Rev Irene Monroe

Remembering Two-Spirits this Thanksgiving

Filed By Rev Irene Monroe | November 26, 2008 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: American Indians, homophobic behavior, LGBT history, Native American, Puritans, racism, sex, sodomy, Thanksgiving, Two-Spirits

Ed Note: This is a reprint from last year's Thanksgiving post. Rev Monroe adds, "It's always timely in my opinion, because not enough it said about this."

crow-two-spirits-1928.jpgAs I prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, I am reminded of the autumnal harvest time's spiritual significance. As a time of connectedness, I pause to acknowledge what I have to be thankful for. But I also reflect on the holiday as a time of remembrance - historical and familial.

Historically, I am reminded that for many Native Americans, Thanksgiving is not a cause of celebration, but rather a National Day of Mourning, remembering the real significance of the first Thanksgiving in 1621 as a symbol of persecution and genocide of Native Americans and the long history of bloodshed with European settlers.

I am also reminded of my Two-Spirit Native American brothers and sisters who struggle with their families and tribes not approving of their sexual identities and gender expressions as many of us do with our families and faith communities.

"Yes, there's internalized homophobia in every gay community, but as Native Americans we are taught not to like ourselves because we're not white. In our communities, people don't like us because we're gay," Gabriel Duncan, member of Bay Area American Indian Two Spirits (BAAITS), told the Pacific News Service.

Consequently, many Two-Spirit Native Americans leave their reservations and isolated communities hoping to connect with the larger LGBTQ community in urban cites. However, due to racism and cultural insensitivity, many Two-Spirits feel less understood and more isolated than they did back home.

But homophobia is not indigenous to Native American culture. Rather, it is one of the many devastating effects of colonization and Christian missionaries that today Two-Spirits may be respected within one tribe yet ostracized in another.

"Homophobia was taught to us as a component of Western education and religion," Navajo anthropologist Wesley Thomas has written. "We were presented with an entirely new set of taboos, which did not correspond to our own models and which focused on sexual behavior rather than the intricate roles Two-Spirit people played. As a result of this misrepresentation, our nations no longer accepted us as they once had."

Traditionally, Two-Spirits symbolized Native Americans' acceptance and celebration of diverse gender expressions and sexual identities. They were revered as inherently sacred because they possessed and manifested both feminine and masculine spiritual qualities that were believed to bestow upon them a "universal knowledge" and special spiritual connectedness with the "Great Spirit." Although the term was coined in the early 1990s, historically Two-Spirits depicted transgender Native Americans. Today, the term has come to also include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and intersex Native Americans.

The Pilgrims, who sought refuge here in America from religious persecution in their homeland, were right in their dogged pursuit of religious liberty. But their actual practice of religious liberty came at the expense of the civil and sexual rights of Native Americans.

And the Pilgrims' animus toward homosexuals not only impacted Native American culture, but it also shaped Puritan law and theology.

Here in the New England states, the anti-sodomy rhetoric had punitive if not deadly consequences for a newly developing and sparsely populated area. The Massachusetts Bay Code of 1641 called for the death of not only heretics, witches and murderers, but also "sodomites," stating that death would come swiftly to any "man lying with a man as with a woman." And the renowned Puritan pastor and Harvard tutor, the Rev. Samuel Danforth in his 1674 "fire and brimstone" sermon preached to his congregation that the death sentence for sodomites had to be imposed because it was a biblical mandate.

Because the Pilgrims' fervor for religious liberty was devoid of an ethic of accountability, their actions did not set up the conditions requisite for moral liability and legal justice. Instead, the actions of the Pilgrims brought about the genocide of a people, a historical amnesia of the event, and an annual national celebration of Thanksgiving for their arrival.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush ironically - if not ignorantly - designated November as "National American Indian Heritage Month" to celebrate the history, art, and traditions of Native American people.

As we get into the holiday spirit, let us remember the whole story of the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers to the New World.

On a trip home to New York City in May 2004, I went to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to view the UNESCO Slave Route Project, "Lest We Forget: the Triumph Over Slavery," that marks the United Nations General Assembly's resolution proclaiming 2004 "The International Year to Commemorate the Struggle Against Slavery and Its Abolition."

