American culture.
This is a preview of subscription content,to check access.
Access this article
Cisgender refers to individuals whose gender identity match the one they were assigned at birth.
Transgender refers to individuals whose gender identity differs from the one they were assigned as birth.
Research by Lucien von Römer in the Netherlands in 1901 and by Magnus Hirschfeld in Germany in 1903 and 1904 indicates that these portions have remained stable for more than a century (reviewed in Leser, 1961).
The Istmo region of Oaxaca consists of two districts: Tehuantepec and Juchitán.
Prieur (1998) explains that “the word mayate originated as the name of the scarab beetle which makes a ball out of dung, lays its eggs in it, and then pushes the ball in front of itself using its snout. This reflects the expectation that mayates are supposed to be the active party during anal intercourse” (p. 27).
Effect sizes are presented using Cohen’s d statistics and their 95% confidence intervals.
Alanko, K., Santtila, P., Harlaar, N., Witting, K., Varjonen, M., Jern, P., … Sandnabba, N. K. (2010). Common genetic effects of gender atypical behavior in childhood and sexual orientation in adulthood: A study of Finnish twins. Archives of Sexual Behavior,39, 81–92.
Alexander, G. M., & Hines, M. (2002). Sex differences in response to children’s toys in nonhuman primates (Cercopithecus aethiops sabaeus). Evolution and Human Behavior,23, 467–479.
Bailey, J. M. (2003). The man who would be queen: The science of gender-bending and transsexualism. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press.
Bailey, J. M., Dunne, M. P., & Martin, N. G. (2000). Genetics and environmental influences on sexual orientation and its correlates in an Australian twin sample. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,78, 524–536.
Bailey, J. M., Vasey, P. L., Diamond, L. M., Breedlove, S. M., Vilain, E., & Epprecht, M. (2016). Sexual orientation, controversy, and science. Psychological Science in the Public Interest,17, 45–101.
Bailey, J. M., & Zucker, K. J. (1995). Childhood sex-typed behavior and sexual orientation: A conceptual analysis and quantitative review. Developmental Psychology,31, 43–55.
Bartlett, N. H., & Vasey, P. L. (2006). A retrospective study of childhood gender-atypical behavior in Samoan fa’afafine. Archives of Sexual Behavior,35, 659–666.
Bem, S. L. (1989). Genital knowledge and gender constancy in preschool children. Child Development,60, 649–662.
Bennholdt-Thomsen, V. (1997). Juchitán, la ciudad de las mujeres. Juchitán de Zaragoza: Instituto Oaxaqueño de las Culturas.
Bergling, T. (2001). Sissyphobia: Gay men and effeminate behavior. Binghamton, NY: Harrington Park Press.
Besharat, M. A., Karimi, S., & Saadati, M. (2016). A comparison of childhood gender nonconformity and fertility rate in a lineage in male homosexuals and heterosexuals. Contemporary Psychology,10, 3–14.
Blanchard, R. (2018). Fraternal birth order, family size, and male homosexuality: Meta-analysis of studies spanning 25 years. Archives of Sexual Behavior,47, 1–15.
Bogaert, A. F. (2003). Interaction of older brothers and sex-typing in the prediction of sexual orientation in men. Archives of Sexual Behavior,32, 129–134.
Bozkurt, A., Bozkurt, O. H., & Sonmez, I. (2015). Birth order and sibling sex ratio in a population with high fertility: Are Turkish male-to-female transsexuals different? Archives of Sexual Behavior,44, 1331–1337.
Bussey, K., & Bandura, A. (1999). Social cognitive theory of gender development and differentiation. Psychological Review,106, 676–713.
Cardoso, F. L. (2005). Cultural universals and differences in male homosexuality: The case of a Brazilian fishing village. Archives of Sexual Behavior,34, 103–109.
