Two Spirits

logo_2Fresh out of university, I spent two years teaching and living on reserves in Northern Manitoba among the Cree and Chipewyan First Nations people.  It has profoundly affected me, giving me a broader perspective on the meaning and purpose of life.  It has taught me to accept every individual simply as they are without any form of judgement. As I set out to explore the meaning and nature of bisexuality, I have once again been reminded of the beautiful spiritual-social nature of the First Nations community before it was influenced by white man’s political-social views and its moralistic standards of sexuality.

Taking the lead from traditional Native Americans and Canadians, I do believe that I, and most other bisexuals, are part of a greater community of Two-Spirited people; we simultaneously house a masculine and a feminine spirit.  Ontario has explored the Two Spirit concept in an attempt to fully understand and support individuals within the LGBT community:

Two-spirited” refers to a person who has both a masculine and a feminine spirit, and is used by some First Nations people to describe their sexual, gender and/or spiritual identity….These can include terms such as the Lakota’s “winkt” or the Dinéh’s “nàdleehé”, both of which refer to men who fill social roles associated with women, or terms which refer only to sexuality, such as the Mi’kmaq phrase “Geenumu Gessalagee”, which means “he loves men.”[1]

So what have we learned from our Native Canadians about our bisexuality? Lots, we gain a view of bisexuality as a soul-trinity involving sexuality, gender, and spirit.

First of all, make no mistake, it is sexual.  “He loves men” means “He loves men”. We have a tendency in our WASP traditions to wax over the sexual part and focus on some kind of mystical spiritism.  That kind of paternalism is not doing the Two Spirit people true justice.  Sexuality is part of our being; it is a full body-soul expression of who we are.  One of the great warriors of the Sioux, Crazy Horse, is generally believed to have had a male lover.  He was far from effeminate and yet he had a love for men.  The beauty of the native cultures is that they have demonstrated a gentle acceptance of variations in people’s sexuality.  It appears that First nation’s people simply accepted without question or judgement that Crazy Horse loved a man, and that any man or woman could have more than one sexual preference.

In reading the work of Gabriel Estrada with the Navajo, I found this wonderful concept:

Third and fourth gender roles traditionally embodied by two-spirit people include performing work and wearing clothing associated with both men and women. Not all tribes/nations have rigid gender roles, but, among those that do, some consider there to be at least four genders: feminine woman, masculine woman, feminine man, masculine man.”[2]

 The second lesson then is that First Nation’s people also recognized that Two-Spirited includes gender as well as sexuality. It appears that in the First Nation’s communities, all expressions of gender were generally accepted.  They understood that some men preferred to wear women’s clothing, work alongside the women, and help tend the children. There was no attempt to marginalize them or prevent them from influencing the young people within the community.

In our broken society, the only way for a Two-Spirited man to express his feminine gender is to cross dress in the privacy of his own home or in clubs that will accept his feminine expression.  My introduction to my feminine gender was trying on women’s clothing at age 15.  Later in my life, after my divorce, a spent a year enjoying cross dressing.  When I looked at myself in the mirror and saw the passable face and body of a woman looking back at me, I felt I had found my true identity.  I never did dare to appear in public in my feminine gender identity; that takes the kind of courage I was not able to muster. In our society, as soon as one has been identified as being transgender, he or she is often marginalized and their involvement in the greater society is restricted. My knowledge and experiences as an educator, a psychologist, and a spiritual guide would have been totally disregarded.

I have a gender foundation that has been pruned and shaped by my negative social experiences.  In my society I am merely that queer bisexual man who left his wife so he could have sex with other men. In my struggles, I was labelled by psychologists and psychiatrists as having a personality disorder with a gender identification disorder.  I saw myself as a disorder and a misfit to society.  When I left the pseudo scientific theories behind (tough to do because I was a psychologist by profession), I began to see my gender as a gift from the universe .  At that point, I no longer had a personality disorder as I was able to see myself and love myself as I am.

I came across this additional piece of information:

 “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”.[3]

In the First Nation’s communities, Two-Spirit people could have a different but definite role in the community. They simply accepted everyone’s contribution as a spiritual gift and allowed them to express their gender-spirit in any way they wished. They could be powerful warriors such as Crazy Horse, or “they were often the visionaries, the healers, the medicine people, the nannies of orphans, the care givers.”[4] Among the First Nations people, there is general recognition that those who have been blessed with two spirits have a special contribution to make to the health and wellness of the community.  The nature of the blended spirit becomes the essential factor.

In my case, I have a spirit that is a blend of my man-spirit and my woman-spirit.  It is this Two-Spirit soul that makes me different; that makes me special.  If I were a member of an historic First Nations Community, I may have been a wise man, a shaman or a healer. My male-female sexuality, two-gender, two-spirit identification has become a beautiful foundation where I can experience my world from two spiritual views.  I now have a unique way of seeing and feeling things that I can employ to help guide my community to insight and compassion.  I have two spirits

In my search of the literature I came across one disheartening trend.  Some First Nation’s people do not want the LGBT community to appropriate and corrupt the two-spirit concept, and I do not blame them.  Unfortunately, we tend to take and use a term to prove our need for special attention in the political arena.  This concept is too precious for that.  Likewise it is too precious to appropriate it and corrupt it to describe and justify our sexual preferences. Our sexual desires do not need to be justified; they are what they are.   This term is certainly not political; it is much more than just sexual, and even more than bisexual. It is holy.  It is spiritual.




[3] Estrada, Gabriel S. 2011. “Two Spirits, Nádleeh, and LGBTQ2 Navajo Gaze.” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 35(4):167-190.

[4] Roscoe, W. (Editor) 1988,Living the Spirit: A Gay American Indian Anthology. City: Publisher

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