What does Two-Spirit mean?
The term “two-spirit” emerged in 1990 as a way to honor the intersection of Native and LGBTQ identity, and to situate that identity in a unique cultural context. There are over 150 words in many different tribes for individuals who crossed gender lines, recognizing that their spirit was both male and female; the modern English term, “Two-Spirit”, is based on a translation of an Anishinaabe term for such a third/fourth gender person.
Why is it important?
In many indigenous, pre-contact cultures, Two-Spirit people were honored as healers, medicine people, mediators, luck-bringers, and as possessing other powers from Spirit that made them special or different. Two-Spirit people held unique spiritual roles in their tribes, which was very different than how Christian-based, European peoples generally demonized individuals of varying genders and sexualities.
For Two-Spirit people who ‘walk between’ the worlds of male and female, there is also often a special ability to ‘walk between’ the human and spirit worlds. There is a very ancient history of androgyny and gender-variance found in shamanic traditions all over the world, not just in Native North America.
As a modern Two-Spirit person, I look to those ancient traditions for guidance and acceptance, just as I turn to my individual ancestors to direct my work. My identity as Two-Spirit is deeply tied to my gifts for walking between the worlds–of male and female, indigenous and white, human and spirit–and this walk has brought me many gifts of vision and understanding along with the hardships it has engendered. This is why it is an important part of my medicine, and why I honor those Two-Spirit ancestors who came before me by naming my practice, “Two-Spirit Shamanic Healing”.