In highlighting that African Americans should not be shamed by slavery, but instead defiantly proud of our memory of it, I read the opening billboard to the exhibit that stated, "By institutionalizing memory, resisting the onset of oblivion, recalling the memory of tragedy that for long years remained hidden or unrecognized and by assigning it its proper place in the human conscience, we respond to our duty to remember."

It is in the spirit of our connected struggles against discrimination that we can all stand on a solid rock that rests on a multicultural foundation for a true and honest Thanksgiving.

And in so doing, it helps us to remember, respect, mourn and give thanks to the struggles not only our LGBTQ foremothers and forefathers endured, but also the ongoing struggle our Native American Two-Spirit brothers and sisters face everyday - and particularly on Thanksgiving Day.


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"But homophobia is not indigenous to Native American culture. Rather, it is one of the many devastating effects of colonization and Christian missionaries that today Two-Spirits may be respected within one tribe yet ostracized in another."

Too true. Thanks for sharing this.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | November 20, 2007 2:34 PM

This is an awesome post, Rev Monroe!

one of the many devastating effects of colonization and Christian missionaries that today Two-Spirits may be respected within one tribe yet ostracized in another.

Or ostracized in both! And as you point out, what a drastic change from having once held positions in their tribes where they were specially revered and respected! When my teenaged daughter was having a particularly hard time at the prospect of me transitioning back in the early 1990’s, I used to tell her that society’s condemnation of trans people wasn’t a given but rather a condition peculiar to our time and place. I’d bring up the two-spirit people, though I didn’t use those terms, and tell her that if we’d been living in a similar culture and time where trans people were respected and honored, she’d be able to be proud of who her mother was. She’d be running around bragging about her gay dad and queer trans mom. I was trying to show her that the problems she was experiencing were a result of people’s bigotry and ignorance, not something that was innate. (It didn’t seem to help that much at the time, though I should ask her now that she’s an adult, if it helped at all. Although the topic of my identity is still a sore one for her.)

had punitive if not deadly consequences for a newly developing and sparsely populated area.

How ironic, isn’t it? That they would kill productive members of society because they weren’t “reproducing.” In other words, better to kill the queers even though they’re valuable members of society to make a point that we don’t have enough valuable members of society. Ignorant.

the actions of the Pilgrims brought about the genocide of a people, a historical amnesia of the event, and an annual national celebration of Thanksgiving for their arrival…"By institutionalizing memory, resisting the onset of oblivion, recalling the memory of tragedy that for long years remained hidden or unrecognized and by assigning it its proper place in the human conscience, we respond to our duty to remember."

So right on! Thank you for this post at this time!!!

Thanks Irene. That was a very moving reminder of how we’re all interconnected by bigotry and it couldn’t come on a better day. Today is the 9th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. It gives us an opportunity to remember why we stand together, even if we come from different communities.

“I have no doubt we shall win, but the road is long and red with monstrous martyrdoms”.
Oscar Wilde

Matthew Shepard, a young gay man, Gwyn Araujo, a young transsexual and Shakia Gunn are heroes. They paid in blood because they couldn’t stand the closet. Everyone who accepts themselves and goes on in spite of the bigots is a hero. Even if, especially if, their lives are snuffed out by the bigots.

American society can be suitably described as a quagmire of bigotries that the ruling rich use to divide and conquer. The good news is that everybody’s fighting back these days. As the fights erupt in this or that arena people are learning the necessity of solidarity and most importantly that audacity works.


"We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."
Benjamin Franklin

Are there any two spirit individuals named and written about that we can look up and read about? I really enjoyed your article.

Thanks so much for this post Irene. I was delighted to find the photo of the Crow Two-Spirits in your article. We just posted the same picture the other day on QWB, Hartford Ct as our Thanksgiving post. We are thankful for all of those who have gone before, for those who live now and for all these forevermore.

Rev. Irene Monroe | November 24, 2007 10:37 AM

I once worked with a young woman, a Two-Spirit, who had had a very difficult childhood in a reservation orphanage and eventually moved to Boston to try to find a better life.

I have recently read the three books of the Anasazi Mysteries: The Visitant, The Summoning God and Bone Walker. The series takes place in the US Southwest during both the day of the Anasazis (about 2000 years ago) and at a modern-day archaeological site. Throughout the series, one important character is Cloudblower, revered as a healer who even does brain surgery, and is always referred to as "she". To paraphrase and quote: She possesses a male body, but with a "female soul, gestures and tones of voice. In truth, she was wholly 'other'; neither male nor female, but some grand blending of both. He had seen her fight and been stunned by her skill with bow and club. But her reputation as a Healer spanned half the world. She had saved far more lives than she had taken."

