Two Spirit 101

NativeOUT is just one of these 20+ organized grassroots Indigenous LGBTQ and Two-Spirit groups across North America involved in the Native LGBTQ  Two Spirit Movement. Our mission is to: Empower Indigenous LGBTQ/Two-Spirit people across North America to work towards social change in their communities. Educate the world about Indigenous LGBTQ/Two-Spirit history, people, and issues. Connect Native LGBTQ/Two-Spirit people and groups with the International Two Spirit Movement. Increase the visibility of Native LGBTQ/Two-Spirit people and our allies. Support Indigenous LGBTQ/Two-Spirit people and organizations in outreach to their communities.Our vision is to create social change in rural and urban communities that benefits Indigenous Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Two Spirit people.

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.” (

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.