Monday, June 6, 2011

Cross Cultural Look at Being Transgender - Native America

Now I could try to explain all the different aspects of how different Native Americans saw (see) gender variant people and what roles these individuals played (if any) in a particular tribe, but that would be a very drawn out exercise and I am not sure I could even come close to getting it right. What I do know is the the term "two-spirited" is a relatively modern phrase (1990's) that is a direct translation of the Ojibwe term, Niizh manidoowag.

I would like to point out as well that making a blanket statement that Native Americans' had a third gender is inaccurate. The truth is that some tribes had a very strict gender dichotomy similar to modern day western cultures; however, some did not. Tribes such as the Navajo, Lakota, Sioux, Piegan, Zuni, Mojave, and more do recognized a third gender or variation of one or both genders that who's members filled varying roles and had traditions attributed to them. To find out more I suggest you look up the tribe of interest and their particular take on gender and gender roles as the details vary so much from tribe to tribe.

Here is a brief explanation of some of the above tribes (Work in progress):

Navajo - Nadle
The nadles of the Navajo tribe were seen as people who encompassed both male and female qualities. These individuals were looked up to (even worshiped) and thought to bring good luck and fortune. They also play a huge role in Navajo mythology and their creation beliefs. People born intersex as well as people who transitioned later in life were considered to be nadle and a distinction was made but it is unclear to me if this did or did not effect their status (I would love some clarification on this).

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