Two-Spirit

A term used within some indigenous communities, encompassing sexual, gender, cultural, and spiritual identity. Reflects complex indigenous understandings of gender roles and the long history of sexual and gender diversity in indigenous cultures. Individual terms and roles for Two-Spirit people are specific to each nation. Because of the spiritual, cultural and historical component, being Two-Spirit is different than identifying as LGBTQ+ and indigenous. Before colonization, Two-Spirit people were often highly revered in their communities, taking on the role of healers, match-makers, counsellors, among many others. Two-Spirit people were disappeared as part of the process of colonization, religious belief systems being imposed on indigenous people condemned any sort of sexual or gender diversity, and Two-Spirit people were killed or forced into hiding. The word “Two-Spirit” was created in the early 1990’s, and the role of Two-Spirit people in indigenous communities is being reclaimed. Although it contradicts most traditional values, some of the lasting impacts of colonization have been an experience of increased homophobia and transphobia in indigenous communities, often forcing Two-Spirit people to leave their home communities. The term Two-Spirit is only to be used by indigenous people, due to the cultural and spiritual context, however, not all indigenous people who hold diverse sexual and gender identities consider themselves Two-Spirit.

Two Spirit and Aboriginal links and resources

Local resources

Two Spirit Sweat is a Sweatlodge that happens in North Vancouver for Two-Spirit folks and allies. Please contact Robbie Hong at 604-683-3884.

Sandy Leo Laframboise is a Tsleil-Waututh Two Spirit / Trans Elder able to lead trans positive ceremonies on Tsleil-Waututh Territory. Contact Sandy at:  dancingtoeaglespirit@gmail.com or 778-319-3965

The Gay Warriors Group is a Two Spirit/Gay Men’s Talking Circle, based out of the Health Initiative for Men, in Vancouver.

Vancouver’s Urban Native Youth Association; they have a wide range of services for Aboriginal youth.

Online resources

The North American Aboriginal Two Spirit Information Pages is a great site for researching articles and information on Two Spirit and Aboriginal Issues, hosted by the University of Calgary.

Native OUT is a nonprofit education and media organization, actively involved in the Two Spirit Movement. They utilize the internet, through their website, multimedia, and social networks to educate about the Indigenous LGBTQ+/Two Spirit people of North America.

This is for the Turtle Island Native Network website, which has a lot of information on North American Two Spirit Resources.

The Native Youth Sexual Health Network has a national campaign for First Nations youth across Canada to fight homophobia and normalize healthy sexuality. Free Two Spirit posters to download.

The Two Spirit Voices website with many videos and resources.

The Way of the Two Spirited People: Native American Concepts of Gender and Sexual Orientation, Dancing to Eagle Spirit Society

Films

Two Spirits is a short documentary film that explores the life and death of a boy who was also a girl, and the essentially spiritual nature of gender.

Reel Injun is a documentary by Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond that examines the stereotypes of Aboriginal people in cinema; it features clips from many classic and recent films.

8th Fire is a four-part documentary series that focuses on colonial history and the relationship between Aboriginal people and Settlers to Canada. Episodes can be viewed online.

Books

Queer Indigenous Studies: Critical Interventions in Theory, Politics, and Literature (First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies)
Driskill et al, 2011.

Changing Ones: Third and Fourth Genders in Native North America
Will Roscoe, 2000.

Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture
Walter L. Williams, 1992.

Two-Spirit People: Native American Gender Identity, Sexuality, and Spirituality
Jacobs, Thomas & Lang, 1997.

Men as Women, Women as Men: Changing Gender in Native American Cultures
Sabine Lang & John L. Vantine, 1998.

The Zuni Man-Woman
Will Roscoe, 1992.

Becoming Two-Spirit: Gay Identity and Social Acceptance in Indian Country
Brian Joseph Gilley, 2006.

Living the Spirit, A Gay American Indian Anthology (Stonewall Inn Editions)
Will Roscoe, Ed. 1988.

Two Spirit People: American Indian Lesbian Women and Gay Men (Monograph Published Simultaneously As the Gay & Lesbian Social Services , Vol 6, No 2)
Lester B. Brown, Ed. 1997.