I recommend them. The books were written by Kathleen O'Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear - not heavy reading, but with interesting archaeological and anthropological information woven into the story.

I often hear the story about two-spirit people who were honored and revered in a pre-homophobia, pre-transphobia society. While there's certainly truth to it, I find it's important not to romanticize pre-colonial existence -- and there certainly was homophobia and transphobia, even if it just looked differently.

Traditions vary greatly from tribe to tribe. Even as two-spirit people were recognized in an official capacity (that has been argued as a third gender), that didn't guarantee a good reception. Some tribes were hostile, and even some where two-spirit people were seen as holding spiritual power, they were still shunned.

Granted, there were traditions that were quite positive, and taken as a whole these traditions represent a radical alternative to the "traditional" perspective we are given from European influences, but it shouldn't be remembered as a queer/trans utopia either.

Not sure "Two Sprit" meant exclusively gay or lesbian sexual orientation. Anthropological studies with indigenous people seem to indicate more bi-sexuality than we have in our culture. Chief Crazy Horse had many wives including a man. The Chief was also "Two Sprit". He was a warrior and hunter and didn't do feminine chores looking after children, cooking, sewing ect. Placed in a hunter and gatherer society, what repressed instincts would "civilized" people have if their were no taboos against sex of anykind. Gaugain found out when he went to Tahiti. He had sex with men, but he also wanted children. I know the need to propogate by all humans is strong, gay or straight. We live in a warped and perverted society, so in essence, we don't really know who we are naturally.

Thanks Rev Monroe for providing a reminder of the dark side of our colonial past. I have always been drawn to native american gender fluidity, and it's demise over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. It's one of the starkest examples of how Euro-American morality, inextricable from capitalism and patriarchy, can infuse itself into other cultures through breaking up alternative ways of structuring political and socioeconomic relationships. (i've written some on this issue, but Walter Williams, Will Roscoe, Sue-Ellen Jacobs, and Sabine Lang are the most prolific writers in sociology/anthropology).

The one caveat I want to make regards the use of the term "homophobia" here. While many tribes, I'm most familiar with the Navajo, accepted the ability for individuals to move within and between demarcated male and female gender roles over the course of their lives, sexual and marital relationships were generally expected to be hetero-gendered, although not necessarily heterosexual. Male and female were fairly clearly defined, complementary concepts that did not need to be tied to a particular physiology, but two "men" or two "women" in the mold of contemporary gays and lesbian did not have an analogue in pre-colonial Navajo society.

Angela Brightfeather | November 26, 2008 6:13 PM

Dear Irene,

Dear Irene,

I honor your thoughts in the post and was particularly struck with the following quote from your writing.

"Traditionally, Two-Spirits symbolized Native Americans' acceptance and celebration of diverse gender expressions and sexual identities. They were revered as inherently sacred because they possessed and manifested both feminine and masculine spiritual qualities that were believed to bestow upon them a "universal knowledge" and special spiritual connectedness with the "Great Spirit." Although the term was coined in the early 1990's, historically Two-Spirits depicted transgender Native Americans. Today, the term has come to also include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and intersex Native Americans."

Of course, this is a complex topic, mixed with things from the past, the present and all points in between. Throw in the entire spectrum of abuse, murder, violence, war, poverty, substance abuse and 101 other things and you have enough subject matter to fill this blog with hundreds of thousands of entries. But I would like to take your quote and make one point.

The use of Two-Spirit terminology in the framework of any storytelling is inaccurate when applied to sexual orientation. As a Transgender person I am unwilling to give up the title of Two Spirit to my Gay and Lesbian brothers an sisters of the Nations, because I know where the term came from and to co-op the term and use it, is to steal it from another as though you stole a holy name given by a Winkte to a young child. A name that is only known by three people. the Creator, The child and The Winkte that spike it first, which is used to make direct connection when offering prayer and asking for goodness in the community.

Let me make this clear. Transgender people were the people of yesterday, before sex reassignment surgery and before hormones and facial feminization that existed as they were meant to exist by the Creator. Men living and learning the ways of women and women living and learning the ways of men was a special gift given to those who the Creator blessed with certain abilities.

