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“More Than Just ‘Gay Indians’”: Intersecting Articulations of Two-Spirit Gender, Sexuality, and Indigenousness

“More Than Just ‘Gay Indians’”
Jenny L. Davis
Two-Spirit individuals, or indigenous North Americans who spiritually iden-
tify as both female and male, are oen dened in academia as well as in the
community itself as GLBTIQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex,
and Queer) Natives. While they have been discussed in much of the literature
on the historical realization of third- and fourth-gender categories, contem-
porary Two-Spirits have only recently been the subject of ethnographic study
(e.g., Gilley ; Jacobs, et al. ; Lang ). ese recent studies, how-
ever, have oen uncritically assumed that Two-Spirit in-group use of terms
such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender is synonymous with dominant
understandings of those identities, failing to consider how indigenous cul-
ture in general, and discourses within Two-Spirit communities in particular,
have transformed the ways such terms are conceptualized and articulated.
For example, recent scholarship tends to discuss Two-Spirit identity primar-
ily in terms of sexuality while ignoring its intersection with various gender
positionalities—a perspective that overlooks the equal importance of both
axes of identity, as well as indigenous identity, among members of the com-
munity. Consequently, people who identify as Two-Spirit are frequently asked
by researchers and others outside of the community to position their identity
as either female or male, and to dene Two-Spirit as either sexuality-based
(e.g., gay) or gender-based (e.g., trans).
is chapter argues instead that Two-Spirit individuals understand the
binary of gender and sexuality not as mutually exclusive opposing poles, but
rather as potentially overlapping states. Indeed, this is part of a more gen-
eral trend among Two-Spirits of embracing the complex, multilayered, and,
at times, contradictory nature of their identities. As individuals marginal-
ized in multiple ways, Two-Spirits must dierentiate themselves not only
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“More an Just ‘Gay Indians’”
from heteronormative and gender-normative Natives, but also from nonin-
digenous GLBTIQ people with whom they may also at some level identify.
I focus on how local concepts of tribal aliation, tribe-specic Two-Spirit
roles, and a multitribal Two-Spirit identity are positioned as dierent and yet
as parts of the larger, more generalized concepts of “Indian,” “Two-Spirit,
and “gay” or “GLBTIQ.” Specically, I show how these binaries are invoked
to articulate the struggle of simultaneously emphasizing individual and local
identity while aligning with more familiar mainstream understandings of
indigenousness, gender, and sexuality—a struggle that is ever-present in the
discourse under analysis.
is “both/and” approach to gender and sexuality, and to femaleness and
maleness, is echoed in a number of other binaries that Two-Spirits face when
negotiating their indigenousness. For example, an individual might identify
as both Navajo/Dine and Native American, or as nadhle (the Navajo third- or
fourth-gender category) as well as Two-Spirit. Within each binary, individu-
als position their local identities in relation to the generalized categories into
which they are oen subsumed. I demonstrate that this positioning is ac-
complished through innovative uses of semantic adequation and distinction
(Bucholtz and Hall ) as well as through the deployment of indigenous
terminology for local identities during a public presentation by a regional
Two-Spirit group. e group’s simultaneous identication with both “ends”
of multiple binaries demonstrates the community specic and contextually
bound nature of binary categories.
The History of Two-Spirit Identity
e concept of Two-Spirit, sometimes referred to as berdache, rst entered
the anthropological literature through discussions of three- and four-gender
systems. Indigenous communities throughout North America have exempli-
ed this social conguration, yielding a plethora of historical references to
gender variance specic to these communities. However, rather than focus-
ing on group-internal conceptualizations of these congurations, much of
this work is archival and focuses on groups as they were discussed in the
historical record produced by European conquistadors, missionaries, and lay
anthropologists dating as far back as the rst arrival of Europeans on the
continent (for historiographies of these accounts, see Callender and Kochems
; Jacobs ; Roscoe ; Williams ). ese systems were of particu-
lar interest to anthropologists as examples of divergence from the Western
binary of female/male sociosexual roles.
Two- S p i rit /berdache later gained particular prominence in sociological,
anthropological, and gender studies consciousness. e renewed attention to
these social roles was not due to interest in models of gender variance per se,
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Queer Excursions
but due to a quest for examples of primordial homosexuality (and bisexuality,
although this category was rarely discussed as such). Two-Spirit individuals,
understood as physiological men who had sexual intercourse with other men,
provided instances of apparent historical acceptance of homosexuality as part
of a larger endeavor of looking at same-sex desire in ancient Rome and Greece,
Victorian England, and other societies. is conceptualization eectively re-
framed Two-Spirit identity as a matter of sexual orientation rather than gender
identity. Indeed, two of the most cited texts on berdache identity, Walter Wil-
lia ms’s e Spirit and the Flesh () and Will Roscoe’s Changing Ones (),
while providing a valuable compilation of diverse realizations of gender vari-
ance in indigenous North American societies, problematically frame this his-
torically and culturally specic identity within the terms of a dichotomous
gender system, conating alternative gender practice with homosexuality.
e perspective presented by authors like Williams and Roscoe is further
complicated by the fact that it mirrors the social denitions used by Two-
Spirits themselves in the past. During the emergence of the largely white gay
movement within the United States in the s, a smaller movement was
born: that of Gay American Indians (GAI). As its name indicates, this group
placed individuals squarely within a Western gay framework of homosexual-
ity rather than emphasizing the gender diversity that has historically been
so crucial to Native gender and sexual alterity. In the s, the Two-Spirit
movement formed, not necessarily counter to GAI and groups like it, but
with a dierent emphasis and goal: to acknowledge the distinctive identities
of individuals who might have been considered simply “gay Indians” within
traditional, pre-contact Native culture(s).
Today, Two-Spirit organizations exist throughout the United States and
Canada. Members of local groups generally come together for regular meet-
ings, activities, and social events (potluck dinners, birthday parties, etc.)
as well as for events in both the Native community (such as powwows) and
the queer community (such as Pride celebrations). Of perhaps equal impor-
tance to members, and to the creation and maintenance of the larger Two-
Spirit community of practice, are the regional and international gatherings
held every few months, which are largely comprised of individuals from the
United States and Canada, although participants from Mexico and New
Zealand have been known to attend. In addition to these local and regional
settings, participants oen move between dierent Two-Spirit communities
in dierent areas over time, creating a strong network and sense of unity
within local groups as well as within the larger national and international
Two-Spirit groups and gatherings, both local and national, are thus nec-
essarily sites of multitribal group identity formation, bridging the temporal
gap between historical and contemporary positionalities. Participants oen
highlight the dierences between the various nations represented in these
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groups while simultaneously integrating their languages, traditions, and
histories into a pan-tribal conceptualization of what it is to be Two-Spirit.
