Lesbians, Men-Women and Two Spirits:Homosexuality and Gender in Native American Cultures

The following quotes have been pulled from Sabine Lang’s essay, “Lesbians, Men-Women, and Two-Spirits” from the Anthology female desires.

“Within their respective cultures men-women and women-men are classified as neither men nor women, but genders of their own. This is also reflected in Native American languages to refer to them. These words are different from the words for woman and man, and often indicate that women-men and men-women are often seen, one way or another, as combining the masculine and the feminine.. Apart from gender constructions, the roles and statuses of individuals who are neither men nor women in Native American cultures are embedded within worldviews that emphasize and appreciate transformation and change.. Within such worldviews, and individual who changes his or her gender once or more often in the course of her life is not viewed as an abnormality but rather as a part of the natural order of things.. The emphasis on transformation and change in Native American cultures also includes the idea that an individual is expected to go through many changed in a lifetime.
People who are familiar with their culture’s gender variance emphasize elements that spirituality that were crucial to the roles of women-men and men-women and still are important where such roles continue to exist. This even holds true for contemporary ‘two-spirited’ Native Americans who for that reason may feel restricted by categories like ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian.’ These categories are defined in terms of sexual behavior instead of personhood, spirituality, and specific, complex identities deriving from the experience of being Native American, as opposed to beinh white or of any other ethnic heritage.” (92-93)

“Due to the influences of white concepts and Christianity, gender variance and homosexual behavior have come to be met with some strong disapproval on and off the reservations. People either adopted white attitudes and values or did not wish to see their cultures criticized by whites for permitting expressions of ‘perversion’.. People of whatever sexual inclination are expected to fit into everyday life on their rural reservation community. The inappropriateness here does not necessarily lie in the fact that sexuality is concerned, but that certain people try to set themselves apart from the community at large.” (101)

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