Sunday, March 27, 2005

Emily Alpert: Rainbow and Red

On the role of two-spirit people in traditional Native American societies.

Rainbow and Red
Emily Alpert
In the Fray

Coined in 1990 at an annual conference of queer-identified Native people, the International Two-Spirit Gathering, the term “two-spirit,” encompasses various American Indian traditions of tolerance and celebration of gender-variant people. Unlike modern concepts of sexuality, two-spiritedness refers less to sexual orientation than to gender, reflecting the idea that in a single person, both masculine and feminine energies may reside. Prior to the conference, the concept was referred to by different terms in each tribe: For example, winkte in Lakota, a Sioux dialect, nádleehí in Navajo, or problematically called berdache, a French word sometimes translated as “slave boy.”

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