Hence, research on Two-Spirit identity not only broadens scholarly under-
standing of the intersection among articulations of gender, sexuality, and
indigenousness, but also reveals how Two-Spirit groups create and adhere
to a conceptualization of “Indian” as a racial and ethnic identity that main-
tains continuity with the past even while they observe and engage in radical
reformulation of indigenous cultures. Although newer research on Two-
Spirits has explored contemporary articulations of gender and/or sexual
variation in Native peoples (Gilley ), little attention has been paid to the
ways such an identity is realized and negotiated linguistically. is chapter
demonstrates the signicance of linguistic practice by focusing on how a re-
gional group articulates the many facets of Two-Spirit identity by simultane-
ously aligning with and diverging from mainstream discourses regarding
Ethnographic Context
Discussions of Two-Spirits that emphasize commonalities between this iden-
tity and the generalized concept of “gay” oen lose sight of the more localized
aspects of Two-Spirit identity that hold primary importance for many groups
and individuals. e term Two-Spirit was self-selected in  at the ird
Annual Intertribal Native American/First Nations Gay and Lesbian Gath-
ering in Winnipeg, Canada, based on a calque of many tribal terms, which
translate to “of two (i.e., female and male) spirits.” is term was chosen to
fulll two functions: rst, to replace the highly problematic colonialist term
berdache, which was previously used throughout anthropology and related
elds for Native American third- and fourth-gender roles; and second, to pro-
vide a new term that might encompass all of the localized realizations of in-
digenous gender and sexual variance in North America. e decision to coin
an entirely new term is signicant: participants shied away from the newer
collocation gay Indian, which had been used by many in the community pre-
viously, as well as the terms associated with gender variance within a specic
tribal nation (e.g., Dine nadhle, Lakhota winkte).
My research in this chapter stems from several years of personal experi-
ence with two dierent Two-Spirit societies, as well as from seven years of
ethnographic participant observation at monthly meetings and community
presentations throughout the Midwest, and annual gatherings in Oklahoma
and Montana. e Rocky Mountain Two-Spirit organization I discuss below
is centered in a major metropolitan area in the Rocky Mountain region of
the United States and had been in existence as an organization for over a
decade. e group had a core membership of ten to een individuals and
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a peripheral membership of around twenty-ve people who attended some
events and activities, though not regularly. Individual members of the group
came from a large number of indigenous nations and regions throughout the
United States and Canada. e group had monthly business meetings com-
bined with a meal as well as biweekly social gatherings. Of the core member-
ship, over half have participated in the group for over ve years, and several
were among the founding members.
e data I analyze come from an educational community presentation
by the Rocky Mountain Two-Spirit group in November of , which was
sponsored by the Colorado chapter of the Human Rights Campaign in honor
of Native American Heritage Month. e group started o the presentation
with a song, which was followed by individual introductions, an overview of
the meaning and history of Two-Spirit identity, and nally ended with a ques-
tion and answer period. e group members presenting included a range of
tribal aliations including Lakhota, Navajo, Jicarilla and Chiricahua Apache,
Pueblo, Osage, Eastern Band Cherokee, and Chickasaw. e majority of the
audience was previously unfamiliar with Two-Spirit identity and indigenous
culture in general. roughout the two-hour presentation, eight members of
the group were seated around a large traditional drum on a low stage facing
the audience. e drum had been blessed prior to the community’s arrival by
Mark and Meg, who act as spiritual leaders to the Two-Spirit group as well
as to their respective tribal communities. (All presenters were given pseud-
onyms and are referred to using the gender pronoun of their choice.) e
drum, which was visually central, also acted as a unifying voice, providing
the rhythm to the songs sung throughout the evening. Like the drum, which
facilitated the incorporation of traditional songs into a contemporary, mul-
titribal setting, the presenters’ language use brought together both the tra-
ditional and the contemporary in order to explain the concept of Two-Spirit
to a nonnative audience. is discussion centered three primary binaries in
order to accomplish this task: specic tribal aliations versus the broader
category of Native American, or Indian; tribally specic designations for
gender and/or sexual alterity versus the pan-tribal concept of Two-Spirit; and
nally, modern terms such as gay or transgender versus the culturally specic
term Two-Spirit.
Binary Identities in a Two-Spirit Presentation
In his  book Becoming Two-Spirit, Brian Gilley objects to the claim
made by some theorists that those who participate in pan-Indian sites have
little or no connection to their tribal communities. While acknowledging
that “Two-Spirit is intended to be a multi-tribal identity,” he also emphasizes
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that this identity “is used to reference tradition” (, ). A contempo-
rary pantribal identity is thus constantly juxtaposed with individual tribal
connections and traditions. is juxtaposition is evident in the presenta-
tion of Two-Spirit identity analyzed here: group members collectively de-
scribe themselves as “Indian” and “Native American” while simultaneously
emphasizing their individual community backgrounds both directly and
One of the most salient ways in which members of Two-Spirit groups
highlight their own community backgrounds is through the use of tribal
languages in self-introductions during educational presentations for various
communities and audiences, both Native and non-Native. Using indigenous
languages in a multitribal context allows speakers to engage in a process
of adequation, or the creation of “sucient similarity” (Bucholtz and Hall
, ), between tribal identity and more general Native identity, while
simultaneously engaging in distinction, or the construction of dierence,
among the various Nations represented. Each instantiation serves to authen-
ticate the language user as indigenous as well as a citizen of a local tribe or
nation and, as Ahlers () notes, establishes the entirety of the presenta-
tion to follow as Native discourse by functioning as an identity marker. at
is, the ability to speak one’s heritage language (whatever that language might
be) is a strong authenticator of Native community membership, while using a
language that is recognizably dierent from others used in the same context
highlights dierences between the tribal communities represented, an act of
e invocation of distinction in order to problematize the macro-
category Indian was accomplished at several moments in the presentation,
especially during the introductions and personal narratives. As part of the
beginning of the ceremony, each of the group members introduced them-
selves, providing several points of information, including name, tribal ali-
ation, and length of time with the group. Five of the eight group members
used their tribal language in these introductions, with only one providing a
translation in English; importantly, there was no expectation that another
speaker of any of these languages was present. is use of tribal languages
not only established the group as separate from its non-Native audience, but
also underscored distinctions between individual group members, particu-
larly because the languages used—Navajo/Dine, Mescalero Apache, Jicarilla
Apache, Laguna Pueblo, and Lakhota—were perceptibly dierent even to
an unfamiliar listener. e incorporation of indigenous languages into the
introductions is especially signicant given the claim that “the decline in
rd/th gender roles paralleled the decline in Native language use” (Gilley
, ). Since indigenous language use is largely associated with the main-
tenance of tradition, the presenters’ use of their tribal languages demon-
strated not only an alignment with maintaining or reviving the traditional
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Queer Excursions
but also their connection with their tribal communities (Davis ). Two
of the remaining three speakers who introduced themselves only in English
directly addressed this perceived gap, with one going so far as to oer apolo-
getically, “I, um, don’t speak my language.” Yet even this apology empha-
sized an identication with the speaker’s heritage language, by referring to it
as “my language.”
