Strengthening Spirit

Two Spirit Terminology and Identity

Two Spirit is a contemporary term used to identify Native American Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender individuals with traditional and cultural understandings of gender roles and identity. As an encompassing term, “Two Spirit” was adopted in 1990 at the International Native Gay & Lesbian Gathering in Canada which is an Anishinabe word meaning to have both feminine and masculine spirits within a person.

Upon European contact, homophobia, transphobia and acculturated worldviews of gender/sexuality were adopted. Historically, Native people had alternative gender roles and responsibilities for Two Spirit people. These culturally prescribed spiritual and social roles were based upon gender rather than sexuality as well as community rather than individual.

Some tribal languages still have traditional terms for Native LGBT/Two Spirit individuals such as:

Nádleehí (Navajo);   Winkte (Lakota);   Lhamana (Zuni);    Wehee’ahiiken;  Kuuyat  (Tongva)

The term has different meanings in rural and urban communities to describe the re-claiming of one’s traditional identity and roles and may not be not applicable to all tribes and individuals. It is considered to be an empowering and self indentifying term for Native LGBT/Two Spirit individuals.  Because the term is defined as having both masculine and feminine spirits, many transgender individuals may not identify with this term.

Native LGBT/Two Spirit Organizations

Social and cultural groups have organized to support and serve social networks for Native LGBT/Two Spirit individuals. Listed below are some of those organizations.

Native LGBT/ Two Spirit Digital Resources