It’s Complicated: Misconceptions about Two-Spirit Identities
The modern term two-spirit as it applies today was coined in 1990 in Winnipeg as a term for any LGBTQ+ individual who is indigenous to the Americas regardless of if their tribe had a history of gender-variant/third-gender individuals or not. The term is often taken incorrectly to mean “Native American transgender person” when that is a grossly simplified reduction in what it means.
- There are trans* two-spirits
- There are cis two-spirits
- There are heterosexual two-spirits
- There are homosexual two-spirits and everything in-between and beyond.
- Some indigenous LGBTQ+ individuals choose not to identify as two-spirit.
The one thing that is required to identify as two-spirit is also identifying as indigenous to the Americas.
There is no singular two-spirit identity. It varies from tribe-to-tribe and from person-to-person. There are pictures that are passed around amongst queer blogs faster than a dirty magazine in a middle school locker room and the vast majority of them are prime examples of the misunderstanding and subsequent misunderstanding of our identities.
Every person who takes on the identity has their own reasons for doing so.
I’m Digatisdi. I’m a gay, male-bodied two-spirit. From what I know, my tribe never had a specific concept relating to being two-spirit. I took on the identity because of the gender roles I was raised partaking in. As my mother and grandmother are Cherokee, I grew up performing mostly women’s gender roles— except for bow and spear hunting which I’m rather good at, but I digress… I cannot go into further specifics because of incidents in the past where people have copied my exact words to prove they were raised Cherokee and can take on the identity when they were not and can not do so.
When a non-native takes on the identity, they are barging their way into a space where they do not belong. They are not welcome here and we are generally hostile to settlers who decide they’re two-spirit.
The identity is complex and varied. A lot of discourse surrounding queer issues ignores us but frankly I’d rather the identity be ignored by the mainstream than constantly misrepresented and romanticised in the consistent ”look at what we did to those poor spiritual simpletons” way that it often is. Opinions on this last bit may vary but I feel that if your information on this subject came solely from Wikipedia you should not speak on it— especially if you are not indigenous.
Edit: Some indigenous people choose to not use any label to describe their sexuality and/or gender identity. That does not make them any less indigenous or any less deserving of a place in the LGBTQ2 community.