Khanith (, variant transcription Xanith) is a vernacular Arabic term for both standard written Arabic mukhannath and khuntha. The Arabic word Mukhannath Ù…Ø®Ù†Ø« (literally "effeminate") refers to individuals with a gender identity that is discordant with their visible sexual organs. They are characterized as "effeminate", "not clearly male," and as people who were "born as a male" and who nevertheless feel, behave, and (in most cases) dress like a female. The Arabic word Khuntha Ø®Ù†Ø«Ù‰ (literally "hermaphrodite") refers to intersex people.
John Money summarizes material presented by U. Wikan in an article entitled "Man becomes woman: Transsexualism in Oman as a key to gender roles." (Man (N.S.) 12:304-319, 1977.) According to that account, the khanith is the gynecomimetic partner in a homosexual relationship. A gynecomimetic individual may retain his public status as a man, despite his departure in dress and behavior from a socio-normal male role, providing that he also gives proof of a legal marriage to a woman and proof of having consummated that marriage. The clothing of these individuals must be intermediate between that of a male and a female. His social role includes the freedom to associate with women in the entire range of their social interactions, including singing with them at a wedding (instead of playing a musical instrument as would a male), but he can travel about unaccompanied as would a male, live unaccompanied, be hired as a domestic servant, and to be hired by men as a prostitute.
The word is also widely used as an insult in the middle east.
(See: John Money, Lovemaps, Prometheus Book, 1993. ISBN 0-87975-456-7.)
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