December 15, 2017 6:21 AM   Subscribe

Same-Sex Native American Couple Hopes to Break Barriers Through Dance A same-sex couple who fell in love while performing on the pow wow dance circuit is hoping they can bring confidence to other young Native Americans grappling with their sexual identities.
posted by hippybear (14 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
This is really great; thank you for sharing!
posted by headspace at 6:29 AM on December 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

This sent me googling for "Native American attitudes towards LGBT" which led me to:

1. Native American is an umbrella term, so there's no one answer. There are 562 federally recognized Indian nations (229 in Alaska!) in the US, and many more unrecognized, and (surprise) they have differing attitudes.

2. Though some tribes(Cree, Lakota, Navajo, Ojibwe) historically had a concept of third gender (the umbrella term is two-spirit), you can't really equate that with a concept like "gay" or "LGBT" because it sits in an entirely different cultural context.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:13 AM on December 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

This is super cool!

Yeah--I'd love some more resources about understanding the cultural implications behind "two-spirit" vs "gay" or "LGBT" etc. My understanding is pretty surface (and, let's be honest, entirely based on wikipedia). Time to go down the google rabbit hole.
posted by lucy.jakobs at 7:19 AM on December 15, 2017

People magazine, of all places, handled the terminology and context well?! This is lovely.
posted by desuetude at 7:28 AM on December 15, 2017

I've only ever heard "two-spirit" in reference to transgender folks, not gay people. I was inclined to believe that the article writer was lazy, but there was a direct quote from one of the men, so.

tw suicide, alcohol

I went to college in Montana and became close friends with a guy who grew up on the Crow reservation. He came to realize he was bisexual but he resisted it with all his might. He told me there was no place for LGBT folks on the reservation (this was around 1999, for context). He was terrified of his family finding out and he started drinking heavily. One night at a party he was slurring his words, which was "normal" for him so no one paid much attention, but he collapsed and someone called 911. He'd driven off most of his friends with his alcoholism but I stayed overnight at the hospital. The nurse told me that his BAC was 0.4 and he should be dead.

I graduated and moved away and it was hard to keep in touch. A couple years later I found out he was in a car with a friend and both were drunk.The driver passed out and hit a semi. The driver died and my friend broke his pelvis, was told he'd never walk again, etc. He shot himself not too long after. I think if his family and culture had been accepting, he wouldn't have become an alcoholic. I'm glad things seem to be improving within Native culture but it's way too late for him.
posted by AFABulous at 7:33 AM on December 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Goddamn they are a cute couple! I think my cold, dead heart just grew three sizes.
posted by poe at 7:44 AM on December 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

Aw, good for them! Glad they're able to perform together :D

Another cool two-spirit Artist is Geo Neptune, a master basket weaver from the Passamaquoddy tribe. He does "fancy baskets", which is unusual for a male weaver, and uses his designs to explore trans issues.
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 8:19 AM on December 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

> I've only ever heard "two-spirit" in reference to transgender folks, not gay people.

Yeah, it's become(ing) more of an umbrella term. One of my favorite events in the SF Bay Area is the Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS) powwow, and it's explicitly LGBTI-inclusive. It's a wonderful event - Feb 3rd 2018, if you're around the Bay Area then. Get in line early for fry bread.

This was a lovely piece. Made me tear up a little.
posted by rtha at 8:55 AM on December 15, 2017

This is so sweet. Watching their interview video was a great way to start my day today.
posted by Secretariat at 9:38 AM on December 15, 2017

Duane Brayboy, at Indian Country Today, wrote about the context of “two spirit” within actual tribes and with less universallizing names.
posted by Deoridhe at 10:15 AM on December 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Words Concepts for What May or May Not be Equivalent to The White Western Concepts Denoted With The Recently Invented Words "Gay," "Lesbian," "Bisexual" and "Transgender"

The European necessity to define something as fluid as human sexuality into recognizably organized titles has proven far too confusing leading to increasingly difficulty in Gay/Straight relations. The new Native American term Two-Spirit fit the bill perfectly. The intended objective behind the term Two-Spirit was a direct and unflinching attempt to regain control over a particular aspect of Aboriginal reality taken from said people initially by force and later by religious zeal. This new terminology is a spiritual definition and to ignore that most basic dynamic is to ignore the entire foundation that defines the whole of Indigenous character and identity. Two-Spirit is NOT a substitute for homosexual, period.

It is a modern Aboriginal term denoting the recognition of anywhere up to eight non-Heterosexual genders in accordance with North American pan-Indigenous life-ways. It is at its essence a sincere and bold attempt to define Indigenous realities in light of five centuries of colonial oppression. But the indisputable veracity of this being the case has no bearing on the mainstream gay movements adoption and unreasonable aggressive propagation of the term.

It has been appropriated and redefined into a preferably White image mirroring the imaginary White Indian facade of the past and present. The major argument used to defend this sexual imperialism is that Two-Spirit as a definable term has no recognized negative connotations and it wasn’t as constricted as Homosexual, Bisexual or Lesbian. Along with the addition of all the exotic flavours and mystique of the romanticized long haired Native American Gay savage and you have all the makings for a mixed soup of New-Age pseudo-traditions and Gay establishment psycho babble laden with the intent of co-opting an identity that is blatantly not their own.
posted by fraula at 10:34 AM on December 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

The last 30 seconds of the video embedded in the article are priceless.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 5:29 PM on December 15, 2017

Really surprising that this is from People Magazine of all places! But glad to see it. Pow Wows are great family events so it is great that there is a movement to include members of the Aboriginal LGBT+ community. Can I use this as an opportunity to recommend my favorite LGBT+ First Nations writer, Tomson Highway and my friend Noam Gonick's two-spirit film Stryker?

Regarding the term "two-spirits" I'm glad others have beat me to an explanation of the term as it is a complex term and isn't easily translatable into a non-First Nations context. Even within First Nations groups it can be a variable term. I've seen it used in a variety of ways depending on the cultural group - sometimes analogous to homosexual or sometimes trans or sometimes bisexual. Increasingly its being used in a way to describe the broader LGBT+ community within the Aboriginal community and culture (that bolded part is a critical part of its meaning).

Perhaps this is a bit of a derail but I noticed farther down in Fraula's linked article the outdated term "berdache" is mentioned in passing. This is a loaded term and was current as recently as 20+ years ago when I was school. Its use to describe two-spirit individuals is a contentious one and its history is revealing of how white culture dealt with First Nations peoples. I won't derail further but for a little more on the history of that term and its connection to the two-spirit identity in a historical context these articles posted on the blog The Drummer's Revenge LGBT history and politics in Canada are accessible and provide some context:
Missionaries, Explorers, and the “Berdache”
The Disappearance of the Two-Spirit Traditions in Canada
posted by Ashwagandha at 5:43 PM on December 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Beautiful story and the dancing blew me away.
posted by biggreenplant at 5:54 AM on December 16, 2017

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