Albanian Sworn Virgins

Fascinating. An Albanian custom permits women to take an oath of virginity and live their life as men. The gender-swapping custom has its roots in gender inequality: it provided a patriarch for families who were left without one.

The sworn virgin was born of social necessity in an agrarian region plagued by war and death. If the family patriarch died with no male heirs, unmarried women in the family could find themselves alone and powerless. By taking an oath of virginity, women could take on the role of men as head of the family, carry a weapon, own property and move freely.

When traditional Albanian culture accepts sworn virgins as men - complete with men's responsibilities and duties - it is actually demonstrating a belief that women are just as capable as men. Why, then, do you have such strictly defined gender roles? Is it solely due to religion?

A few other thoughts:

On Transgender vs. Homosexuality

Taking an oath to become a sworn virgin should not, sociologists say, be equated with homosexuality, long taboo in rural Albania.

This line sort of caught me off guard. Next time you write about, say, theatre, why don't you just throw in a line like "but enjoying theater should not be equated with homosexuality." Gender identity and sexual orientation are very different things.

On Gender Pronouns
Normally, one should use "he" to refer to people who were born female but identify as male, yet this article uses "she." Is this ignorance on the part of the reporter to this "rule", an inability to accept a different custom, or do sworn virgins continue to use the female pronouns? Given the thoroughness with which they are treated as men (including use of the word "uncle"), I'm inclined to believe that they use the male pronouns. So why didn't the article?

On the Future of Sworn Virgins
As women gain more rights, the incentives to become a sworn virgin become less and less. Some of the remaining sworn virgins, however, appear to encourage the same gender roles that pushed them into becoming men:

“Today women go out half naked to the disco,” said Ms. Rakipi, who wears a military beret. “I was always treated my whole life as a man, always with respect. I can’t clean, I can’t iron, I can’t cook. That is a woman’s work.”