TWO SPIRIT PEOPLE
GENDER AND TRANSGENDER IN NATIVE AMERICAN TRADITION
In Native American cultures, people that we would usually call gay or transgender are known as ‘two-spirit people’
people who embody both male and female spirits. Sometimes these two-spirit people are known in anthropological literature as ‘berdache‘.
beautifully presents the two-spirit tradition. It emphasizes that the two-spirit role is a spiritual one, which makes it different from gay or lesbian identity, which is based on the physical and social.
Having both male and female within gives two-spirit people the ability to transcend boundaries, including the boundary between the earth and the spirit world. Thus they can provide a conduit to the spirit world. For this reason, two-spirit people were traditionally respected, and held powerful and important roles as teachers and healers.
Native American writers Sandra Laframboise and Michael Anhorn say, “Many tribes had rituals for children to go through if they were recognized as acting different from their birth gender”.
These rituals ensured the child was truly two-spirit. If parents noticed that a son was disinterested in boyish play or manly work, they would set up a ceremony to determine which way the boy would be brought up.
They would make an enclosure of brush, and place in the center both a man’s bow and a woman’s basket. The boy was told to go inside the circle of brush and to bring something out, and as he entered the brush would be set on fire. The tribe watched what he took with him as he ran out, and if it was the basketry materials they reconciled themselves to his being a ‘berdache’.”
Sandra Laframboise and Michael Anhorn have posted a detailed article
on two-spirit people written from a positive gay identity. They point out the controversy between traditionalists and two-spirit people, in the post-colonial context of today’s America, and urge us all to learn from this heritage, which can enrich all of us.
~~Two Spirit People~~
~~Uploaded on May 23, 2011~~
An overview of historical and contemporary Native American concepts of gender, sexuality and sexual orientation. This documentary explores the berdache tradition in Native American culture, in which individuals who embody feminine and masculine qualities act as a conduit between the physical and spiritual world, and because of this are placed in positions of power within the community.
Michel Beauchemin, Lori Levy & Gretchen Vogel 1991 20 min. USA
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We ALL are ONE!!