They were the first marriage councilors, because they could see with both eyes and feel with both hearts. They were the women, born as men, who were the only ones who could keep up with a raiding party and tend to the injured because they were taught the healing ways of women. They were the Shamans of the tribes of the Yucatan who were thrown to the dogs of Cortez when they mistakingly observed males dressed as females who were elevated to an esteemed level in their tribes and "thought to be" sodomites. Because of that kind of treatment, they are the Transgender people in the nations of today who when found out to be "different" are given to their grandmothers to raise and hide from public view and to protect at all costs.

Transgender people were driven into isolation within the Nations because of people like Cortez amny years ago, and people like the murderer's of Duanna Johnston today. Because of others claiming the name of Two Spirit and co-opting it from Transgender people, they become a part of this present society that keeps Transgender people under the watchful eyes of their grandmothers and in the closet away from harm, at a time when Transgender people are trying to reclaim the identity that they had before SRS and hormones and educate people about their traditions within the Nations and the special qualities that they bring to this society today.

Qualities such as seeing both sides, having the vision to be able to show a better way to see and understand people, that is not dependent on the binary of "what is between your legs" to determine the worth of the person. They are the model for diversity that defies every marriage law, every man-woman ONLY relationship and they blur and confuse the intent of every law that has ever been made to intensionally separate and create the differences between men and women and thus limit their abilities in society.

To me, the only sexually oriented group that might even come close to calling themselves Two-Spirited are Bisexuals, but considering the fact that the Hopi, one of the most esteemed Nations in the America's, who have kept their traditions unlike most, believe that there are 32 different genders, links the Two-Spirit tradition with Transgender people first and foremost, both historically and factually.

As you have said, in 1990 gay and lesbian people of the Nations made a pact to co-opt a tradition and title that belonged to others and without their permission. To many Transgender people from many nations, this was not a good thing to do and does not speak well of their intent to share a gift from the Creator and a place in civilization that was not given them by the Creator. In light of the present circumstances between many in the GLBT community who do not honor the gifts of Transgender people and think them to be more of a burden in obtaining what they desire in life, it is an act of marginalizing and discrimination in itself that steals the pride and heritage of gender diverse people from them and what they have been put on earth to do for all human beings.

Thanksgiving is a time that as Americans, most people celebrate. But as Aboriginal Americans many people look back and see broken treaties, reservations, acute discrimination and death upon death. Please do not add to the theft of land, pride and lives by taking away the one link that Transgender, Two-Sprit people have. Someone should have asked us first and we would have shared. But instead it is being taken away from us, and we are being told that our story is lost and we should go back to our Grandmother's lodge to live in the shadows.

Unfortunatley, in America it is not unusual for thousands of years of tradition to be suddenly rearranged in the span of 18 short years. Accepting it is another thing all together though.

To those who know about sharing and giving, I wish a Happy Thanksgiving. To those who know about what happened after the original act of giving and sharing, I offer my respect for your persistance in surviving and I honor your traditions and the ways.

May you and yours, walk with the Creator.

"As a Transgender person I am unwilling to give up the title of Two Spirit to my Gay and Lesbian brothers an sisters of the Nations, because I know where the term came from and to co-op the term and use it, is to steal it from another"

Some traditions did not differentiate. To say that GLB people were never considered Two-Spirit in any tribe is inaccurate. The gender-diverse characteristics did in fact sometimes hedge on behaviours over appearance. The differentiation was not as important as it seems to be to people today. It is true that those who were more visibly gender diverse tended to be more revered where such traditions existed, particularly those born visibly Intersex, but making a wide sweeping exclusion is unfair.

There was also far more to most Two-Spirit traditions than gender role, presentation and orientation, and I see transgender people of today just as quick or quicker to co-opt that.

Reformed Ascetic | November 27, 2008 9:19 AM
In light of the present circumstances between many in the GLBT community who do not honor the gifts of Transgender people and think them to be more of a burden in obtaining what they desire in life, it is an act of marginalizing and discrimination in itself that steals the pride and heritage of gender diverse people from them and what they have been put on earth to do for all human beings./td>

This quote in the context of your comment has just become my preferred way to frame the issues between LGB and T people in the LGBT community in my own head.

