This snippet I found looks at Native American Indian Sacred Traditions and how Western/European views have clashed with the Two Spirit ethos mainly through lack of understanding and I’m sure respect. An extract I found especially interesting was –
- Many Native American Tribes have three, five, or even seven genders.
- These duel-sexed people, or “two-spirited” are seen without stigma and considered emissaries from the Creator. They are treated with deference and respect, even considered sacred.
- They are sacred for many reasons, not the least of which being that they embody both Mother Earth and Father Sky. They may be found as a vital part of almost any ceremony involving the entire band. They “hold both a masculine and feminine heart within their souls, and therefore twice the power.”
- As androgyne beings, it is thought that they are better able to be fair — seeing into the hearts of both males and females. They are often called on to play the role of mediator.
- In regards to duty, relationship and dress, physical sex is not important. The “spirit” is the determinate.
- “Two-spirit” is the closest thing to an appropriate umbrella term for referring to these gender traditions among Native peoples. However, even “two-spirit” is contested in modern usage.
- The Western/European worldview is fundamentally different from Native perception. The Western/European worldview is dominated by dualistic/binary thinking (e.g. male-female). Native perception is not. Native perception typically insists that all things are connected, whereas Western approaches focus on independence. We (westerners) are being racist when we try to cram Native experience into Western categories.
- There is no universal singular Native tradition. There is a great deal of diversity among Native nations in respect to gender diversity. Over-generalizations about “the” tradition is another way we (westerners) display our shallow approach to Native experience.Not all tribes had a “berdache” tradition. The Iroquois and some other nations had a strong warrior expectation with no room for sissies.
- “Berdache” remains a term used by many anthropologists, but is considered (by many Native Americans) to be a European, racist slur, indicative of a long history of Native oppression at the hands of European colonists (who never took the time or interest to understand Native culture on its own terms).
- Each Native nation (i.e. each with its own language) would have a specific term (and practice) which referred to those we (westerners) might call “other-gendered.”
- Western cultural and moral terms do not apply. Equating Western categories with these Native practices and understandings tends to result in racist and homophobic expressions — simplifications which allow us to avoid really listening to the alternative assumptions found in Native cultures.
- To the Western mind, “two-spirited” persons would be “other-gendered” — i.e. neither male nor female. However, the worldviews are so different that there is really no comparable category that applies directly.
- Because such Native persons are not considered male or female, they cannot be rightly categorized as “homosexuals.” Such labels were applied inappropriately by European colonists.
- Such Native persons are not “transexuals.” They are not trapped in the “wrong” body. From a Native perspective, they represent a natural and accepted gender identity within the created order.
- Such Native persons are not “crossdressers” or “transvestites” — their dress was culturally appropriate for their given gender identity and not considered transgressive within Native culture.
- “Transgendered” is the closest western concept that would apply. However, “transgender” implies some crossing over of the gender dualism — a dualism which does not exist in the Native worldview. “Other-gendered” has the same problem, in that it assumes “male” and “female” as normative. In addition, “transgendered” fails to communicate the sacred role affiliated with such individuals in Native cultures.
To read more of this article vist the website – http://www.angelfire.com/on/otherwise/native.html
If it wasn’t for reading, learning and understanding the Native American Indians ways regarding Two Spirit people, coupling that with the way I have felt since I can remember, I’m sure I would be in a much more upsetting place. Two Spirit philosophy provided me with the perfect understanding of what Western society calls Transgender and facilitated my broader philosophy that Two Spirit is in us all to a greater or lesser extent.
Thank you – I hope this website does their ancestors and traditions justice.