Tribal identity was also evident in the explicit naming of tribal ali-
ations during the introductions. Only one group member, the last to oer
an introduction, did not provide a tribal aliation, and this omission was
marked in several ways. In Excerpt , the individual in question, Dana, fol-
lows the script provided by the previous introducers, who rst stated their
name and then their tribal aliation prefaced by “and I’m. . . . ” But Dana
fails to complete the second part of the script with the expected tribal
Aer a noted silence measuring a full three seconds, Dana initiates a full
phrase repair with the questioning intonation “I’m me?” in line . is
repair was received with good-natured laughter from the rest of the group.
Yet the omission and its subsequent repair demonstrate that the norm
within the group was for each member to emphasize individual tribal
aliation. Dana’s omission of this discursive practice can be explained
by the fact that she was only a peripheral member of the group, had not
participated in a presentation with the group before, and, in fact, had not
planned on being part of the panel at all but was invited to introduce her-
self on the spot.
e multiplicity of stances regarding tribal unity and dierentiation
was also found within community disagreements regarding the choice of
the term Two-Spirit, which appears to erase local aliations in favor of a
pan-Indian identity. is debate arose early during the community presen-
tation, when leaders of the group were oering brief denitions of the term
Two-Spirit as well as its history. In Excerpt , lines  and , a participant
named Mark critiques the term as inadequate because of its “universal” and
“generic” nature:
Excerpt 1
1 Dana: I’m Dana and um
2 (.95)
3 I’m uh::
4 (3.0)
5 I(hh)’m me?
6 TS Group members: ((laughter))
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By comparing the term Two-Spirit to the si milarly unsatisf ying (to him) Native
American, Mark points out how both labels fail to acknowledge the dierent
backgrounds of those they encompass. Mark’s preference for more local des-
ignations is seen in line , in which he suggests that the “correct” form of
address would be to label each individual by their specic tribe. At the same
time, Mark does not admonish the audience for failing to use the preferred
terminology, pointing out that “it’s impossible for you all [i.e., non-Natives]
to see,” as non-Native individuals are not expected to be aware of the vari-
ous characteristics that are associated with individual tribes (phenotypical
features, common names, etc.).
Jackson (, ) explains this issue within general conceptualiza-
tions of pan-Indian activities and groups: “Pan-Indianism assumes that
individuals or groups engaging in social gatherings across tribal or na-
tional boundaries will increasingly lose their cultural distinctiveness . . .
but it also ignores the capacity of communities to consciously maintain
distinctive practices in interactionally complex settings.” Assumptions
surrounding pan-Indian groups and identities therefore set up a binary
in which individuals are Indian either because of their connection to their
distinctive tribal heritage or through their alignment with a cross-national
(and hence culturally detached) identity, but not both. Ahlers (, )
notes the same tension between individual tribal aliation(s) and the more
widely encompassing terms Indian, Native American, and American Indian
in multitribal settings not unlike the Two-Spirit presentation discussed
here: “In intertribal settings, speakers may use a Tribal designation in ad-
dition to the broader ‘Indian.’ Such shiing references reect the shiing
identity roles performed, and created, by Native Americans in their daily
lives.” She goes on to argue that, while this conict between individual
tribal identity and the broader category of Native American or Indian is
no doubt especially relevant in multitribal settings, even as “these two
Excerpt 2
1 Mark: I’d like to refer back to what he said about
2 what it means to be Two-Spirited
3 you know what Meg talked about earlier
4 about Two-Spirited people was a universal term
5just like Native American is a generic universal
6 to . . . to distinguish you know Indians now
7 because Native American
8 American Indian
9 Native American
10 so you can use them interchangeably
11 ‘Cause you know
12 if you want to be correct you’d call us by our tribe
13 but it’s impossible for you all to see
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Queer Excursions
identities are sometimes in competition, they also provide mutual support
for one another” (, ).
Crucially, the act of aligning with one’s individual tribal aliation in the
group presentation both through explicit labeling in discourse and through
the use of indigenous languages did not challenge the speaker’s authentic-
ity in the larger category of Indian or Native American; rather, it strength-
ened this membership because it created an even sharper distinction between
those speaking indigenous languages on stage and the English-speaking au-
dience. is phenomenon can be seen as an example of fractal recursivity,
or the “projection of an opposition, salient at one level of relationship, onto
some other level” (Irvine and Gal , ). In other words, the dierences
between tribes were highlighted and oppositional only when compared to
each other; they became mitigated and backgrounded when contrasted with
the non-Native audience.
Just as the specic tribal aliation of each member was emphasized in the
presentation, so too were the specic tribal roles associated with people who
are Two-Spirit, or both female and male. As each person presented their per-
sonal narrative about being Two-Spirit, most also employed the term used
in their own tribe’s language for that role. For instance, Brent, who was the
youngest member of the group and was also seen as one of the most visible
and politically active members, began his narrative by introducing the Dine
term nadhle. In Excerpt , line , aer referring to himself several times as
“nadhle,” Brent directly addresses his decision to use the tribal term rather
than the pantribal term Two-Spirit.
Excerpt 3
1 Brent: that is actually one of the biggest
2 on on the reservations
3 (.3)
4 all these tribes actually had names for for
5 people.
6 but how people see them as
7 just like “oh they just mean gay” but there is a
9 James: ((cough))
10 Brent: um that um for nadhle.
11 I’m sorry I say nadhle more than I say Two-Spirit
12 I (hhh)’m just stubborn that way
13 TS Group: ((laughter))
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“More an Just ‘Gay Indians’”
Like Dana’s earlier departure from expectations in Excerpt , this comment
is framed as an apology. Brent’s justication, “cause I’m just stubborn that
way” (line ), indexes a belief that the community-specic term is an au-
tomatic or even natural way of referencing himself, as opposed to the more
generalized term Two-Spirit. His reluctance echoes Epple’s () critique of
the broad application of terms such as berdache, gay, and even Two-Spirit,
which, she argues, are devoid of cultural and temporal grounding. Epple sug-
gests that these “current analytical concepts simply do not accommodate the
simultaneous distinctness (identity as nádleehí [plural]) and uidity (identity
as context-dependent) of nádlee ’s self-descriptions” (, ). Similarly,
during the presentation when group members oered accounts of specic
historical gures now included under the Two-Spirit umbrella, they referred
to such gures not simply as Two-Spirit, but also with the term specic to that
individual’s tribal aliation: for instance, winkte (Lakhota), nadhle (Dine),
and lhamana (Zuni). Individuals in the group were thus very attentive to
using the appropriate local designation for historical gures as well as for
themselves and other group members.
However, while the members emphasized the tribally specic terms and
roles that applied to themselves and others, they did so as members of the
regional Two-Spirit group rather than, say, an organization comprising solely
individuals from their specic Nation, and each strongly identied as Two-
Spirit in ways that were relevant to their daily lives. Despite the importance
placed on local indigenous identity labels, this in no way contradicts the ap-
propriateness of Two-Spirit as another facet of these speakers’ identities. In
fact, the mutual dependence of local and pan-tribal terms could be observed
in this setting precisely because presenters were recognized as Two-Spirit and
could also articulate their identity as winkte, nadhle, and so on.
