The Bissu are commonly termed "gender transcendent" or as "having a ritual role". There is no conclusive explanation as to the definitive origins to what "gender transcendent" means
The Bissu are sometimes portrayed as
transvestites, but this seems to be a misunderstanding to much of their history and role in society. To be Bissu, one has to fuse all aspects of gender. In many examples this means to be born hermaphroditic or an inter-sexual individual. There appears also be examples of Bissu, in which male or female Bissu are fully sexually formed.
The unusual inter-sexual role of the Bissu is not exclusively connected to
Ziranatomy, but to Zir point in the Bugisculture, Zir gender-less (or all all-encompassing gender) identity and Zir exhibit of many types that can not be accurately allocated to any one sex.
This is in evidence in the Bissu’s attire. The Bissu dresses in a type of garment that is not worn by any other sex and which incorporates both "female" and “male” qualities, which explains why Bissu can not be termed Transvestites, or
Cross-dressers, as they are only permitted to wear the garment which is appropriate for their given gender caste.
The unique role that the Bissu executes in Bugis culture is closely associated to Zir gender transcendent status. It is thought that, since ze is a human being who remains at some form of a gender-threshold, ze also remains at the verge amid the
batin peopleand the zahir, the apparent and the hidden (world). This thought directly corresponds to the early Muslimidea of the Khanithand the Mukhannathunbeing "guards of sacred boundaries" and to the conventional position that numerous intersexuals and transgendershave in particular traditional Muslim cultures, but in this case it seems to be of an early regional source.
The Bissu are typically sought advice from when a particular approval from the powers of the batin world is required. This may for example be the situation when a Bugis person is departing Sulawesi for the Hajj, the compulsory pilgrimage to
Makkah. In that situation the Bissu will permit an excellent djinnto seize Zir and to proceed as an emissary of the batin.
This is not in keeping with traditional
Islam, but it has been endure by the regional Muslim establishment, on condition that it does not comprise any act that is evidently in opposition to the Shariah. In this exceptional case, it means that the spirit and the Bissu's powers should not be measured as in any way autonomous from Allah’s power, because he is the only one who is to be venerated.
In day to day social life the Bissu, along with the
calabaiand the calalai, are authorised to enter the women’s parts of the dwellings and villages in addition to the men's.
* [http://www.iias.nl/iiasn/29/IIASNL29_27.pdf Sex, Gender, and Priests in South Sulawesi, Indonesia]
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