Two spirit is an exclusive gender for Native Americans. Typically two spirit people fulfill one of many mixed gender roles found traditionally among many Native Americans and Canadian First Nations indigenous groups. The mixed gender roles encompassed by the term historically included wearing the clothing and performing the work associated with both men and women. It refers to a person who has the spirit of both woman and man within them, in that way it could be thought of as a cultural version of bigender. The term is also used by transgender and non-binary Native Americans even if they wouldn’t describe themselves as bigender specifically. In a way it can be used as an umbrella term. Most tribes have a tribe-specific name for two-spirit.
History[edit | edit source]
The English term "two spirit" emerged in 1990 out of the third annual inter-tribal Native American/First Nations gay/lesbian American conference in Winnipeg. A direct translation of the Ojibwe term, Niizh manidoowag, "two-spirited" or "two-spirit" is usually used to indicate a person whose body simultaneously houses a masculine spirit and a feminine spirit. The term can also be used more abstractly, to indicate presence of two contrasting human spirits (such as Warrior and Clan Mother) or two contrasting animal spirits (which, depending on the culture, might be Eagle and Coyote).
The primary purpose of coining a new term was to encourage the replacement of the outdated and offensive, anthropological term, "berdache". The term "berdache" was coined by western anthropologists and used until the late 20th century, mainly to describe feminine Native Americans assigned male at birth. The term is however inaccurate and can nowadays be considered offensive.
Two Spirit was intended to carry on the traditional meanings of the terms in Indigenous languages for the culturally-specific ceremonial roles that are recognized and confirmed by the Elders of the two-spirit's ceremonial community. However, it has been criticized by traditional communities who already have their own terms for the people being grouped under this new term, and by those who reject what they call the "western" binary implications, such as implying that Natives believe these individuals are "both male and female". Despite this it has generally received more acceptance and use than the anthropological term it replaced.
Flag[edit | edit source]
There is no widely recognized two spirit flag, however there are a few designs. The sun and moon design was created by Tumblr user Miigwan on April 30, 2019. Black represents the west and the physical body. White represents the north and mental energy. Yellow represents the east and emotional energy. Red represents the south and spirituality. Blue represents water and relatives. Green represents plant medicine and responsibilities. The sun and moon represent masculine and feminine spiritual role models.
Another common two spirit flag was designed by 2Sanon and submitted to ask-pride-color-schemes on December 17, 2016. The two feathers represent woman and man, and the circle represents unity in one. It's typically put over the gay flag, but it can also be put on the transgender or non-binary flag.
A third one was proposed by snozzzz of lgbtqa-pride-icons, with yellow representing nonbinary identity, pink representing femininity, blue representing masculinity, and brown representing native blood.