Thanks for your comment and for that gift in particular.

I thought it was funny that you mentioned bisexuals because that was my personal observation as to how the name two-spirit started to become generic to the entire modern LGBT community.

The first mentions I saw of sexuality were asserting that bisexuality was logically connected to the idea, practice, naming and sexual expressions of two-spirit people. [I don’t think it was bisexuals particularly saying this.] Then very quickly I saw people saying well really this is just a cultural word for LGBT people of any combination of sexual or gender expression. Typically without any spiritual concepts other than those required to suggest these people were respected, often entirely secular. Apparently because people found it useful and self-affirming to say LGBT people of the First Nations were objects of respect. [I’m not sure that’s factually accurate but it was what I saw happening before my eyes.]

Someone should have asked us first and we would have shared.

This to me is probably the most touching part of your comment. Both the desire for and willingness to express simple respect and commonality in one short sentence. Thanks for reminding me of the kind of person I want to be.

I recall various tribes having same-sex marriage bans.

I wouldn't bet too much on Native American culture remaining in its state before Christian perversion.

The Navajo council passed a gay marriage ban several years ago over the veto of the Navajo president. Opponents of the legislation cited to this history we've been discussing, which sadly fell upon deaf ears. The US did a truly fantastic job of transforming Native cultures.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | November 26, 2008 7:55 PM

Thanks for posting this again.

And Tobi, very good points!!

Angela Brightfeather, do you have a citation for the Hopi 32-gender system?

As for the Two-Spirit designation, I'd expect that non-First Nations people would follow the usage most common among First Nations people. I have heard it to describe historical individuals who switched from one fairly stereotypical gender role to the other (whatever the similarities and differences with modern TS/TG) and I have heard it used as a generic term for all present-day First Nations TBGLQI.

Was (or is) "asexuality" or "long-term celibacy" considered a gender entity of its own in any F.N. society?

Some months ago my wife and I attended a workshop day at Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth. There we two workshops given one of which was by an historian who examined the legal records from the colony and discussed the issues of same sex relationships from both the legal and practical positions. Then there was a presentation from two leaders from a Two Spirit organization. One of them said that he had never set foot on this place and was shocked to be asked and had planned on coming in and expressing his anger over what it represented but that it had changed when he saw the native village and met the people working there. The resulting workshop was very interesting and well received by the mostly LGBT audience present. Then we all had dinner together.

Osi-yo Reverend Irene Monroe,
Very much gratitude for exploring all forced transitions of peoples. My adult life’s travels have revealed what my biological families lived…peoples who learn from GrandMother Earth and her families are drawn by mutual energy not genitals. Our tribes enjoyed many gender blending. Peoples who work for this planet have a stronger opportunity of well mind and body. I was raised with the belly wisdom, “It is none of my business what others think of me.”
I humbly acknowledge that will take many lifetimes to create.

Wa-do, EarthThunder

Angela Brightfeather | November 28, 2008 12:04 AM

I find your comments very generous.
"To say that GLB people were never considered Two-Spirit in any tribe is inaccurate."
I would concede this point that you make to be accurate if you could direct me to something prior to 1990 and prior to the atrocious book "The Spirit and the Flesh" that confirms that the basis of Two Spirit peoples, revflects the fact that homosexuality was the compelling nature for naming people Two Spirited.

the concept of co-opting Two Spirit from Transgender or gender diverse people is only compunded in most of the books I ahve read about the subject such as Two-Spirit People, especially in essays from Evelyn Blackwood, et al, who note accounts from the early 20th century that ask the question by anthropologisits "why do people become Two Spirit?

The very thought that people become Two Spirit or "failed men and failed women" is just one referral that obliterates the fact that Transgender and Gay and Lesbian people "become" rather than were "born" that way. The travesties continue through to the present, associating sexuality as a basis for being Two Spirit, using the position as justification of sexual behavior, but relegating gender expression as a more a more minor factor. I do concede that the type of work a person chose to do within the Tribal society also lended to being labeled as Two Spirit, but that seemed to be in Tribes where homosexuality was not considered appropriate, therefore there was some built in homophobia, such as the Crows.

If you track it back to pre 1830's and sutdy the records and photos as the Smithsonian as I have, there is absolutely no doubt that the major factor in determining Two Spirit was gender presentation. Most of the pictures scream gender presentation at you when you see them in those photos.

