Native Americans talk gender identity at a ‘two-spirit’ powwow

Queerness in Native American Traditions: 2 Spirits

Fusion

San Francisco’s Cow Palace has hosted livestock expositions, Rolling Stones concerts, and a U.S. heavyweight championship.

But this Saturday, it was home to something really special: the nation’s only Native American powwow for “two-spirited” tribe members that’s open to the public.

Two-spirited people don’t all define themselves in the same way. Many say they embody both male and female characteristics, and that such a role was recognized and honored by their tribes before colonization. Others might identify as gay when they’re around outsiders.

At the Cow Palace, they came together seeking community, and to raise awareness of some of the issues that LGBT people face on reservations, like hate crimes and high rates of suicide.

The term “two-spirit” is a relatively modern term but the concept is not. And the concept of a more complicated gender system has become fairly common in the mainstream: Half of all Millennials believe that…

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