In addition to specifying appropriate tribal labels for the Two-Spirit identity
of particular individuals, participants in the educational presentation were
also very interested in distinguishing between the Two-Spirit identity and gay
or GLBTIQ Indian, even though most participants in the Two-Spirit group
aligned themselves with both of these categories. Gay Indian and Two-Spirit
are oen presented as synonyms both in anthropological works (Gilley ;
Roscoe ) and in discourses within the broader GLBTIQ community.
However, even gay-identied Two-Spirits emphasize that these terms are far
from synonymous.
One way that scholars create adequation between Two-Spirits and
GLBTIQ individuals is by highlighting the cultural and spiritual similari-
ties between Native Americans who identify as gay or lesbian and those
who occupy what were historically recognized by their tribes as third- and
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Queer Excursions
fourth-gender roles. Once these groups have been established as similar
enough to collapse into a single category, gay Indians are further adequated
with the non-Native gay and lesbian population in the United States. In the
rst of these two steps, dierences in gender identity are erased to highlight
racial similitude, while in the second step ethnicity is erased to highlight the
sameness of sexual orientation By referring to the historical and modern
identities by the same term, Two-Spirit, and then positioning that term as
interchangeable with gay Indian, scholars adequate Two-Spirit identity with
being gay. is system of categorization is enabled by a focus solely on those
members of the community who identify as gay and male; such research
leaves out community members who identify, in relation to being Two-Spirit,
as trans, intersex, or genderqueer, in addition to, or apart from, identifying
as homosexual or bisexual. Such thinking eectively erases the gender com-
ponent of Two-Spirit identity by excluding from this discussion the divergent
ways that being Two-Spirit may be embodied.
Just as the Two-Spirit group used terms such as Indian or Native Ameri-
can to identify with a larger ethnically marginalized community, so too they
used terms like gay, intersex, transgender, and LGBTIQ to position themselves
within a wider community marginalized for gender or sexual alterity. As part
of group members’ recognition of various forms of gender and sexual non-
normativity, they also adequated all of the terms within the GLBTIQ acronym
as semantically similar not only to each other, but also to their denition of
Two-Spirit. roughout the evening’s discussion, members of the group used
intersex, transgender, and gay roughly interchangeably to refer to themselves
as well as to historical and mythical Two-Spirit gures. For instance, in Ex-
cerpt , when Mark relates a creation story of his tribe in which the rst being
created was Two-Spirit, he employs the terms intersex and transgender within
a single narrative to refer to this same original being.
Excerpt 4
1 Mark: you know we have our own roles a lot of our creation
stories have
2 (.3)
3 the Two-Spirit people were the first ones that were
4 and that first person that was created was usually
an intersex
5 person.
6 and had you know both sexes, one with both sexes.
7 the creator molded the clay into both sexes
8 but you know as the creator’s looking at it he was
9 “well how are they going to survive?
10 how are they going to reproduce?”
11 so creator set them aside and created two more.
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“More an Just ‘Gay Indians’”
e semantic dierences across these terms, which in dominant queer dis-
courses are used to describe distinct realizations of gender and sex, are thus
erased in this narrative and others during the group presentation. Instead,
group members employed all of these terms more or less synonymously in
order to highlight what they hold in common: gender variation departing
from a binary norm. us, while the term Two-Spirit was used to unify mem-
bers with divergent tribal aliations, it was also used as an overarching term
for a more generalizable sexual and gender alterity, subsuming within its se-
mantics gay, intersex, and transgender identities.
is semantic adequation may not seem so striking given that these
same terms are oen adequated to some extent under the acronym LGBTIQ
and its variants, or umbrella labels like queer. However, scholars within
queer studies have demonstrated that this assumption of equivalence fails
to describe the realities in which these larger adequations occur (e.g., Edel-
man , this volume; Zimman ). In reality, resources and endeavors
that purport to serve the entire range of people encompassed by the acro-
nym have been shown, at best, to privilege gays and lesbians at the expense
of transgender, bisexual, genderqueer, intersex, and others’ political and
social needs and, at worst, to reinforce the subjugation of these latter groups.
us, the adequation of these various identities both with one another and
with the concept of Two-Spirit demonstrates a dierent conceptualization
of all of these terms. Of course, Two-Spirits’ attempts at adequation do not
exist in a vacuum and may be seen as reinforcing mainstream ideologies
about gender and sexual variance that fail to distinguish between groups
that experience their identities in quite dierent ways. At the same time,
the participation of a number of trans, intersex, and genderqueer individu-
als in this and other Two-Spirit groups suggests a willingness to set aside
dierences that are relevant in a non-Native context in order to empha-
size the diversity of how Two-Spirit identity is manifested. As Epple (,
) notes in regard to the term Two-Spirit: “It is little wonder then that a
12 but this time he split the genitalia and it created
a man
13 and woman.
14 so they were created.
15 well the creator looked at what he had made first
16 and creator just said “I wonder.”
17 picked it up and blew life into it and that’s how
18 people were created.
19 so a lot of times the Two-Spirited being in our
creation stories is
20 that transgender person.
9780199937318-Zimman.indb 73 12/02/14 1:07 PM
Queer Excursions
Native American category, such as ‘Two-Spirit,’ requires only that one be
both male and female, and Native American. e sexual, gender, or other
manifestations of one’s Two-Spiritedness are understood to vary as widely
as humanity itself.”
Yet because the group members in the presentation analyzed here were
educating outsiders on the Two-Spirit identity, their use of the term Two-Spirit
as synonymous with these other terms was oen questioned by the audience.
At several points in the presentation, audience members asked speakers not
only to dene their place within the GLBTIQ community, but also to compare
the category of Two-Spirit to the more recognizable categories of transgender,
intersex, and gay. e reply to each inquiry on the topic utilized the denition
of Two-Spirit as a person who “had both male and female” in them to explain
that all of those terms were acceptable; individuals who might be dened by
only one term in mainstream discourses were, within the group, just Two-
Spirits like everyone else. Brent, for instance, when answering a question on
the topic, reiterated, “We still continue the male-female, man-woman main
roles (i.e., Two-Spirit roles). We go by our spirits and not our reproductive
organs.” While mainstream denitions of transgender, intersex, and gay rely
heavily on the realization of the reproductive organs and/or gender expres-
sion for dierentiation (but see Zimman, this volume, for another perspective
on the body), group members have rewritten these terms to refer to a spiritual
combination of female and male, subsuming them under the term Two-Spirit
and thus making them equally acceptable synonyms for each other in relation
to Two-Spirit identity.
is point echoes Driskill, et al. () and their examination of the way
Cherokee Two-Spirit individuals discuss the complexities of when (and why)
they use queer versus Two-Spirit to describe their identity:
Excerpt 5 (from Driskill, 2011):
Chad: It depends probably I guess to whom I’m speaking. Usually I identify
as gay, but also because mainly where I live, it’s very urban, there’s not
many opportunities for me to use the term Two-Spirit and be understood. So
usually I just use the term gay, and I identify as gay and Native American.
(To Corey). How do you identify?
Corey: You know, I think that people that are not Native American have no
idea what the word Two-Spirit means in almost every instance, and so I
think it’s kind of . . . it’s a useless term in some scenarios . . .
