Now, let’s learn more about the term “Two-Spirit.”
Two Spirit Term
The Two Spirit term was adopted in 1990 at an Indigenous lesbian and gay international gathering to encourage the replacement of the term berdache, which means, “passive partner in sodomy, boy prostitute.” (dictionary.com)
A Two Spirit person is a male-bodied or female-bodied person with a masculine or feminine essence. Two Spirits can cross social gender roles, gender expression, and sexual orientation.
Since Europeans arrived in the Americas, they’ve documented encounters with Two Spirit people. In many tribes, Two Spirit people were accepted and respected, but that changed with colonization. The colonizers, through forced assimilation efforts, changed acceptance into homophobia in many indigenous communities.
Within most tribes there is a term, in their language, to describe a Two Spirit person. On the NativeOUT website we provide a sample of these terms.
Two Spirit Roles
You might be wondering, what was the role of a Two Spirit person? The roles of Two Spirit people can vary from tribe to tribe. They could be name givers, match makers, medicine people, holy people, peace-makers, mediators, warriors, adoptive parents, and much more. Here is an example of a contemporary Two Spirit person. This is my adopted brother Matthew Reed. He is Laguna pueblo, a medicine person, and a member of a gourd society. He leads prayers and ceremonies both in his own tribal community and within the Two Spirit community.
Let’s learn more about the roles of historical Two Spirits.