Cardoso, F. L. (2009). Recalled sex-typed behavior in childhood and sports’ preferences in adulthood of heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual men from Brazil, Turkey, and Thailand. Archives of Sexual Behavior,38, 726–736.
Carrier, J. (1995). De los otros: Intimacy and homosexuality among Mexican men. New York: Columbia University Press.
Céspedes Vargas, P. (2015). Muxes at work: Between community belonging and heteronormativity in the workplace. Unpublished master’s thesis, International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, The Netherlands.
Chiñas, B. (1992). The Isthmus Zapotecs: A matrifocal culture of Mexico. San Diego, CA: Harcourt College Publisher.
Chiñas, B. (1995). Isthmus Zapotec attitudes toward sex and gender anomalies. In S. O. Murray (Ed.), Latin American male homosexualities (pp. 293–302). Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press.
Connellan, J., Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Batki, A., & Ahluwalia, J. (2000). Sex differences in human neonatal social perception. Infant Behavior and Development,23, 113–118.
Danver, S. L. (2013). Native peoples of the world: An encyclopedia of groups, cultures, and contemporary issues. Armonk, NY: Routledge.
Dunne, M. P., Bailey, J. M., Kirk, K. M., & Martin, N. G. (2000). The subtlety of sex-atypicality. Archives of Sexual Behavior,29, 549–565.
Fagot, B. I. (1977). Consequences of moderate cross-gender behavior in preschool children. Child Development,48, 902–907.
Fausto-Sterling, A. (2014). The evidence of memory. Boston Review. Retrieved August 29, 2019 from http://www.bostonreview.net/wonders/fausto-sterling-evidence-memory.
Gates, G. J. (2011). How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender? The Williams Institute. Retrieved August 29, 2019 from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/09h684x2.
Gaudio, R. P. (2011). Allah made us: Sexual outlaws in an Islamic African city. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
Gómez, F. R., Semenyna, S. W., Court, L., & Vasey, P. L. (2017). Recalled separation anxiety in childhood in Istmo Zapotec men, women, and muxes. Archives of Sexual Behavior,46, 109–117.
Gómez, F. R., Semenyna, S. W., Court, L., & Vasey, P. L. (2018). Familial patterning and prevalence of male androphilia among Istmo Zapotec men and muxes. PLoS ONE,13(2), e0192683.
Gómez-Gil, E., Esteva, I., Almaraz, M. C., Pasaro, E., Segovia, S., & Guillamon, A. (2010). Familiality of gender identity disorder in non-twin siblings. Archives of Sexual Behavior,39, 546–552.
Gottschalk, L. (2003). Same-sex sexuality and childhood gender non-conformity: A spurious connection. Journal of Gender Studies,12, 35–50.
Green, R. (1974). Sexual identity conflict in children and adults. New York: Basic Books.
Green, R. (1987). The “sissy boy syndrome” and the development of homosexuality. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Harry, J. (1985). Defeminization and social class. Archives of Sexual Behavior,14, 1–12.
Hart, D. V. (1968). Homosexuality and transvestism in the Philippines: The Cebuan Filipino bayot and lakin-on. Behavior Science Notes,3, 211–248.
Hassett, J. M., Siebert, E. R., & Wallen, K. (2008). Sex differences in rhesus monkey toy preferences parallel those of children. Hormones and Behavior,54, 359–364.
Hines, M. (2011). Prenatal endocrine influences on sexual orientation and on sexually differentiated childhood behavior. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology,32, 170–182.
Hines, M., Constantinescu, M., & Spencer, D. (2015). Early androgen exposure and human gender development. Biology of Sex Differences. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13293-015-0022-1.
Iervolino, A. C., Hines, M., Golombok, S. E., Rust, J., & Plomin, R. (2005). Genetic and environmental influences on sex-typed behavior during the preschool years. Child Development,76, 826–840.
Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía. (2009). Perfil sociodemográfico de la población que habla lengua indígena. Retrieved August 29, 2019 from http://internet.contenidos.inegi.org.mx/contenidos/Productos/prod_serv/contenidos/espanol/bvinegi/productos/censos/poblacion/poblacion_indigena/leng_indi/PHLI.pdf.
Johnson, L. L., Bradley, S. J., Birkenfeld-Adams, A. S., Kuksis, M. A. R., Maing, D. M., Mitchell, J. N., & Zucker, K. J. (2004). A parent-report Gender Identity Questionnaire for Children. Archives of Sexual Behavior,33, 105–116.
Kahlenberg, S. M., & Wrangham, R. W. (2010). Sex differences in chimpanzees’ use of sticks as play objects resemble those of children. Current Biology,20, R1067–R1068.
Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (1948). Sexual behavior in the human male. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.
Knafo, A., Iervolino, A. C., & Plomin, R. (2005). Masculine girls and feminine boys: Genetic and environmental contributions to atypical gender development in early childhood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,88, 400–412.
Lamminmäki, A., Hines, M., Kuiri-Hänninen, T., Kilpeläinen, L., Dunkel, L., & Sankilampi, U. (2012). Testosterone measured in infancy predicts subsequent sex-typed behavior in boys and in girls. Hormones and Behavior,61, 611–616.
Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T., & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Leser, H. (1961). The Hirschfeld Institute for Sexology. In A. Ellis & A. Abarbanel (Eds.), The encyclopedia of sexual behavior (pp. 867–970). New York, NY: Hawthorn Books.
Li, G., Kung, K. T., & Hines, M. (2017). Childhood gender-typed behavior and adolescent sexual orientation: A longitudinal population-based study. Developmental Psychology,53, 764–777.
Lippa, R. A. (2005). Sexual orientation and personality. Annual Review of Sex Research,16, 119–153.
Lippa, R. A. (2012). Effects of sex and sexual orientation on self-reported attraction and viewing times to images of men and women: Testing for category specificity. Archives of Sexual Behavior,41, 149–160.
Lonsdorf, E. V. (2017). Sex differences in nonhuman primate behavioral development. Journal of Neuroscience Research,95, 213–221.
MacFarlane, D. F. (1984). Transsexual prostitution in New Zealand: Predominance of persons of Maori extraction. Archives of Sexual Behavior,13, 301–309.
Maughan, B., & Rutter, M. (1997). Retrospective reporting of childhood adversity: Issues in assessing long-term recall. Journal of Personality Disorders,11, 19–33.
Miano Borruso, M. (2002). Hombre, mujer y muxe’ en el Istmo de Tehuantepec. México D. F.: Plaza y Valdés.
Mirandé, A. (2016). Hombres mujeres: An indigenous third gender. Men and Masculinities,19, 384–409.
Mirandé, A. (2017). Behind the mask: Gender hybridity in a Zapotec community. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.
Murray, S. O. (2000). Homosexualities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Nanda, S. (1990). Neither man nor woman: The hijras of India. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
Pasterski, V., Acerini, C. L., Dunger, D. B., Ong, K. K., Hughes, I. A., Thankamony, A., & Hines, M. (2015). Postnatal penile growth concurrent with mini-puberty predicts later sex-typed play behavior: Evidence for neurobehavioral effects of the postnatal androgen surge in typically developing boys. Hormones and Behavior,69, 98–105.
Petterson, L. J., Dixson, B. J., Little, A. C., & Vasey, P. L. (2018). Viewing time and self-report measures of sexual attraction in Samoan cisgender and transgender androphilic males. Archives of Sexual Behavior,47, 2427–2434.
Petterson, L. J., Wrightson, C., & Vasey, P. L. (2017). Recalled gendered behavior in childhood: A comparison of androphilic men, gynephilic men, and androphilic women in Japan. Archives of Sexual Behavior,46, 119–127.
