As transgender identities worldwide have begun to receive attention from students of gender and sexuality, a curious Balkan (but more specifically Albanian) tradition of female-to-male transgender ("sworn virgins") surviving to the present day - an obscure and ambiguous theme until recently - is worthy of sociological attention. The "sworn virgin" phenomenon is studied in a larger, ethno-cultural context, zipping through such complicated - and sociologically contentious - notions as patriarchy, blood-feud, destructive entitlement, etc. It is argued that the "sworn virgins" of the Balkans were forced to become "social men," assuming masculine social and family roles, due to specific economic and social conditions that have historically prevailed in northern Albania, but also in Kosovo and Montenegro. Because all aspects of human life in northern Albania have been regulated for centuries by customary law, known in its codified form as the "Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini," the swearing to remain virgin for life may be considered as an escape mechanism for some women who were forced into unwanted marriages and into relations of extreme economic exploitation and social inequality.
"Balkan Societies of "Social Men": Transcending Gender Boundaries."
Societies Without Borders
Available at: http://scholarlycommons.law.case.edu/swb/vol2/iss1/6