Lesson of the day: “Intimate portraits of Mexican muxes of the third kind”

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Featured Article: “Intimate portraits of Mexican multiplexes of the third genre»By Núria López Torres

In southern Mexico, a community of the local Zapotec people has long accepted – and celebrated – gender nonconformity. In this lesson, you will learn about muxes – people who are born male but take on roles and identities associated with women – in Mexico. Then you will celebrate a part of your identity, gender or otherwise, that you are proud of.

The featured article looks at a community in Mexico that welcomes people who identify with the third sex. Have you ever heard of this term or other terms that look at the genre more broadly? What do you think this might mean?

Before reading the article, take the time to answer these questions privately in your notebook:

  • When did you first experience your gender identity? How old were you? What made you think about your gender identity?

  • Is gender something you discuss with your family or friends? Do you have space to reflect and ask questions about your gender or your gender identity in general?

  • How comfortable are you talking about gender in class? What makes you feel that way?

Take a look at “The ABCs of LGBTQIA +”If you want to know more about the different terms used to talk about gender and sexuality.

Read the article, then answer the following questions:

1. Does the identity and role of muxes in Zapotec culture remind you of anything else you know?

2. How does Estrella talk about her experiences as a young child? How is her life now? What role does she play within her family?

3. The article presented explains how academics – sociologists and anthropologists – are able to historically trace the fluidity of genres in different cultures. Based on your experience, to what extent is gender fluidity or expansion understood and accepted within your family, school and community at large?

4. What role did colonization and Christianization play in the acceptance of gender nonconformity in the indigenous communities of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec?

5. In general, how do Zapotec mothers and families treat muxe children? What options do muxe children have growing up?

6. What is La Vela de las Auténticas Intrépidas Buscadoras del Peligro? According to the article, what emotions does Estrella feel as she prepares for and attends the event?

Part I. Analyze

Choose a photo of the featured item to take a close look at. What do you notice in the photograph? What are you asking yourself?

Now analyze the photography focusing on the use of light. In this lesson plan on analyzing the elements of art, Kristin Farr says this about photography:

Photography can be defined as a drawing with light. Photographers often capture high contrast colors to emphasize parts of an image and low contrast colors to add dimension, foreground and background.

Look carefully at one or two additional photographs and ask yourself these questions from the lesson plan above:

  • Which photos have high contrast colors? Which have low contrast colors, or a mixture of the two?

  • What’s the first thing you see? What’s the next thing you notice?

  • What do you think Núria López Torres, the writer and photographer, wanted to reveal about his subjects?

Part II. Photograph

Think about your identity – it could be your gender, race, religion, nationality, or sexuality. What part of your identity are you proud of?

Then take a photo (you can use your phone’s self-timer or have a friend take a photo) that highlights that part of your identity. Think carefully about the composition of the photo: How do you position yourself? What’s around you? How can you play with light and shadow, or high contrast or low contrast colors, to create a certain mood or tone?

Additional teaching and learning opportunities

  • Watch a documentary on multiplexers. Over the past 10 years, several documentaries have been made on muxes. Pick one to watch in National Geographic or VICE. As you watch, you can use our Film Club Dual Entry Journal (PDF) to help you remember specific moments. Then ask yourself these questions: What moments in this film stood out for you? Were there any surprises? What messages, emotions or ideas will you take away from this film?

  • Learn more about gender on social media. Have you seen any TikToks or Instagram videos celebrating or teaching different gender identities? For example, here’s a TikTok on genre fluency that has been viewed over 14,000 times, and another on māhū currently and historically in Hawaii. Where else have you learned about gender identity? What questions do you still have about gender identity?

  • Read another article on gender identity. The Times Topics page on transgender issues includes a series of articles that explore gender identity. For example, you may choose to read about a camp for gender non-conforming children, Argentina’s recent law that officially recognizes non-binary people, or the barriers transgender youth face in obtaining medical care.

    As you read this second article, how is it similar to and different from the article presented? How have the two articles changed your understanding of gender identity? What questions do you still have?


Want more lessons of the day? You can find them all here.

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