Log in

No account? Create an account
03 August 2005 @ 10:03 pm
Native American Indian "Two-Spirited" Insights  
Okay...I've made posts in the past on this very same subject, but it's a subject that interests me...the Native American "Two-Spirits"...a.k.a. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals.

So...under the cut is another article I've run across...

By Dr. Will Moreau Goins

Hundreds of Native American tribes coexist in the United States, each with unique languages, histories and cultures, each proudly claiming its identity as Indian Nations or tribal groups. Still, common threads wind through the spiritual inheritances and experiences of the many tribes, nations, communities and Indian families. These threads are manifested in the ways Native Americans experience Creator God – in what the dominant society calls "spiritual disciplines." Despite experiencing physical and cultural genocide for several centuries, we are holding onto our beliefs by reclaiming many of our pre-contact cultural traditions, such as the sweat lodge ceremony, pipe ceremonies, sun dances, vision quests, naming ceremonies, story telling and native traditional teachings. One of the active agents, leaders or participants within this movement is the indigenous group referred to as "Two-Spirit." Many First Nation people of Aboriginal or Native American Indian descent in both the U.S. and Canada are using the term "Two-Spirit" to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals.

Two-Spirit is a cultural and social Native term – not a religious one – that encompasses alternative sexuality, alternative gender and an integration of Native Spirituality. Historically, Two-Spirits described transgender Native Americans but today includes gay men, lesbians and bisexual people. The term Two-Spirit is preferred over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, which are culturally biased and focus more on sexual orientation. Natives living in large multi-ethnic urban areas more commonly use Two-Spirit. Those living in rural areas or reservations often have their own terms to identify non-heterosexual people. Meanwhile, the term "berdache," long used by academics, media and others is no longer an acceptable catch-all for Native American gender and sexual behaviors. Contemporary Native Americans have come to consider berdache derogatory and insulting to the image and identity of Two-Spirited people.

Two-Spirited people have existed in many different cultures, including Native American and Aboriginal, in ancient times and in contemporary times. Traditionally, Native American culture has embraced the notion of an opposite gender identity different from one's anatomical sex without any implied sexual orientation. Tribal elders and chieftains often consulted Two-Spirited individuals because they were thought to have a kind of "universal knowledge" and special connection to the "Great Spirit." Two-Spirited males could also become one of the multiple wives of Indian braves and, in rare cases, of genetic females who became "men" by proving themselves as warriors. Two-Spirited people were called by different terms depending on the tribe. They were "winktes" in the Lakota Sioux, "Nadle" in Navaho tribes, "Shamans" in the Mojave and "Mahu" in the Polynesian culture of Tahiti. Two-Spirited people from various Nations, tribes, bands, communities and families performed the following duties: giving of sacred names, cooking for special ceremonies, telling of the sacred stories during specific times of the year, doctoring of wounds, chanters, teachers of the young, matchmakers, intermediators (between humans and spiritual entities), counselors in civic matters and personal matters, adopter of orphans and prayer for special protection. With the exception of some of the more warlike tribes like the Apache and Comanche, Two-Spirited people comfortably coexisted in almost every single North American tribe, especially in the Midwest, Great Plains and the Southwest.

Even though Two-Spirited people have historically been held in high-regard in Native American culture, European and Western cultural influences have injected homophobia into present-day Native American attitudes. Some Two-Spirits experience homophobia in their homes and on the reservation, causing them to withdraw and isolate themselves from their communities. Many of them move to urban centers in hopes of making a connection with people of comparable gender and sexual identities, if not of the same racial, ethnic and class identities. Some of them find that they are less understood, become more isolated and victims of gay bashing in their new, non-Indian community.

The media's stereotypical and largely invisible representation of Native Americans has made it more difficult for Two-Spirited people to find their place in the world. For too long, mainstream media has ignored the history, contribution and presence of Native American Indian people. Of the meager representations churned out by Hollywood, Native Americans were typically cast as merciless savages in Western films or as always being on the warpath, scalping soldiers and settlers in "historic" films. However, it was the Europeans, not the Native Americans, who introduced scalping to America. The media failed miserably to reflect the complex and diverse lives of Native Americans, including Two-Spirited people. It was easy for the media and historians to distort history and the Native-American experience, because Native Americans couldn't defend themselves in a dominant culture that didn't care to accurately depict their stories. Until recently, we didn't have control over these images because we didn't play an active role in the decision-making process in the studios or in the newsrooms.

Today, there are some Native American Indian media sources and national newspapers telling our stories in a fair and inclusive manner. Native American Indians are playing a larger role in how we are depicted, understood and accepted by asserting ourselves more aggressively than ever before in interpreting for the rest of the world our own heritage and cultures, and in relating our own histories. In recent years, Native Americans have tried to promote awareness through observances like the National Native American Indian Heritage Month. As partners of non-Indian scholars and media producers, modern day Native American writers, artists, scientists, teachers, tradition-keepers, Two-Spirited people and tribal cultural leaders are illuminating Indian perspectives of the past, making known and understandable much of what Anglos and other non-Indians had not grasped, and on the whole providing a far greater measure of objectivity and truth to the telling of the Indian story.

Today, Two-Spirited gatherings occur regularly across North America, part of the effort to renew the bond between Two-Spirits and their nations. It is important to also note that more than 85 percent of Native American Indian people live in urban environments and not in reservations. Consequently, the experiences of Native American Indian people who are Two-Spirited are as diverse as all other people in the Americas and yet still have undeniable influences and connections to their culture and heritage.
Will Moreau Goins, Ph.D., the chief executive officer of the Eastern Cherokee, Southern Iroquois & United Tribes of South Carolina, Inc., has worked with Native American people, organizations and agencies for more than 27 years.


