The sworn virgins of Albania

The sworn virgins of Albania
Skhurtan used to be a woman,
but choose to become a man.

Photographer Jill Peters has a series of photos of the "Sworn Virgins of Albania". These women, called "burnesha", took on the role of men in their harsh, male-dominated society, and became honorary men:

In order to manifest the transition such a woman cut her hair, donned male clothing and sometimes even changed her name.  Male gestures and swaggers were practiced until they became second nature. Most importantly of all, she took a vow of celibacy to remain chaste for life. She became a "he". This practice continues today but as modernization inches toward the small villages nestled in the Alps , this archaic tradition is increasingly seen as obsolete. Only a few aging Sworn Virgins remain. The number of new cases are scant and tend to be considered less authentic by younger generations.

These women are indistinguishable from men to those outside their tight-knit community, yet inside their society, where other members surely know they are biologically female, they are camouflaged as men.

A mini-documentary about one such woman:

Sworn Virgins – National Geographic

See more photos at: Sworn Virgins of Albania, Jill Peters Photography>>

Via: Portraits of Albanian Sworn Virgins, Kottke>>

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