On the Two Spirit Community

While most people just use LGBTQ, the full acronym is LGBTQQIP2SAA: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Pansexual, Two Spirit, Asexual, Ally. To be inclusive the full LGBTQQIP2SAA acronym, the last identity to cover on my blog is the 2S, or Two Spirit.
Two Spirit is a Native America term for people who blend the masculine and the feminine. It is commonly used to describe individuals who historically cross gender and often used by contemporary LGBTQ Native American people to describe themselves.
History
“The term stems from the Ojibwe phrase niizh manidoowag and replaces the outdated, oversimplified term herdache, which appeared frequently in research and anthropological
studies that aimed to describe the place of gay men in Native society in the 18th and early
19th centuries. Berdache is a derivative of a French term meaning “kept boy.” So not only
is the word offensive, it also falls short in defining the diverse experiences of Native
people who weren’t of only the male and female genders in their cultures. The term came about in North America when 13 men, women, and transgender people from various tribes were trying to find a word to unite the LGBTQ Native America Community” (Native People’s Magazine).
It’s Gender and Sexuality
An important thing to realize about two spirit identities is that it has to do with gender and sexuality. Just like so many identities, it really is up to the individual. Someone can use their Two Spirit identity to describe their sexual orientation or their gender identity, or both. (Everyday Feminism)
Two Spirit is an identity for Native Individuals
Just like certain activism and support group are for certain people, Two Spirit identities are only for Indigenous Native individuals and no one else. That said, it’s important not to take on this identity if you are not an Indigenous Native individual. (Everyday Feminism)
But not all LGBTQ Native individuals take on Two Spirit identities
As an individual’s personal identity, they can choose to take on a Two Spirit identity or not. Identities and labels are personal and often bring joy and a sense of community. However, it’s not a responsibility of a Native LGBTQ individual to take on a Two Spirit identity if they don’t want to. (Everyday Feminism)
 Other Facts about Two Spirit Identities
  • Native tribes have different terminology and language. There are many different ways of saying words surrounding the Two Spirit Community such as male-bodied, female-bodied. See the list here.
  • In these tribes, being transgender is seen as a double blessing, for there is a belief that they are doubly blessed for having “both the spirit of a man and the spirit of a woman” (Huffington Post)
  • According to the author of The Spirit and The Flesh by Walter Williams: Gender roles still play into Two Spirit Communitities. Feminine men who prefer to do woman’s work would marry a masculine male (doing men’s work) and a masculine female (doing men’s work) would marry a a feminine one (doing woman’s work). These were expectations, just like we see in heterosexual men and woman, just often in queer relationships. (The Guardian)
  • While Two Spirit tribes are often talked about historically, they do still exist and people identify within them. However, now they are welcomed are included within the LGBTQ Community.

I think it’s important to learn about all queer identities within the LGBTQ Community, and I’m happy I decided to educate myself on this one. I hope this taught you a little about Two Spirit identities and the Two Spirit Community.

Sources:

“5 Things Queer and Questioning Indigenous Folks Should Consider About Claiming Two Spirit Identity” by Mahealani Joy  http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/10/consider-two-spirit-identity/

Two Spirit 101 . NativeOUT http://nativeout.com/twospirit-rc/two-spirit-101/

Huffington Post. “Two-Spirit People: Gays Accepted by Native Americans.” by Charles Orgbon. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charles-orgbon/twospirit-people-gays-acc_b_1677851.html

The Guardian. “The ‘Two Spirit’ People of Indigenous North Americans.” by Walter Williams. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2010/oct/11/two-spirit-people-north-america

Native People’s Magazine. “Two Spirit: The Story of a Movement Unfolds.” http://www.nativepeoples.com/Native-Peoples/May-June-2014/Two-Spirit-The-Story-of-a-Movement-Unfolds/

 

 

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