Chad: Sometimes . . .
Corey: . . . unfortunately. And I don’t mean to take away from it, like to say
it’s not worth having around, but just that in certain situations it’s not ap-
plicable as . . .
it’s lost in translation, almost, you could say.
Chad: Sometimes I use that as an opportunity to tell people a little bit
about our history.
Corey: To educate.
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“More an Just ‘Gay Indians’”
e comments of Corey and Chad, Cherokee/Creek/Osage twins who, like
others Driskill interviewed, identify as both gay and Two-Spirit, demon-
strate that the decision on which of the two terms to use depends heavily
on the context, with queer or gay being more appropriate for a non-Native
audience and Two-Spirit reserved either for conversations with fellow indig-
enous people or as a teaching tool to introduce the topic to nonindigenous
e Two-Spirit presenters in my own study, however, while likewise
noting the similarities between these two categories, also repeatedly dem-
onstrated the importance of dierentiating between more mainstream
identities and the Two-Spirit identity by emphasizing that Two-Spirit is an
identity that must be enacted rather than solely being based on possess-
ing the appropriate background conguration of ethnicity, gender, and/or
sexuality. us, someone who is Native and gay will not necessarily be Two-
Spirit unless they live in a way that is understood by the Rocky Mountain
Two-Spirit group as being inherent to that identity. In the past, Two-Spirit
roles would have varied dramatically from community to community and
between individuals within a single community. Contemporary realities are
just as diverse, yet, critically for group members, the dierence lies neither
in the hormonal and physical realization of sex nor in the practice of sexual
acts, but rather in an adherence to spiritual and community roles, speci-
cally through taking on responsibilities historically associated with being
Two-Spirit—a practice identied by group members as a “way of walking”
through life.
In a similar consideration of the pressures exerted by white, Western dis-
courses of gay identity, Kira Hall explores a split in a New Delhi NGO between
Indians who identify as “boys” but are assigned to the female sex and their
relationship to those who identify as “lesbian.” Hall’s analysis demonstrates a
class-infused tension between the two groups within the Center: “Center boys
orient to a semiotics of lower classness in order to oppose what they perceive
to be an elite and un-Indian conceptualization of sexual identity. In contrast,
Center lesbians . . . appropriate the linguistic resources of upper classness as a
means of positioning their identity as globally progressive” (, ).
Like the boys and lesbians of Hall’s study, the Two-Spirit people in the
community that is the focus of this chapter are pressed by the diculty of
positioning themselves either with or against what Massad () refers to
as “the Gay International.” However, while the boys in New Delhi orient to a
“semiotics of lower classness” to distinguish themselves from lesbians, Two-
Spirit individuals orient to a semiotics of tradition to dierentiate themselves
from “just gay Indians.” Gilley adds this connection to tradition to a possible
characterization of Two-Spirit as “a series of acts whereby one’s cultural com-
petency and socioreligious commitment to traditional cultural conservative
ideals became primary” (, ).
9780199937318-Zimman.indb 75 12/02/14 1:07 PM
Queer Excursions
In Excerpt , line , James, one of the original founders of the group, stresses
that “gay Indians” (which he references in other places as “GLBTIQ Indi-
ans”) “ just want to be a part of the gay community” without taking “that
responsibility as a Two-Spirit person.” Brent draws a comparable distinction
in Excerpt , line , above when he suggests that people wrongly understand
the term nadhle to “ just mean gay.” In this context, the orientation to tradi-
tion manifests itself through participation in traditional activities within the
family and community (such as ceremonies, festivals, speaking one’s heritage
language, and so on). e “responsibility as a Two-Spirit person” to which
Brent refers involves taking on both ceremonial and cultural duties, which
might include community roles such as being mediators (especially between
women and men), artisans, and teachers; acting as caregivers or medicine
people; taking on specically designated roles in ceremonies; and showing
an orientation to, and talent for, skills associated with one gender or another:
weaving, hunting, cooking, beading, combat, and so forth.
e distinction between gay and Two-Spirit identities voiced here and
elsewhere in the group presentation recognizes that gay Indians are both in-
digenous and non-heteronormative, like the majority of those who identify
as Two-Spirit. However, unlike Two-Spirits, gay Indians do not adhere to the
specic cultural roles held to be crucial to the Two-Spirit identity, nor do
they necessarily dene their queer identity as a realization of being spiritually
both female and male. Nevertheless, many Two-Spirits refer to themselves as
gay, lesbian, trans, or genderqueer in various contexts, particularly when en-
gaged with nonindigenous sexual minorities. is ability to identify oneself
as both queer and Two-Spirit while emphasizing how the labels are far from
synonymous exemplies the Two-Spirit approach to binaries.
As the Two-Spirit presenters switched between these two levels of
designation—and provided metacommentary about them, as Mark and Brent
both did (Excerpts  and , respectively)—they demonstrated the tension that
exists between the preferred, more specic categories that Two-Spirit individ-
uals use to describe themselves and the also applicable, and oen more easily
Excerpt 6
1 James: and a lot of the, um, young gay Indian people come
2 from the reservation.
3 they come here [the city] and they want to get
away from
4 tradition.
5they just want to party.
6they just wanna be a part of the gay community.
8and, uh, they don’t want to take that
responsibility as
9a Two-Spirit person
9780199937318-Zimman.indb 76 12/02/14 1:07 PM
“More an Just ‘Gay Indians’”
recognized, macrocategories that connect them to others outside their imme-
diate communities. Rather than treating this tension as a matter of irreconcil-
able dissonance, however, they embraced both local and dominant identity
categories, and thereby demonstrated exactly what it means to occupy the
murky “both/and” space that encompasses both poles of a binary. When
Mark commented that “if you want to be correct you’d call us by our tribe,
but it’s impossible for you all to see,” he highlighted that what is “correct”—
recognizing and addressing the individual tribal heritages of each speaker—
is also “impossible.” Moreover, this conundrum is not unique to the specic
context of this presentation and audience; for those who embody both female
and male, it is this very dissonance that characterizes Two-Spirit experience.
Driskill, et al. () make an analogous argument about the combined use of
the terms queer and Two-Spirit, suggesting, “When linked, queer and Two-
Spirit invite critiquing both heteronormativity as a colonial project, and de-
colonizing Indigenous knowledge of gender and sexuality as one result of that
critique.” Based on my own research, I argue that the dichotomies found in
each of the axes of identity negotiated by the Two-Spirit presenters are not
necessarily in conict but rather may simultaneously function to partially
represent a complex, multiply marginalized identity.
