The ground-breaking exhibition A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Prints is showing at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto, Canada. Featuring stunning woodblock prints, samurai armor, a kimono, screen paintings, lacquerwork, and illustrated books, the exhibition explores issues of gender and tells a pivotal story of sexuality in Japan’s Edo period (1603–1868). The exhibition continues until November 17, 2016.

The Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto is pleased to have partnered in this exhibition.

A Third Gender is the first North American display on wakashu. Four hundred years ago in Japan, a complex social structure existed in which gender involved more than a person’s biological sex. Age, position in the sexual hierarchy, and appearance were also considered. Fundamental to this structure were youths termed wakashu. Neither ‘adult man’ nor ‘woman’ —each a separate gender — wakashu were objects of desire for both, playing distinct social and sexual roles. Constituting a third gender, they are visually represented in these Edo period woodblock prints.

The exhibition features approximately 60 woodblock prints (ukiyo-e), visually representing wakashu. Many never before displayed, they are from the ROM’s Japanese art collection—the largest in Canada. Produced since the 8th century in Japan, woodblock prints, created collaboratively by a designer, engraver, printer, and publisher, became popular in the 17th century. The exhibition’s prints were created in early 18th to mid-19th centuries by major ukiyo-e masters including Okumura Masanobu, Suzuki Harunobu, and Kitagawa Utamaro.

A Third Gender is curated by Dr. Asato Ikeda, Assistant Professor of Art History at Fordham University, New York and the ROM’s 2014–16 Bishop White Postdoctoral Fellow of Japanese Art and Culture. In Ikeda’s words, “A Third Gender invites ROM visitors to think differently about gender and sexuality and we anticipate the exhibition will be of interest to a diverse audience.”

Attendance at this exhibition, at more than 6,000 people per week, has been overwhelming.  A beautifully illustrated academic book accompanies the exhibition.

More information can be found HERE.