Prieur, A. (1998). Mema’s house, Mexico City: On transvestites, queens, and machos. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Rieger, G., Linsenmeier, J. A., Gygax, L., & Bailey, J. M. (2008). Sexual orientation and childhood gender nonconformity: Evidence from home videos. Developmental Psychology,44, 46–58.
Rieger, G., & Savin-Williams, R. C. (2012). Gender nonconformity, sexual orientation, and psychological well-being. Archives of Sexual Behavior,41, 611–621.
Ross, M. W. (1980). Retrospective distortion in homosexual research. Archives of Sexual Behavior,9, 523–531.
Schwartz, G., Kim, R. M., Kolundzija, A. B., Rieger, G., & Sanders, A. R. (2010). Biodemographic and physical correlates of sexual orientation in men. Archives of Sexual Behavior,39, 93–109.
Semenyna, S. W., VanderLaan, D. P., Petterson, L. J., & Vasey, P. L. (2017a). Familial patterning and prevalence of male androphilia in Samoa. Journal of Sex Research,54, 1077–1084.
Semenyna, S. W., VanderLaan, D. P., & Vasey, P. L. (2017b). Birth order and recalled childhood gender nonconformity in Samoan men and fa’afafine. Developmental Psychobiology,59, 338–347.
Semenyna, S. W., & Vasey, P. L. (2016). The relationship between adult occupational preferences and childhood gender nonconformity among Samoan women, men, and fa’afafine. Human Nature,27, 283–295.
Semenyna, S. W., & Vasey, P. L. (2017). Bullying, physical aggression, gender-atypicality, and sexual orientation in Samoan males. Archives of Sexual Behavior,46, 1375–1381.
Shear, K., Jin, R., Ruscio, A. M., Walters, E. E., & Kessler, R. C. (2006). Prevalence and correlates of estimated DSM-IV child and adult separation anxiety disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey replication. American Journal of Psychiatry,163, 1074–1083.
Singh, D. (2012). A follow-up study of boys with gender identity disorder. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Toronto.
Smith, Y. L. S., van Goozen, S. H. M., Kuiper, A. J., & Cohen-Kettenis, P. T. (2005). Transsexual subtypes: Clinical and theoretical significance. Psychiatry Research,137, 151–160.
Steensma, T. D., Van der Ende, J., Verhulst, F. C., & Cohen-Kettenis, P. T. (2013). Gender variance in childhood and sexual orientation in adulthood: A prospective study. Journal of Sexual Medicine,10, 2723–2733.
Thomas, W. (1997). Navajo cultural constructions of gender and sexuality. In S. E. Jacobs, W. Thomas, & S. Lang (Eds.), Two-spirit people: Native American gender identity, sexuality and spirituality (pp. 156–173). Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Totman, R. (2003). The third sex: Kathoey: Thailand’s ladyboys. London: Souvenir.
Trono, B. (1999). Dos vueltas en el aire: Sex and gender diversity in Juchitán, Oaxaca. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. York University, Toronto, ON, Canada.
van Beijsterveldt, C. E. M., Hudziak, J. J., & Boomsma, D. I. (2006). Genetic and environmental influences on cross-gender behavior and relation to behavior problems: A study of Dutch twins at ages 7 and 10 years. Archives of Sexual Behavior,35, 647–658.
Vanderlaan, D. P., Blanchard, R., Zucker, K. J., Massuda, R., Fontanari, A. M., Borba, A. O., … Schwarz, K. (2017a). Birth order and androphilic male-to-female transsexualism in Brazil. Journal of Biosocial Science,49, 527–535.
VanderLaan, D. P., Gothreau, L. M., Bartlett, N. H., & Vasey, P. L. (2011). Recalled separation anxiety and gender atypicality in childhood: A study of Canadian heterosexual and homosexual men and women. Archives of Sexual Behavior,40, 1233–1240.
VanderLaan, D. P., Petterson, L. J., & Vasey, P. L. (2015). Elevated childhood separation anxiety: An early developmental expression of heightened concern for kin in homosexual men? Personality and Individual Differences,81, 188–194.