In the negotiation of a multiply marginalized identity such as Two-Spirit,
any unied imagining of identity is fractured by a strategy of emphasizing
individual aspects of identity that may not be shared by fellow community
members as well as occasionally adopting contradictory categories. is strat-
egy redenes macro-identities like Native American, Two-Spirit, and gay as
necessarily made up of multiple, very dierent pieces—a mosaic—rather than
as a homogenized identity that means the same thing, and is experienced the
same way, by each person who aligns with it. It is notable, however, that in
the data analyzed above this strategy was deployed in a context where the
larger, unied concept of Two-Spirit was already established through a broad
denition of the term provided at the beginning of the event. Speakers used
their educational presentation to create liminal spaces between category dis-
tinctions. As Turner (, ) puts it, liminality is “a betwixt-and-between
condition” which is “performed to mark, and, in view of the performers, to
eect transitions from social invisibility to social visibility.” ese spaces pro-
vide the “venue and occasion for the most radical skepticism—always rela-
tive, of course to the given culture’s repertoire” (, ). In other words,
performances are socially recognized spaces that allow for the possibility of
reection on, or reaction against, established practices and belief, much as the
performance of drag creates a space in which the performativity of gender is
9780199937318-Zimman.indb 77 12/02/14 1:07 PM
Queer Excursions
made visible and therefore possibly resisted (Butler ). In utilizing their
educational presentation to bring a non- Native audience’s attention to the
mutually overlapping dualities everpresent in Two-Spirit identity, the speak-
ers examined in this chapter resemble the African American drag queens of
Barrett’s () study, who use stylizations of straight, White, middle-class
women’s speech as a way to playfully bring attention to issues of race and class.
Piot notes a very similar approach to the gender binary in an explora-
tion of the highly dichotomized female and male domains among the Kabre
of Northeastern Togo. While these rigidly maintained spheres seem opposi-
tional (with female domains of the home, cooking, and birth divided from the
male domains of the outside, farming, and death rites), they, in fact, include
one another in a fundamental sense: “ere is a recursiveness in Kabre op-
posites that is quite dierent from that to which many Euroamericans are ac-
customed: opposites produce and incorporate each other, male incorporating
female and vice versa . . . they [Kabre] conceive of opposed terms (such as gen-
ders) as analogues of one another (and as internally connected)” (, ).
As I have demonstrated, throughout their presentation, the Two-Spirit
group members in my study distinguished between the localized nature of
their Two-Spirit identity and the generalized categories into which that iden-
tity is oen placed. e more localized aspects of identity—among them indi-
vidual tribal aliation and the specic responsibilities historically associated
with Two-Spirit people in particular communities—were clearly integral to the
group’s denition of themselves. Yet these individuals’ use of non-Native ter-
minology—the generalizing Native American/Indian, Two-Spirit, and queer
were not used simply as a compromise to reach non- Native audience members;
rather they signaled multiple levels of community membership, each of which
genuinely represented one part of these speakers’ sense of themselves. e
voices of the presenters, like the beats of the drum around which they were
centered, bridge local, traditional understandings of indigenous gender vari-
ance with wide-ranging contemporary discourses of sexuality and multitribal
identity, reecting the shiing ground on which Two-Spirit people stand.
. An earlier version of this chapter was presented at the  meeting of the Ameri-
can Anthropological Association in Washington, DC. I am grateful for the suggestions
and insights of Qwo-li Driskill, Madeleine Adkins, Kira Hall, Mary Bucholtz, and the
other editors of Queer Excursions.
. Epple () critiques terms such as berdache, gay, alternate gender, and Two-Spirit
within academia, warning that “while the term ‘Two-Spirit’ oers many benets . . . its
adoption by academia as a generic label should be carefully evaluated” (, ). In this
chapter, however, the term is used because it is the one that my study participants and the
larger community choose to use for themselves.
9780199937318-Zimman.indb 78 12/02/14 1:07 PM
“More an Just ‘Gay Indians’”
. As opposed to two-gender systems that only recognize two genders—female and
male—third- and fourth-gender categories exist in systems that recognize three or more
. A multitude of anthropological and Native scholars alike have outlined the prob-
lematic nature of the term berdache (Driskill, et al. ; Epple ; Herdt ; omas
and Jacobs ). It was rst applied by French and Spanish colonizers based on their
observations of the gender expression or sexual conduct of some Native Americans. In
French, berdache means “kept boy” or “male prostitute” and is clearly laden with Euro-
pean prescriptions of morality and social mores. In summing up the arguments against
this label, Blackwood notes that “the term ‘berdache’ is no longer acceptable in referring
to Native American genders . . . because of its problematic origins; because it is a reminder
of the imposition of colonial categories, morality, and values on Native ways; and because
many Native American Two-Spirits reject the term and choose to dene themselves by
their own terms” (, ).
. As a participant in two dierent Two-Spirit organizations, one in Oklahoma and
the other discussed in this chapter, I held the dual role of researcher and community
member (which included positions as the society grant writer, codirector, and board
member for the organizations).
. Pseudonym.
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... This understanding was endorsed quantitatively by participants in Risk & Resilience and the Two-Spirit Roundtable who identified their sexual identity as two-spirit, and also endorsed qualitatively by some of the people I interviewed in the Two-Spirit Roundtable who identified as two-spirit because they were attracted to members of the same sex. This use of 'two-spirit' may seem as if it operates as a synonym for lesbian, gay, or bisexual; however, Jenny L. Davis (2014) warned against assuming that the meaning Indigenous people attach to such labels is the same as those used by the dominant culture. J. L. Davis (2014) suggests that Indigenous people may view gender and sexuality as "potentially overlapping states" rather than as binary categories (p. ...
... This use of 'two-spirit' may seem as if it operates as a synonym for lesbian, gay, or bisexual; however, Jenny L. Davis (2014) warned against assuming that the meaning Indigenous people attach to such labels is the same as those used by the dominant culture. J. L. Davis (2014) suggests that Indigenous people may view gender and sexuality as "potentially overlapping states" rather than as binary categories (p. 62). ...
... Such issues are familiar to those who conduct bisexual research. J. L. Davis (2014) could just as easily be speaking about bisexuality when she describes two-spirit identity as "complex, multilayered, and, at times contradictory" (p. 62). ...
Full-text available
Increasingly, two-spirit identity is being included as one of the identities under the bisexual umbrella, yet there has been very little discussion about how this inclusion might affect two-spirit people, the research that pertains to us, or the services shaped by such data. This article draws upon personal experience as a two-spirit and bisexual woman as well as upon research conducted with two-spirit people in the province of Ontario, Canada. Five points of comparison between bisexual and two-spirit identity are examined: (1) the complexity of our identities, (2) the role of spirituality, (3) our elevated rates of poverty, (4) sexual violence, and (5) the influence of colonialism. Although bisexual and two-spirit identities share a number of commonalities they have key differences in cultural context and meaning.
... Others are associated with gender identity categories that don't easily align with hegemonic Western assumptions about gender and sexuality (cf. Davis 2014). While the varieties considered here are all primarily associated with individuals who were assigned male gender at birth, there are certainly similar forms of speech play used by women and trans men (e.g. ...
This paper presents a comparative study of argots (or secret varieties) used in communities marked by non–normative gender or sexuality. A comparison of nine argots based in different languages suggests that the development of each of these argots involves large amounts of speech play. A variety of patterns of speech play are analyzed, including cross–language play, play languages, morphological restructuring and innovation, and lexical substitutions within the local language. The importance of speech play in these communities is illustrated with the genre of mock translations in which familiar texts (such as Shakespeare or the Bible) are reproduced using argot. The results suggest that speech play and verbal artistry are important and understudied elements of queer cultures.