Two-Spirit People: Native American Gender Identity, Sexuality, and Spirituality by Sue-Ellen Jacobs, Wesley Thomas, Sabine Lang


Changing Ones: Third and Fourth Genders in Native North America by Will Roscoe


Living the Spirit: A Gay American Indian Anthology Edited by Will Roscoe


Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture by Walter Williams


chris_king_2005chris_king_2005 on August 4th, 2005 04:46 am (UTC)
Oh, wow...
Now that? Is fabulous.

That's a wonderful article. I'm familiar with the history and tradition... (it's part of the reason that Rafe's family is so sane on the subject...)

Thanks for posting that. I'm going to have fun scampering about reading the online articles listed.

Psst. What are you still doing up?
Mark: guy Beironboywondermark on August 4th, 2005 04:22 pm (UTC)
Cool stuff, huh?!

LOL! I really do need more sleep! I'm on EST...what time are you running on Chris? (AND don't say 'borrowed')
chris_king_2005chris_king_2005 on August 4th, 2005 10:14 pm (UTC)
*smirks at you* Smartass....

I'm in Oz...so it's tomorrow where I am. This time of year,it's fourteen hours ahead of USA EST.
Mark: Me MarkinOzboywondermark on August 5th, 2005 01:38 am (UTC)
Ooooooooooooo! I LOVE OZ! Where do you live? The pic of me in the icon was taken there! I did a Coach Camping tour...about 2 1/2 weeks...Started in Sydney and went through mostly NSW, S Australia and the N Territory!
chris_king_2005chris_king_2005 on August 5th, 2005 01:41 am (UTC)
I'm in "regional" NSW, four hours from everywhere. *LOL*

And yeah, I love it here. Which is why there's a mad Yank running wild in country NSW, confusing the hell out of the locals.
Mark: CRICHTON LOBSTERboywondermark on August 5th, 2005 02:15 am (UTC)
Definately some pretty country there! :)
Milambermilamberrex on August 4th, 2005 11:21 am (UTC)
thanks for the two-spirited post. i've always been interested in the subject.
Mark: guy Beironboywondermark on August 4th, 2005 04:36 pm (UTC)
Me too, Rex! This is just an article that I hadn't seen...and I figured it was short enough that folks might take a minute to read it! ~hug~
Milambermilamberrex on August 5th, 2005 01:24 am (UTC)
Mark: Yaoiboywondermark on August 5th, 2005 02:13 am (UTC)
Jase: Gay Americanslavetopassion on August 4th, 2005 11:21 am (UTC)
Wow! That was so cool! Thank you so much for posting!

Mark: Calvin Hobbes Hugboywondermark on August 4th, 2005 04:34 pm (UTC)
Glad ya liked it, Baby Boy! ~Smooches~
Dan the gnomebrewergnome on August 4th, 2005 01:08 pm (UTC)
Be careful of the "glbt" definition of "two-spirit" it's a somewhat... odd term in that it's been used both in a broad amorphous sense and as a MUCH more defined and specific term for a specific sort of person who really doesn't fit into our standard definition of "glbt."

If you want I'll try to locate my old sourcebooks. It was one of the few fascinating subjects we touched on briefly in anthropology of gender.
Mark: 1markboywondermark on August 4th, 2005 04:40 pm (UTC)
From all of the articles that I've read, The "Two-Spirit" term referred to a wide group of non-standard types which included glbt. This article briefly touched on that but didn't go into all of the other types. I believe that the main jest of the newer articles is that glbt Native Americans are adopting this term to identify themselves. I actually think it's a nicer term.
Dan the gnomebrewergnome on August 4th, 2005 05:16 pm (UTC)
Some are, some are not taking the term for themselves. And some who follow the older definition are objecting to the newer use of the term. And as I said, in some places it was a very broad term, in others it was a very specific term.
Mark: coyoteboywondermark on August 5th, 2005 12:01 am (UTC)
Honey, I guess I'm not really sure what your point is. Any topic can be dealt with in general or specific terms and since this article mentions many different tribes of indians, there are going to be differences in the way they are thought of. And when I say 'many' are using it, I realize everyone isnt, that would be wrong to even assume.
Dan the gnomebrewergnome on August 5th, 2005 01:19 pm (UTC)
::shrugs:: Never mind. I simply wanted to make sure you're aware that there are other interpretations of the term and some who don't appreciate the appropriation thereof and was offering my sources.
Mark: coyoteboywondermark on August 5th, 2005 01:23 pm (UTC)
Thanks, hon! Yeah...I'm aware...this is just one of many articles that I've read on the subject! ;)
A.M.ultimategirl on August 4th, 2005 02:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you for posting the article, hon! This is a very interesting topic!
Mark: coyoteboywondermark on August 4th, 2005 04:48 pm (UTC)
I just really get a sense of .... normalcy, i guess...when I read things like this!
A.M.ultimategirl on August 4th, 2005 05:15 pm (UTC)
I understand what you're saying. I get a similar sense myself.
Mark: ai-loveboywondermark on August 4th, 2005 11:48 pm (UTC)
Isn't it a shame that people can't just live and let live!
A.M.ultimategirl on August 5th, 2005 12:04 am (UTC)
Absolutely! I get so tired of the way some people expect everyone to shove themselves into little boxes just so they can feel comfortable.
Mark: angel rainbowboywondermark on August 5th, 2005 02:05 am (UTC)
Again...I gotta say...Hallelujah! :)