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Bacchá

In northern Turkic-speaking areas of Central Asia, entertainers known as bacchá (a Turkic Uzbeki term perhaps etymologically derived from the Persian bacheh, بچه‌ – “child” or “kid”) were once common, and constituted the commercial and transgender side of the local pederastic tradition, known as bacchabozlik.

A bacchá, typically an adolescent of twelve to sixteen, was a performer practiced in erotic songs and suggestive dancing. He wore resplendent attire and makeup, which may have been cross-dressing or actual transgender expression. The bacchá was appreciated for his androgynous beauty and was available as a sex worker.

The bacchás were trained from childhood and carried on their trade until their beard began to grow. Once they matured out of the trade, some were set up in business as merchants, by their patrons. More often, the boys were left to their own, often meager, resources. Though after the Russian conquest the tradition was suppressed for a time by tsarist authorities, early Russian explorers were able to document the practice. It was resurgent in the early years of the twentieth century as the boys were increasingly sought as entertainers by the new Russian settlers, a practice criticized in the Central-Asian Russian press of the time.

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