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TWO SPIRIT
 

Native American LGBTQ Info and Resources
Wikipedia: Two Spirit
Two Spirited Tradition
Frameline Video: Two Spirit People

Two Spirit Native American Stories

LGBTQ Native Americans

 

"Two Spirit" is an aboriginal phrase (A direct translation of the Ojibwe term Niizh manidoowag) that refers to both masculine and feminine spirits simultaneously living in the same body. It is a term used by the native, indigenous, or aboriginal lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community.

Within the various native or aboriginal populations (American Indian, Canadian Indian, Alaskan Native, Inuit, First Nations, and others), LGBTQ individuals often have difficulty overcoming the cultural taboos against homosexual behavior.


 

Native people whose gender identify differs are often subject to shaming, a form of social censorship within the tribal community. Shame is rendered for inappropriate social behavior, particularly any personal expression for flamboyant dress, mannerisms and especially effeminate behavior among males. Likewise, shame is given any female whose overt masculine behaviors demonstrate her toughness. In short, tolerance in a contemporary Indian community over the years has evolved to allow no alternatives for a male or female Indian identity. Doing so would be considered to bring shame not just on the individual but also negative attention to their family.

As a result of tribal community pressures, young people who have a different sexual orientation often grow up in a closeted existence or actual isolation. This imposed isolation is self-destructive and limits individuals from living to their fullest potential. In a school environment, many of these young people are subjected to bullying and harassment from their classmates. In this atmosphere, support is generally unavailable and creates an unsafe environment within the school. Nonetheless, there are exceptional gay students who somehow endure and who are accepted as equals by their peers. However, the majority of gay students exhibit behaviors such as skipping school, which affects their academic performance, or simply will become a run away from both home and school.

 

For Native LGBTQ people who seek life in a city for anonymity, the experience can be far more negative than staying within their home community. Like most natives reared in a tribal community, Native LGBTQ people retain pride in their identity, where they are from and who are their relatives. Living in a city can unfortunately give a sense of alienation that is both physical and emotional. Native LGBTQ individuals often grieve their separation from family and community when they are unaccepted in a city because of their lifestyle as well as being a Native. This experience results in a double discrimination for Native LGBTQ people instead of the desired anonymity.
 

Documentary Film: Two Spirits

Dancing to Eagle Spirit Society

Mending the Rainbow: Working with Two Spirit Communities

Androgyne: Two Spirit Tradition

Who Are the Two Spirits?

Native Two Spirits

 

Two-Spirit People

"Two-Spirit" is an umbrella term sometimes used by Native American and Canadian First Nation communities to refer to those who fulfill one of many mixed gender roles. Two-Spirit people are generally defined as LGBTQ and gender-variant members of the Native American/First Nation communities. Many contemporary LGBTQ North American indigenous or aboriginal people use the term “Two-Spirit” to maintain cultural continuity with their traditions.

 

In many cultures, some individuals possessed and manifested a balance of both feminine and masculine energies, making them inherently sacred people. Third gender roles historically embodied by Two-Spirit people include performing work and wearing clothes associated with both men and women. The presence of two-spirits was a fundamental institution among most tribal peoples. Male and female two-spirits have been documented in over 150 tribes, in every region of North America, serving specific duties, including men fulfilling women’s roles, women fulfilling men’s roles, and importantly, Two-Spirit individuals contributing as spiritual leaders.

It is documented in academic literature that many American Indian cultures honored and respected alternative sexual lifestyles and gender roles, which the Two-Spirit movement is attempting to recover. A complex sex/gender system was found in every region of the continent, among every type of Native culture, from the small bands of hunters in Alaska to the populous, hierarchical city-states in Florida. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer orientations were honored and often coincided with healing and shamanic practices.

Native American Names for Two-Spirit People

--Badé / Boté (Crow people)
--Warhameh (Cocopa people)
--Joya (Chumash people)
--Kwiraxame (Maricopa people)
--Ihamana (Zuni people)
--Winkte (Lakota people)
--Nadleeh (Navajo people)

 

Two-Spirit History

 

Before the late twentieth century, the term “berdache” was widely used by anthropologists as a generic term to indicate two-spirit individuals. However, this term has become increasingly outdated and considered offensive. The term “Two-Spirit” gained widespread popularity in 1990 during the third annual intertribal Native American/First Nations gay and lesbian conference in Winnipeg.

"Two-spirited" or "two-spirit" usually indicates a person whose body simultaneously manifests both a masculine and a feminine spirit. These individuals were sometimes viewed in certain tribes as having two spirits occupying one body. Their dress is usually a mixture of traditionally male and traditionally female articles. They have distinct gender and social roles in their tribes. The term can also be used more abstractly, to indicate presence of two contrasting human spirits (such as Warrior and Clan Mother) or two contrasting animal spirits (which, depending on the culture, might be Eagle and Coyote).
 

Dancing to Eagle Spirit Society

Mending the Rainbow: Working with Two Spirit Communities

Androgyne: Two Spirit Tradition

Who Are the Two Spirits?

 

Two-Spirit is a native tradition that researchers have identified in some of the earliest discoveries of native artifacts. Much evidence indicates that native people, prior to colonization, believed in the existence of cross-gender roles, the male-female, the female-male, what we now call the Two-Spirited person. Two-spirits might have relationships with people of either sex. Female-bodied two-spirits usually had sexual relations or marriages with only females.

 

In Native American/First Nation culture, before the Europeans came to the Americas, "two-spirit" referred to an ancient teaching. Native elders tell of people who were gifted among all beings because they carried two spirits, that of male and female. It is told that women engaged in tribal warfare and married other women, as there were men who married other men. These individuals were looked upon as a third and fourth gender in many cases and in almost all cultures they were honored and revered.

Wikipedia: Two Spirit
Charlie Ballard Video: Being Gay and Native American
Two Spirited Tradition
Frameline Video: Two Spirit People

Two Spirit Native American Stories

 

Two-spirit people were often the visionaries, the healers, the medicine people, the nannies of orphans, the care givers. They were respected as fundamental components of their ancient culture and societies. In some tribes, male-bodied two-spirits held specific active roles which, varying by tribe, may include: healers or medicine persons, conveyors of oral traditions and songs, foretellers of the future, conferrers of lucky names on children or adults, nurses during war expeditions, potters, matchmakers, makers of feather regalia for dances, and special role players in the Sun Dance.

Although two-spirits were both respected and feared in many tribes, the two-spirit was not beyond reproach or even being killed for bad deeds. They frequently became medicine persons and were likely to be suspected of witchcraft in cases of failed harvest or of death. They were, like any other medicine person, frequently killed over these suspicions. At the same time, traditional Two-Spirit customs and ceremonies have, in many cases, been replaced with Anglo-Christian ideology and homophobia.

 

 

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