Bissu is a gender from the Bugis culture of South Sulawesi, in southern Indonesia. Bissu are often called "gender-transcendent" or "meta-gender" and represent all aspects of gender combined to form a whole within Bugis society. Many, but not all Bissu are intersex. Bissu play an important role in religious ceremonies, they act as priests, give blessings, giving guidance, and are seen as intermediaries between the people and the spirit world. In daily social life bissu may enter the dwelling places and the villages of both men and women.
For hundreds of years, the Bugis people recognized five genders, the other four are: oroane (similar to cisgender men), makkunrai (similar to cisgender women), calabai (similar to transgender women, but not the same), and calalai (similar to transgender men, but not the same), which combine to form the "meta-gender" of bissu. These genders are still recognized by many Bugis people. The Bugis have syncretized many pre-Islamic beliefs with Islam. As such, the Bissu have a role in Islam within Bugis society, such as performing blessings for people before they make pilgramages to Mecca. It is believed that all five genders are essential for the sake of balance and harmony in Bugis society.
Bissu have been part of Bugis society for at least six centuries. Much of the Bugis and thus Bissu history is passed on in oral traditions. Bugis mythology features Bissu coming down from heaven to help humanity.
After the spread of Islam in the 17th century, the Bissu initially coexisted peacefully alongside Islam. A shift occurred in the 1950s and 60s when an Islamic fundamentalist movement took hold, leading to violent persecution and banning of their ceremonies. Since the late 1990s, people worked to revive the tradition, and Bissu have found wide acceptance in some communities, including by devoted Muslim Buginese people. Nonetheless, the tradition is challenged by a larger backdrop of anti-LGBTA sentiment in Indonesia, with fewer people choosing to become Bissu. Bissu traditions are considered a cultural asset by the government. As recently as 2019, Pangkep Dasriana, the former head of cultural issues of the South Sulawesi tourism and culture agency, worked to preserve and promote Bissu traditions in festivals not just within Suwlawesi, but across Indonesia.
In the contemporary Bugis socierty, Bissu still hold a respected role as priests in their communities, performing blessings and ritual ceremonies in all parts of Bugis life. Calalai and calabai can also be called Bissu and perform blessings and ceremonies.
The flag was designed by an anonymous submitter to the Tumblr blog ask-pride-color-schemes on December 21, 2016. The color red is significant in Indonesian culture- it's on the Indonesian flag and symbolizes joy and good luck. Yellow is often associated with women, and white with men.
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