These ideas, and their very real effect was brought home nicely in another example recemtly described by the Turkish press--the ritual of gender change in the Balkans, in which females, swearing eternal virginity, were permitted to become men in every sense but the biological. Dan Bilefsky, "Sworn to Virginity, Living as Men: In a Vanishing Ritual, Balkan Girls Take Over Leadership of Families, International Herald Tribune, June 24, 2008, at P. 1.
'Back then, it was better to be a man because, before, a woman and an animal were considered the same thing,' says Keqi, who has a bellowing baritone voice, sits with er legs wide open like a man, and relishes downing shots of Raki and smoking cigarettes. . . . The tradition of thew worn virgin can be traced back to Kanun of Leke Dukagjini, a code of conduct that has been passed on orally among the clans of nortern Albania for more than five centuries. Under the Kanun, the role fo women is severely circumscribed: Take care of children and maintain the home. While a woman's life is worth half that of a man, a vrgin's value is the same--12 oxen.Id. "Sworn virgins become the patriarchs of their families, with all the trappings of male authority, by swearing to remain virgins for the rest of their lives. . . . The ritual was a form of self-empowerment for rural women, living in a desperately poor ad macho country that was cut off from mainstream Europe for decades under a Stalinist dictatorship." Id. Here among a "primitive" people is exposed the most sophisticated understanding of the gender ordering of society--biology, social differentiation, hierarchy, institutionalization and policing through legal rules. Biological sex is not determination of social role. Acting like a man is--and since men; for a female seeking to become a man it requires putting off the social customs that reinforce sexual subordination as well as the biological mark of femaleness--penetration by a superior in the gender social order, a man. Even ISlam bends to the hierarchy of gender (ignoring sex). "Lording it over her large family in her modest home in Tirana, where er nieces served her brandy while she barked out orders, Keqi said living as a man allowed her freedom denied other women. She could work construction jobs and pray at the mosque along side other men." Id.
For the same reason, a man who seeks the sexual company of others acts in reverse. . .be assumes the role of a woman and will pay the price. In Albania, of course, homosexuality is still taboo. Id. The basis is likely, in part, rooted in the cultural understandings of ender that make gender migration is possible. And once within the system, it becomes self perpetuating. Another male female lamented that with the Europeanization of Albania, "women did not know their place." Id.