The people we call Transgender today, were the keepers of the art, sybolism, dance, music, traditions, healing ways and we have the proof of that in museums like the Smithsonian in artwork produced by We-Wah and others that is still on exhibit today.

It is my feeling from actually seeing these things that only Trasngender people could have done them and were gifted to do them. It was their palce to do them and their job, just as much as it is the job of the Hijira in India to bless the birthday of the first born son in every family. To take this history from Transgender people is to take the place they made for themselves in civilizations in order to be accepted, away frm them. Adn that is the fundamental problem in this society today. There is no place for Transgender people as unique and special gifts from the Creator today. Some of us believe that in order to truly understand themselves, Trasngender people need to be able to understand and connect with their roots, that justifies their existence in accordance to the Creator's unique gift.

This task is that much more difficult when others claim to be a part of that history and tradition for the sake of being more viable or acceptable. It has always been that Transgender people can be asexual, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, etc. It has never been any other way except on a temporary basis and until a person finds their true path. This is why sexuality and gender may be compatible but different.

If GLB people wish to say that they are Two Spirited, then I can understand that and I might even go along with it, if they first admit to the true history of it and allow Transgender people the respect they deserve in that tradition. Instead of allowing others to make Transgender people unequal to them as human beings or making them justify who they are and educate everyone else before they can be considered equal.

Once you slide down the slippery slope of changing historical fact, you can bet someone is going to get hurt and marginalized in the process.

"I would concede this point that you make to be accurate if you could direct me to something prior to 1990 and prior to the atrocious book "The Spirit and the Flesh"

The difficulty with this, of course, is that most of what we have has been passed on by oral tradition. I have basically the things that were told to me by Cree and Blackfoot elders, a Navajo woman and others I've befriended along the way. Of course, in most cases, that won't constitute "evidence" because it's not on paper... one more way by which the culture has been undermined.

I freely admit that I am not an expert on the subject, I'm Metis ("halfbreed"), raised in a family that kept the traditions hidden and instilled shame about Native heritage. It wasn't until leaving home that I was free to purse discovering the culture, and for the first several years, survival was the bigger issue. This is why I do not call myself Two-Spirit or Ayekkwe; I say only that I'm interested in Two-Spirit traditions (just as I'm interested in discovering all Cree and Saulteaux traditions, which are part of my heritage). I am very particular not to co-opt the designation for myself, though I have been graciously accepted among a number of Two-Spirit people here who know my background (well, "here" being Edmonton -- I've been somewhat disconnected since moving to Calgary).

But I do know that the things that I've heard from elders have sometimes included people who are gay as well. They may take on a new gender presentation because that is what is expected, of course, but that's what I mean about there not having been differentiation. To me, GLB vs. T has been a relatively recent development in human history.

Reformed Ascetic | November 29, 2008 11:00 AM

“To me, GLB vs. T has been a relatively recent development in human history.”

To me depending on the exact culture, subject and point being made, I think there is probably truth to this, though I don’t think I am as knowledgeable on the subject at hand as either you or Angela.

But to that same extent, I would probably want to add that the idea of differentiating between GL and B is even more recent. And to the extent that it was (or if it had been) in various cultures around the world, it is probably safe to say that B would have been privileged over G&L, as opposed to the reverse that many feel exists now.

I say that to make the often-made point that the modern concepts of GLBT don’t necessarily translate with 100% accuracy too far back into any culture.

This has become an amazing thread and one that needs more expansion. I have known Angela for over a decade and this is one area she has studied for 30 or more years. I learn new and wonderful facts from her about the First People each time this subject comes up.

I suggest that Bil and the Editorial Team approach Angela on writing a Guest Blog posting (probably a series) on this subject. What she has said here has just scratched the surface.

Matthew 19:12 - Jesus said, "For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."

