We often think that a sophisticated understanding of gender is a contemporary phenomenon. The idea of non-binary or non-gender conforming identities has come to the fore in Western societies relatively recently in historical terms.
It wasn’t until Europeans took over North America that natives adopted the ideas of gender roles. For Native Americans, there was no set of rules that men and women had to abide by in order to be considered a “normal” member of their tribe.
In fact, people who had both female and male characteristics were viewed as gifted by nature, and therefore, able to see both sides of everything. All native communities acknowledged the following gender roles: “Female, Male, Two Spirit Female, Two Spirit Male and Transgendered.” Two-Spirit replaces the word Berdache, an offensive term used to describe homosexuality or what Europeans saw as transvestism. Coined by the French in North America, the term originally comes from the Persian term “beraj”, which essentially means “male prostitute”…one small example of how badly they failed at respecting native culture.
The role of the Two Spirit people in tribes were highly regarded, as they often became healers, shamans, visionaries, medicine people, storytelling, weaving, caring for children and more. They were considered gifted because they embodied both male and female attributes in one body, and could see with the eyes of both genders.
Some tribes held rituals to determine whether a child was Two Spirited and should be raised as such. If the child was seen by their family as behaving differently from their birth gender, they would then set up a ceremony to decide the fate.
In everyday life the two-spirit male typically would wear women’s clothes and do women’s work. He would be accepted as “one of the girls.” Generally two-spirit males were not expected to have sexual relations with women.
Likewise, female-bodied Two Spirited people often wore men’s clothing and would hunt and engaged in what was typically men’s work. All genders were loved and accepted and encouraged by members of the Tribe. It was common for them to have partners of the same biological sex. Female two-spirits often had wives, and male two-spirits had husbands. Since they were considered to be a third gender, or to have both genders in one body, their relationships were not restricted to the binary concepts of heterosexuality and homosexuality.
Because of the shame felt during oppressive situations such as residential schools and marginalization, the rituals and beliefs were eradicated. Instead of honor and respect, Two Spirited people were now cast out of their tribes and commune rejected.
Modernization has corrupted our simple minds and lives. I was always told that it’s wrong to be in love with another woman, always told it’s a sin to be homosexual this article is really eye opening. It’s nice to know that people accepted you for who you are back then there in the Americas and respected you. I hope everyone accepts us for who we are, it’s a shame we call ourselves modern and still judge people for who they are. – Source Article