VanderLaan, D. P., Petterson, L. J., & Vasey, P. L. (2016). Femininity and kin-directed altruism in androphilic men: A test of an evolutionary developmental model. Archives of Sexual Behavior,45, 619–633.
VanderLaan, D. P., Petterson, L. J., & Vasey, P. L. (2017b). Elevated kin-directed altruism emerges in childhood and is linked to feminine gender expression in Samoan fa’afafine: A retrospective study. Archives of Sexual Behavior,46, 95–108.
Vasey, P. L., & Bartlett, N. H. (2007). What can the Samoan “fa’afafine” teach us about the Western concept of gender identity disorder in childhood? Perspectives in Biology and Medicine,50, 481–490.
Vasey, P. L., Parker, J. L., & VanderLaan, D. P. (2014). Comparative reproductive output of androphilic and gynephilic males in Samoa. Archives of Sexual Behavior,43, 363–367.
Vasey, P. L., & VanderLaan, D. P. (2014). Evolving research on the evolution of male androphilia. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality,23, 137–147.
Vasey, P. L., VanderLaan, D. P., Gothreau, L. M., & Bartlett, N. H. (2011). Traits of separation anxiety in childhood: A retrospective study of Samoan men, women, and fa’afafine. Archives of Sexual Behavior,40, 511–517.
Wallien, M. S., & Cohen-Kettenis, P. T. (2008). Psychosexual outcome of gender-dysphoric children. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,47, 1413–1423.
Watts, T. M., Holmes, L., Raines, J., Orbell, S., & Rieger, G. (2018). Gender nonconformity of identical twins with discordant sexual orientations: Evidence from childhood photographs. Developmental Psychology,54, 788–801.
Whitam, F. L. (1980). Childhood predictors of adult homosexuality. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy,6, 11–16.
Whitam, F. L. (1997). Culturally universal aspects of male homosexual transvestites and transsexuals. In B. Bullough, V. Bullough, & J. Elias (Eds.), Gender blending (pp. 189–203). Amherst, NY: Prometheus.
Whitam, F. L., & Mathy, R. M. (1986). Male homosexuality in four societies: Brazil, Guatemala, the Philippines, and the United States. New York: Praeger.
Wikan, U. (1977). Man becomes woman: Transsexualism in Oman as a key to gender roles. Man,12, 304–319.
Witt, S. D. (1997). Parental influence on children’s socialization to gender roles. Adolescence,32, 253–260.
Zheng, L., Lippa, R. A., & Zheng, Y. (2011). Sex and sexual orientation differences in personality in China. Archives of Sexual Behavior,40, 533–541.
Zucker, K. J., & Bradley, S. J. (1995). Gender identity disorder and psychosexual problems in children and adolescents. New York: Guilford Press.
Zucker, K. J., Mitchell, J. N., Bradley, S. J., Tkachuk, J., Cantor, J. M., & Allin, S. M. (2006). The Recalled Childhood Gender Identity/Gender Role Questionnaire: Psychometric properties. Sex Roles,54, 469–483.
The authors wish to thank Dan Weeks, as well as Julio Cesar Jiménez Rodríguez and Felina Santiago, without whom this research would not be possible. We also wish to thank the local authorities of Juchitán de Zaragoza for granting us permission to conduct or research.
This study was funded by a University of Lethbridge Research Fund Grant (Institutional Grant No. 13261) and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Grant (Institutional Grant No. 41182).
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. An institutional human subjects research ethics committee reviewed and approved this research.
Participants were required to provide informed written consent prior to taking part in the study.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Gómez Jiménez, F.R., Court, L. & Vasey, P.L. A Retrospective Study of Childhood Sex-Typed Behavior in Istmo Zapotec Men, Women, and Muxes. Arch Sex Behav 49, 467–477 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01544-6