Watch Ivan Olita’s Sensual Short Film About Mexico’s Third Sex

"Define Gender: Muxes" explores the proud and fearless world of Mexico's third sex with intricate camerawork and storytelling.

“What luck it would be to have a Muxe in my household.” We hear this line in Director Ivan Olita‘s short film, “Define Gender: Muxes”, and it is evocative of the message behind his compelling visual portrait of Mexico’s third gender, called muxes, as a whole: they are not only accepted in society, but revered.

According to the muxes interviewed in the film created for NOWNESS, this acceptance and respect has particularly thrived over the past ten years due to activism—which isn’t to say that muxes didn’t boldly proclaim their places in society before then. Unique to the district of Juchitán in the Istmo de Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca, Mexico for many decades, muxes are by definition those who are biologically male and dress as women. However, they don’t consider themselves cross-dressers or transgender, which is made clear in the film; rather, they see themselves as occupying a third gender—expressed through their clothing (most wear the Tehuana costume, which women from that region traditionally wore) and also through the so-called ‘women’s work’ they engage in. Olita’s intricate direction pans over muxes cooking, running fashion boutiques, cutting hair, dancing; despite the diversity and amount of characters he features in a short ten minutes, his particularly glossy framing – Olita’s work is largely rooted in fashion – positions all of them as proud, boldly sexual people fawned over by other citizens.

In fact, the word ‘muxes’ means ‘femininity’ and ‘fear’—a combination which the muxes in this film say is vital for their identity as people who have overcome fear to fully express themselves. Which is to say that this film doesn’t skirt over the tougher bits; the bits of the story which reflect an ongoing struggle for acceptance that still exists even within the most tolerant and even praising of societies. So spend ten minutes watching this film, and see what life looks like in a society that’s managed to come as a close as possible to destroying the gender binary.