An Intersectional Look at the Alphabet Soup: Two Spirit

As part of the kick off for Native American Heritage month I wrote the following article:

For those readers who are unaware of what I mean by Alphabet Soup, I am referring to the LGBTQ+ acronym, and every variation that goes along with it. Something else many readers may not be aware of is that it is Native American Heritage Month. The question you are probably asking yourself is what is the link between LGBTQ+ identities and Native Americans. This is both of a simple nature and it is a complex answer: Two-Spirit.

Two-Spirit indicates that a person is inhabited by both a masculine and feminine spirit and is a term used to identify individuals who transgress the bounds of gender and or sexuality. The term is an umbrella term for decided on by native peoples during the third annual Intertribal Native American/First Nations Gay and Lesbian Conference, which took place in Winnipeg, Canada in 1990. The term was chosen to replace the word Berdache, a title given to these Native Peoples by the Europeans. This word is highly offensive as it is rooted in the French word bardache, which refers to male prostitutes.

Those who are Two-Spirit don’t necessarily present their gender differently from their birth assigned sex. Many are in relationships with individual who are the same-sex, as a Two-Spirit identified person. In some tribes, the title of Two-Spirit was taken on by war widows as a show of strength and respect for their fallen partner.
Throughout the Native populace Two-Spirit individual were and still are treated with reverence and respect. They are healers and medicine persons, warriors, orators, soothsayers, nurses, potters, matchmakers, and often makers of the feathers of special headdresses. Many of the fiercest warriors were Two-Spirit identified.

Although we see Two-Spirit identified people in many, many native tribes, the concept is not universal among Native Peoples. Native American Nations, such as the Iroquois have never had the Two-Spirit ideology within their tribes. Two-Spirit, like all aspects of the LGBTQ+ community, is an identity. But unlike many of identities in the alphabet soup, it also cultural. I caution those who read this who are of non-native heritage from claiming this identity as your monomer. Cultural identities come with a rich history rooted in privilege and oppression.

Today, Native People are once again embracing this identity and Two-Spirit is welcome amongst my Alphabet Soup. I encourage you to include it as well


Peter Ruiz

About Peter Ruiz

Hi! My name is Peter Ruiz and I am the Films, Lectures, and Arts Student Coordinator in OMA. I am a Theatre Major and Women’s Studies and Physics double minor. I was President of the Interfaith Club my freshman year and I am currently serving as the Secretary of Spectrum. My major passion areas include Trans* issues, Feminism, and Intersectionality. As the Film, Lectures, and Arts Student Coordinator I hope to engage students in ideas pertaining to Identity and Social Justice in both meaningful and entertaining ways.

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