... Certainly, our own positions as a 'native ethnographer' writing from the inside about Indigenous communities in the United States (e.g. Davis 2014Davis , 2018Davis , 2019) and a 'foreign ethnographer' writing from the outside about Hindi-speaking communities in India (e.g. Hall 2005Hall , 2009Hall , 2019 affects the kind of data we collect and the type of analysis we pursue. ...
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This chapter focuses on ethnography as a multi-method research approach in the study of language, gender, and sexuality. The approach is especially appropriate to the field's understanding of gender and sexuality as intertwined social systems that are brought into being through situated discursive practice. Yet the dynamism of gender and sexuality is difficult to capture in published work: How can researchers write about a particular time and place in a way that acknowledges the ongoing processual nature of that particularity? The chapter illustrates how ethnography answers this question through its attention to the conceptual triad of practice, ideology, and theory. Drawing from fieldwork among groups in the United States and India associated with systems of gender outside colonial cisnormativity and heteropatriarchy, the discussion demonstrates the advantages of ethnography for assessing how gender and sexuality come to matter in the semiotic exchange of everyday life.
... Scamp's position that such conflicts between young people of color are probably more complicated than bullying or banal teenage drama is well-substantiated by many school ethnographies of such issues, including my own. My work aligns with others' to suggest that deep mining and extensive contextualization of patterned incidents, or of young peoples' everyday conversations about just about anything, will likely deliver one to the dens of hierarchical difference-analytical dens occupied by material and discursive race-racism, gender-patriarchy-cisnormativity, classinequity, and sexuality-heterosexism (e.g., Alim 2006;Bucholtz 2010;Chun 2011;Davis 2014;Durrani 2016;Ibrahim 2014;Reyes 2011Reyes , 2017Rosa 2016;Shange-Binion 2017;Shankar 2008;Swinehart 2012). But rather than examine racism, scamp is concerned with a race-based essentialism semiotically yoked to black-onblack discourse. ...
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In the United States, discourses of “black‐on‐black” violence are pervasive in news media and everyday interactions. These discourses are often indexicalized along various contextual scales and draw upon several ideological wellsprings in their interdiscursive iterations. By examining a specific discourse about tensions between African transnational and African American young people in the Philadelphia area, this article considers how students and educators at a large suburban high school, local community members, and news media sustain and contest a notion of black‐on‐black violence by sometimes using the entextualized phrasing but, more often, by tacitly indexing or eroding its epistemic underpinnings. In the analysis, these underpinnings are presented as anti‐black epistemes that construct black people as immanently and exceptionally violent, and African Americans especially so. Ethnographic discourse analysis conducted over several years suggests that such epistemes help to not only rationalize the criminalization and disciplining of black youth regardless of national origin (and thus engender a multifaceted practice of “discursive violence” that can produce actual violence), but also help prop up the contextual frames through which African transnational youth discursively perform nonthreatening selves in contradistinction to their African American peers, even as they may undermine anti‐black epistemes.
What is queer in contemporary transnational queer studies? In this essay, I explore queer as a political‐intellectual orientation and aspirational field animated by its constitutive polarity: between a more constrained queer focused on sex, sexuality, and gender and a more expansive queer that bears an oblique relationship to these more proper objects. I trace how the desire to do justice to our objects of study produces queer’s characteristic inversions, so that when we seek to move “beyond” queer’s proper objects, we find ourselves drawn back into them and inversely, when we seek to center proper subjects of queer, we find ourselves elsewhere and otherwise. I illuminate this queer movement through a conceptual review of recent scholarship in queer anthropology (loosely 2015‐21), drawing out queer as (1) a challenge to categorical legibility, (2) a way to rethink vitalities between bio‐ and necropolitics, (3) a field of political, social, and sensual erotics and desires, and (4) a deconstruction of normative knowledge projects and epistemologies. Throughout, I reflect on anthropology's place in a larger project of a queer theory from (and seeking) an elsewhere.
The transformation of French bardache, ultimately a borrowing from Italian denoting the passive partner in sex between men, to English berdache, referring to Native American nonbinary gender identities or roles, involved a complex translinguistic dialogue in North America in the early nineteenth century. This history has never before been adequately explained. While berdache is now largely obsolete and considered offensive due to its exoticizing, colonialist, and ethnocentric origins, its multifaceted history encapsulates variation and change on phonetic, graphic, semantic, pragmatic, axiological, and ideological levels. In recent decades, Indigenous queer people have adopted Two-Spirit as a means of challenging this imposed categorization and asserting linguistic self-determination. With the aim of correcting previous accounts and omnipresent misconceptions about the history of the lexeme berdache, this paper uses a qualitative philological method to describe the development of this internationalism from a linguistic perspective.
In this chapter, I start the analysis by taking a corpus of 10 videogames which are within the same genre. I outline how I gathered the data, and the selection criteria for the videogames. I start by analysing how the pronouns he and she are used to construct ideals of masculinity and femininity, while simultaneously noting that the third-person pronoun they was only ever used as a collective marker, rather than in the singular form. Thus, I demonstrate that there is also an underrepresentation of non-binary characters within the data. I argue that the pronouns demonstrate stereotypical representations of men and women. Men are seen as strong and violent, while women are seen in terms of their relation to others. I also note that the nouns man and woman are more likely to appear in different transitive constructions—with man being more likely to be the agent/actor of verbs, and woman being more likely to be in the patient position (i.e. women are more likely to have actions done upon them).
Language socialization occurs not only during childhood but also among adults in the process of self-consciously creating new communities. Examining various frames during talk at an LGBTI-majority Canadian mosque, I address queer language socialization through analysis of the mutual socialization dialectic between the formation of members and the formation of their community, one in the process of being freshly imagined. I demonstrate how not only queer but also otherwise nonconformist Muslim values and communicative practices are being socialized as part of a purposefully intersectional community. Participants transform one another's use of language as they move toward their collective goal of intersectional inclusivity of people of diverse sects, genders, sexual orientations, relationship to Islam, age, and position of religious authority.
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I focus on the discursive strategies within Two Spirit events and groups that center the definition of ‘Two Spirit’ first and foremost as an Indigenous identity by using both unifying/mass terms (Native American, glbtiq) and culturally & community specific terms (specific tribe names, Two Spirit). Rather than selecting a “right” term, such conversations highlight the constant, simultaneous positionings negotiated by Two Spirit people in their daily lives, and the tensions between recognizability and accuracy; communality and specificity; indigeneity and settler culture; and the burden multiply marginalized people carry in negotiating between all of those metaphorical and literal spaces. Drawing on Simpson’s (2014) concept of the politics of refusal, I demonstrate how Two Spirit individuals utilize available categories of identity, not as either/or binaries but rather as overlapping concepts— differentiated along micro- and macro- scales— to refuse attempts to both reduce the Two Spirit identity to one that is based either in gender or sexuality, and the appropriation of the identity and movement by non-Indigenous individuals and groups within broader national and global queer movements.