Thanks to all of brothers and sister. Your wisdom is great and I thank you all from my heart.
I am a white two-spirited Human who did spend Thanksgiving with out my ignorant judgmental family. Thanksgiving always reminds me of my culturally enforced ostracizm, and the genocide of the Native American.
I must say that, in my humble opinion, we should stop dividing people into groups based on existence of genitalia. This disussion of groups based on the English language only furthers the division of people, including ourselves, into groups that WE approve of.
Because I am post-op does not make me less of a two spirit person.This concept again, that two spirited people must conform to some on else's expectation furthers the divide. Indeed as a two spirited person, I think of my purpose as reminding the people that we are ALL TWO SPIRITED. Every single human on the planet contains two spirit. The difference is that they don't know. We all live on the continuum of gender that unites us. The least we must do is honor each individual's sense of two spirited spirituality.
If we persist in creating our own hierarchy of "legitimate", community sanctioned expressions of behavior then we are as guilty of oppression as mainstream society. We must ask ourselves what our purpose is in being the wonderfully unique people we are. Shall we celebrate diversity without qualification, or isolate ourselves, glorifying our oppression. This issue of identity must end with us or we are no different than other repressed minorities. Are we our identities, or are we humans? Our shared humanity is the only thing we all have as a commonality and is the only thing that needs to be reinforces. Otherwise, we are all the oppressor. Thanks

Angela Brightfeather | November 28, 2008 12:54 PM

I will leave one more comment about this topic that addresses Sussygirl's comment, which I agree with in part.

I do not think that claiming a person's individual gifts from the Creator, vilifies any other of the unique gifts given to others, any more than bears having larger teeth than moles.

We are given these gifts in order to be a contributing part of the whole of all things and dependent upon each other for the natural way that the Creator intended. If everyone realized that, instead of thinking that their gifts are greater than others, then we would not have wars, injustices and most of the bad things we have to deal with.

Mercedes tells us that she is not able to claim herself as Two Spirit because she is not full blood. Neither am I. I draw on my connections on the basis of First Nation and Celtic blood and have found that in both and in many other traditions, Two Spirit it just a name for people who are specially gifted, from the Ural Mountains to the American Pueblos. The association that all of these peoples make about "Two Spirits" is that they live, act, believe and practice diverse gender as a part of their trasditions and they accept that. Book after book and study after study shows that it starts with gender and then becomes a sexual designation. The expectations of some people and tribes, based on their own version of homophobia, has actually assigned sexuality as a component of being Two Spirit, but for the most part, only as a matter of shame or to be used by single and unmarried males against those who display gender diversity at an early age and on into adulthood. It all gets pretty deep and the study of the way each civilization deals with it is a book in itself.

But to bring it back to the present time... I was at a gathering of young GLBT people at Duke University last week. Some 40 or so, young and wonderful queer folk and a few of us older ones who feel we can learn so much from them. In the discussion, to my surprise, they noted that a person normally identifies with their gender before they identify with their sexuality.
Of cooooouuuurrrrsssseee, as they say on Left Wing radio. Now doesn't that make sense? Isn't that why a Navajo parent can tell they have a child that is a "soft man" from the time they are 3 or 4 years old and why they identify with genetic girls?

And that is the difference between the old ways and today. In the old ways they prepare the child for a life in the opposite gender of their birth by having cermonies that allow them to choose who and what they want to be, about the same time that the child begins puberty. In today's world, the first signs of gender diversity are dealt with by therapists if the parents can afford it, or they are pounded out of the child by cruelty and separation, but in both cases there becomes the urgent need for a "cure" to be imposed.

However, in most cases and in any situation, it is the recognition of gender diversity at an early age and the way it is dealt with that determines if Two Spririt children survive and are able to claim their gift from the Creator so that it can be used in turn to help others and become a part of the picture painted by the Creator.

Sissygirl says that we are all born Two Spririted. I disagree with that. I think that many of us are, but it has little to do with which tribe, nation or country one lives in, and much more to do with the way the tradition of gender diversity is treated.

We have all seen how it is dealt with in our society. Last year ENDA provided us with a perfect example of that. If the tradition of being Two Spirited had survived based on gender diversity, ENDA would be about jobs for Transgender people first and GLB second, instead of thinking only in terms of the many over a frew who need it more. In this way alone the confiscation of the Two Spirit tradition by others, has hurt all people and the refusal of Transgender people to claim that heritage from the Creator has contributed to the assumption that they are less than others and don't mind being on the bottom of the Totem Pole.

It is my hope this Thanksgiving that with a new and much ore intelligent President, a recognition of the old ways that were good and the traditions that were meant to make us better humans and make us more part of the whole as the Cretor intended, will again be recognized and valued. this would be a good thing for all creatures.