Is There a Third Sex?

The Third Sex Issue 1, article 1 (May 1930)

We’ve always classified people into just two sexes. But for a number of years the term “third sex” has been appearing again and again1. Thousands have used the phrase, joking off-hand, sneering, clueless of how much sorrow and suffering, how much struggle and despair lurks behind this term. Few know that “third sex” is not just a slur for male and female eccentrics, but that it has actually existed for thousands of years, yes, presumably it already existed on Earth before the other two sexes. There are scholars who want to prove that the first people were dual-sex2, i.e. man and woman united in one person.

According to the old biblical creation story, Adam was created first, and from his body sprang Eve. Hence forth were they “man and wife,” and were literally united into one body. It’s quite likely that the old biblical chroniclers wanted to suggest that prehistoric people with dual sexes eventually developed into separate ones. There is no doubt there were people on Earth long before Adam and Eve. Because the bible only speaks about a part of the Earth’s population, we’ve unfortunately lost the history of the rest of the people, and we can therefore only prove the existence of other types of beings from the traces that are still evident in our bodies today. The fact is that both men and women today, after so many thousands of years, clearly carry recognizable signs of the other sex. The most striking of these are the man’s nipples, which have the sole purpose of suckling children. But the female body also shows a remnant of the male in its genitals, namely the clitoris, which is nothing more than an undeveloped penis.

We know that the ovum in the womb in its first stage is genderless, and that a few weeks after fertilization, each embryo develops female sex organs first. The developing child then either develops further into a female being, or the female genitals wither3, and instead the male organs, which were barely perceptible, develop. Thus, every male person develops not only from a female body, but also from a female embryo. If we were to only draw conclusions from this singular process, we would not say that Eve came out from Adam, but that Adam comes from Eve.

If we now know that male children were female in their first stages of development, then had male and female genitals, until finally the latter withered, then it’s understandable that in every person there is a dual-sex nature. And it is no longer surprising that there are living creatures in which one can still clearly demonstrate the presence of a dual-sex nature. Let’s assume that in the male child the original female nature did not completely wither and simultaneously developed a male nature. The result of this would be that the child – depending on the degree of the dual nature – more or less inclined to another sex, that a boy showed very feminine tendencies and would be girlish and tender in his character, games, and hobbies. But not only in mental attributes, we also find differences in the physique of the opposite sexes.

In typical men we see broad shoulders and narrow hips. In typical women we see a wide pelvis, which indicates the purpose of motherhood, as well as the breasts which expand during sexual maturity.

However, there are now endless different forms from one sex to another, which any layperson would see as a third sex. But it’s actually nothing more than a steady union of both sexes in a single person.

We find women with a masculine type, masculine physiques: strong bones, flat chest, slim pelvis; with a masculine soul, feelings, and thought patterns; women in men’s clothes and short cut hair that speak with a sonorous voice. No one would perceive them as women at first glance.

On the other hand there are men with perfectly feminine physiques. Just take a look at the female impersonators in variety shows! Round shoulders, voluptuous breasts, strong hips, small hands and feet. In a deep-necked ball gown with feminine wigs, you can hardly recognize the man when he speaks in a falsetto. But there are many small differences that are only recognizable to the doctor’s eye. The genitals can be completely normal.

The dual-sex nature of humans is not always evident in their exterior. Everyone is also mentally and spiritually hermaphroditic (dual-sex). Many mothers now witness with their children that some girls, unwilling to do any female work, are most likely to enjoy wild boy games. They often swap roles with a brother who craves dolls, prefers to sew, embroider, cook, go to the mother’s hand, and fearfully flee their wild comrades. No admonitions, no punishment, no mockery will change these children. And if parents and educators manage to stop their hobbies – internally they remain the same: “Embossed form that develops alive4.” The educator can ease up, they’re griding down too harshly – the character, the mental attributes will never be able to be completely transformed by a person’s influence. The primordial, inborn, is the signature of man, and it is attached to him as long as he breathes. And one day she’ll break apart all the bonds that were artificially imposed on her. Nature is more powerful than the human will, than any creature, and sooner or later she’ll provide justice. And the more unruly they were, the more you oppressed them5. – I don’t want to say that all children described like that are all of the third sex. In any case, they they must be counted among those who show more or less strong deviations from their resepective sex because normally, each would show the characterstics of their sex in their play. Additionally, in most cases there is also the inclination appropriate to the exterior – sturdy girl figures and tender boy figures. These children’s parents often say, the whole time unsuspecting the full meaning and significance: “you should have been a girl,” or, “you should have been a boy.”

Of these abnormally predisposed boys and girls, the former suffer most from this mismatch during childhood. A wild, boyish girl may be punished by an adult for her bad habits, but she will always play a dominant role among her peers. A girlish boy is quite different. He is the target of ridicule and abuse among his classmates, with which the full-fledged boys persecute with strange cruelty every weaker person of their gender. And this makes the poor boys, who are usually very sensitive anyway, only more shy and lonely.

In any case, it would be completely wrong if you wanted to force her to take part in the wild games of her comrades. It will never be possible to turn a soft-hearted, girlish boy into a saucy, belligerent boy! It has been suggested we cure such children by constantly mocking their feminine tendencies. On the other hand, I would argue that you can only achieve the opposite by such a method, that you will only make them shy and secretive. Parents’ and educators’ loving responsiveness to such children’s individuality can favorably affect their emotional life. Instead of ridicule and strictness, show them understanding, because nothing is more dangerous for abnormally predisposed children than if they feel isolated in the family. They are only too inclined to join children who show the same traits as they do. Especially during puberty, it’s important that parents ensure their children are fully trusting, and above all watch over the acquaintances of the abnormally predisposed boys. Before it’s too late, get the advice of a doctor who has done extensive research on sexual stages. Not because the slightest change in physical or sexual predisposition can be changed by medical treatment. But a doctor can give hints as to how the young person can avoid the dangers inherent in an abnormal predisposition by helping to educate, giving loving advice, and entering into the areas of interest of the young person.

(The preceding article is from the book, “Mannweiber und Weibmänner” and can be obtained for the price of 2.00 DM from the Friedrich Radszuweit-Verlag, Berlin S 14, Neue Jakobstr. 9. Abridged.)

  1. In 1904, Magnus Hirschfeld published “Berlins drittes Geschlecht,” which reported on the lives of gay and trans Berliners. He classified LGBT people as being of the “third sex.” 

  2. Ger. zweigeschlechtlich lit. “having two (sexes/genders).” Some dictionaries translate this to “bisexual” but in English this refers to sexual orientation, not biological sex or gender. “Bi-gender” was considered, but this term applies to gender identity when the text seems to refer to what is now known as “intersex.” The latest scientific thinking at that time was that both non-cis-gender identities and non-heterosexual orientations could together be explained by some single biological factor — that gender and orientation were linked together so that feminine men were attracted to men and masculine women to women. This idea of course had its detractors among masculine-identifying cis gay men at the time. I use the term “dual-sex” because it stands apart from our current understanding of intersex biology and gender identity. 

  3. This theory of human development may come from an 1899 book, “Das Dritte Geschlecht” by Ernst von Wolzogen 

  4. Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. Urworte. Orphisch, 1817. The poem speaks of a demon who is “imprinted from the beginning” – destined to live in opposition to the law of God. 

  5. “Und dann umso ungestümer, je mehr man sie vorher geknechtet hat.”