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Resumo Buscando recuperar o aspecto de crítica colonial do movimento two-spirit norte-americano, este artigo pretende ampliar o campo de possibilidades nos estudos das sexualidades indígenas, propondo um passo além para os estudos de gênero (bem como dos estudos coloniais). Neste sentido, situaremos o surgimento das organizações two-spirit nos Estados Unidos, desde sua gênese, de modo a mais bem compreender suas contribuições epistemológicas. A partir dessas potencialidades, buscaremos problematizar questões e desafios para o estudo das sexualidades indígenas queer no Brasil. Palavras-Chave: Sexualidades indígenas, Two-Spirit, Teoria Queer, Colonialismo When to exist is to resist: Two-spirit as colonial critique Abstract By analyzing the two-spirit movement from its contributions to colonial critics, this article aims to expand the field of possibilities on the studies of indigenous sexualities, suggesting a step further to gender studies (as well as colonial studies). In this sense, one will place the emergence of two-spirit organizations in the United States, from its genesis in order to better understand its epistemological contributions. From these potentials, one seek to discuss issues and challenges for the studies of queer sexualities indigenous in Brazil. Keywords: Native Sexualities, Two-Spirit, Queer Theory, Colonialism Cuando existir es resistir: Dos espíritus como crítica colonial Resumen Al analizar el movimiento de los dos espíritus desde sus aportes a las críticas coloniales, este artículo pretende ampliar el campo de posibilidades sobre los estudios de las sexualidades indígenas, sugiriendo un paso más allá de los estudios de género. En este sentido, se pondrá en el surgimiento de las organizaciones de dos espíritus en los Estados Unidos, desde su génesis para comprender mejor sus contribuciones epistemológicas. Palabras clave: Sexualidades nativas, Dos Espíritus, Teoría Queer, Colonialismo
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This article demonstrates the importance of considering transgender speakers apart from gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, even where there is significant overlap in the linguistic practices of these groups. Through an analysis of transgender coming out narratives, it is shown that previous accounts of this genre, which have focused on gays and lesbians, do not extend to the entire LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community. Coming out as transgender differs from coming out as gay or lesbian primarily in that there are two distinct ways a person can come out as transgender: before and after a change in gender role. The dissimilarity of coming out before such a transition and afterwards presents a challenge to previous characterizations both of coming out and the narratives that result from this practice. Ultimately, the coming out narrative genre reveals itself as a venue for making sense of stigmatized identities in community-specific ways.
Les AA. exposent la maniere dont la notion de berdache, consideree comme injurieuse par les Amerindiens, a ete redefinie recemment par les autochtones des Etats-Unis et les Premieres Nations du Canada, afin d'exprimer leur point de vue sur la diversite sexuelle et les roles sexuelles dans les communautes amerindiennes. Cette redefinition est issue du Two-Spirit Movement, mouvement gay et lesbien amerindien, et il a ete decide de remplacer le terme de berdache par l'expression two-spirit people. Les AA. expliquent comment l'ancien terme berdache est integre dans les ecrits contemporains sur les two-spirit people. Il explorent ensuite comment la question de l'auto-denomination et la recherche academique peuvent etre abordees en collaboration avec les non-indiens. Finalement, ils proposent quelques conclusions sur les recherches anciennes et a venir sur la sexualite et la diversite sexuelle chez les Amerindiens.
The Two-Spirit man occupies a singular place in Native American culture, balancing the male and the female spirit even as he tries to blend gay and Native identity. The accompanying ambiguities of gender and culture come into vivid relief in the powerful and poignant Becoming Two-Spirit, the first book to take an in-depth look at contemporary American Indian gender diversity. Drawing on a wealth of observations from interviews, oral histories, and meetings and ceremonies, Brian Joseph Gilley provides an intimate view of how Two-Spirit men in Colorado and Oklahoma struggle to redefine themselves and their communities. The Two-Spirit men who appear in Gilley's book speak frankly of homophobia within their communities, a persistent prejudice that is largely misunderstood or misrepresented by outsiders. Gilley gives detailed accounts of the ways in which these men modify gay and Native identity as a means of dealing with their alienation from tribal communities and families. With these compromises, he suggests, they construct an identity that challenges their alienation while at the same time situating themselves within contemporary notions of American Indian identity. He also shows how their creativity is reflected in the communities they build with one another, the development of their own social practices, and a national network of individuals linked in their search for self and social acceptance.
* List of Maps, Tables, and Figures * Preface * Part One: Introduction, Background, and Definitions * Chapter 1: Introduction * Chapter 2: Early Sources: Missionaries and Traders, Physicians and Ethnologists * Chapter 3: Twentieth-Century Research * Chapter 4: Gender Identity, Gender Role, and Gender Status * Part Two: Gender Role Change by Males * Chapter 5: Cross-Dressing and Mixed Gender Roles * Chapter 6: Cross-Dressing and the Feminine Gender Role * Chapter 7: Feminine Activities Without Cross-Dressing * Chapter 8: The Imitation of "Femininity" and Intersexuality * Chapter 9: Women-Men as "Shamans," Medicine Persons, and Healers * Chapter 10: Other Specialized Occupations of Women-Men * Chapter 11: Partner Relationships and Sexuality * Chapter 12: Entrance into the Status of Woman-Man * Chapter 13: Women-Men in Native American Cultures: Ideology and Reality * Part Three: Gender Role Change by Females * Chapter 14: Cross-Dressing and Mixed Gender Roles * Chapter 15: Men-Women in Masculine Occupations * Chapter 16: Status, Relationships, and Entrance Rituals of Men-Women * Chapter 17: Warrior Women and Manly-Hearted Women * Part Four: The Cultural Context of Gender Role Change * Chapter 18: Attitudes Toward Women-Men and Men-Women * Chapter 19: Gender Role Change and Homosexuality * Chapter 20: Gender Role Change in Native American Oral Traditions * Chapter 21: Conclusion * References * Index
The status of berdache among North American Indians was filled by persons, usually male, who remained members of their biological gender but assumed important social characteristics of the other gender. Concentrated in western and midwestern North America, berdaches were few. The status tended to disappear after Indian societies came under outside political control. Male berdaches, particularly, combined the social roles assigned to both genders. They could dress like women, combine male and female dress, or alternate modes of dress. Their occupational role permitted a combination of male and female work to achieve exceptional productivity. Gender mixing also characterized their sexual behavior; often homosexual, they showed strong tendencies toward a bisexual orientation. Their transformation often required supernatural validation. The ritual roles of male berdaches, like other features of their status, rested on their definition as nonwomen. Traditional explanations of the berdache status seem based upon misunderstanding of its features. It was not a status instituted for homosexuals; homosexuality was a reflex of assuming the status rather than a factor promoting its assumption, and much homosexuality occurred outside it. Nor was it designed for males who feared the warrior role or the male role in general. We suggest that while women could engage in high-prestige male activities, such as warfare, without changing their gender status, they insisted that males who entered the female occupational sphere assume an intermediate gender status.