Bissu Buginese Community Overview

Bissu South Sulawesi

Bissu was known since the growing of Buginese Empire, and its one of the genders of the Bugisese Tribe, an ethnic group of South Sulawesi. The Bissu are commonly termed "gender transcendent" or as "having a ritual role" in the Bugis culture. There are divergent theories regarding the definitive origins and meaning of "gender transcendent" in this context.

Traditional Bugis society has five types of gender. Australian author, Sharyn Graham, in a research report titled Sex, Gender and Priests in South Sulawesi, Indonesia (in years 2002), said the classification of gender in South Sulawesi were Male (or in Buginese language call it Oroane), Women (or in Buginese language call it Makunrai), Women who look like men (or in Buginese language call it Calabai), Men who look like women (or in Buginese language call it Calabai), and paragender (or in Buginese language call it Bissu).

In popular language is called trans-gender, Bissu is cultural heritage in pre-Islamic South Sulawesi. Sharyn mentioned as gender Bissu because Bissu truly transcendent is priest. Despite their graceful movements, has a side bissu masculinity, which is carrying a machete and "Badik" or martial arts expert. Even they have a supernatural power, Bissu are sometimes portrayed as transvestites, but this seems to be a misunderstanding to much of their history and role in society. To be Bissu, one has to fuse all aspects of gender. In many examples this means to be born hermaphroditic or an inter-sexual individual. There appears also be examples of Bissu, in which male or female Bissu are fully sexually formed.

The unusual inter-sexual role of the Bissu is not exclusively connected to their anatomy, but to their point in the Bugis Culture, their gender-less (or all all-encompassing gender) identity and their exhibit of many types that can not be accurately allocated to any one sex. This is in evidence in the Bissu’s attire. The Bissu dresses in a type of garment that is not worn by any other sex and which incorporates both "female" and “male” qualities, which explains why Bissu cannot be termed Transvestites, or Cross-dressers, as they are only permitted to wear the garment which is appropriate for their given gender caste.

In addition to acting as liaison between the king, man, and gods in the days of empire, Bissu also considered sacred. In the Bugis language, means Bissu holy man who is not menstruating and not bleeding. Sacred because they are Priest. No periods because even as their women are men. No bleeding because their bodies can not penetrate metal or tin. Because of their ability to extraordinary bissu entrusted by the king to keep Royal Heritage. The existence of royal heritage today are not separated from the role of bissu.

In additionally, to become a Bissu is not really easy, the person who want become a Bissu must be pass some process in a several steps that must be followed in order to meet the criteria of being a part of this community also must pass sacred ritual called Irebba or Bissu initiation.

Nowadays, the community increasingly rare Bissu and they has a leader which keeps their existence as old tradition rooted in the La Galigo epic. This community can be found at Bone, Wajo, Soppeng, and Pangkep Regency, but most of them found it at Pangkep Regency. If lucky, visitors can see the attraction of the Bissu in various ceremonies from the court to rice planting rituals and records the chants, drumming, dances and ceremonies central to the life of the Bissu priests and early Bugis people. One of the ceremony that always held is "Mappasili ritual Segeri" in the early growing season or around the month of November, Located about 70 kilometers north of Makassar, they can also present the attractions base on request but it will be pay for it.


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