Two-Spirited

Recently I was introduced to the term "two-spirited people." It is derived from Native American cultures in which they believed in a third gender; that of a person who possessed both male and female spirits. This article quote encapsulates nicely what it meant to be two-spirited:

"Traditionally, the Two-spirited person was one who had received a gift from the Creator, that gift being the privilege to house both male and female spirits in their bodies. The concept of Two-spirited related to today's designation of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender persons of Native origins. Being given the gift of two-spirits meant that this individual had the ability to see the world from two perspectives at the same time. This greater vision was a gift to be shared with all, and as such, Two-spirited beings were revered as leaders, mediators, teachers, artists, seers, and spiritual guides. They were treated with the greatest respect, and held important spiritual and ceremonial responsibilities."

What an interesting notion, huh? That people who in our culture are openly marginalized and discriminated against held positions of honor in Native societies. They were seen as privileged, not told that they were an abomination, disowned from their families, felt like they had to hide their true selves, or sent to ex-gay camps to rediscover their heterosexual origins. It's difficult enough for people to feel comfortable in their own skin, let alone comfortable in their world. I wonder what both would feel like.

Sadly, this view of two-spirited people is not expressed in Native American cultures any more. So what changed it all? Any guesses? Not surprisingly, it changed when Europeans came in, snatched up some land, did some killing, and pushed their values and taboos onto those who came before. How Christian of them.

It's frustrating how people will say that Native American traditions are Old World, irrelevant, or backward. Then I read something like this and continue to wonder who the inferior ones are. Why are openness to difference, acceptance, tolerance, and understanding underscored in our society? Why does hate and fear get so much top billing?

It is easy to drive technology and call ourselves advanced. To live privileged lives and believe we possess culture. To not reflect on our ancestory and therefore, fail to learn from it. Can you disregard the past, skim through the present, and constantly anticipate the future - do all these things - and ever experience true humanity?

Maybe that level of understanding is the spiritual gift. Progress is change. It can lead to cures and revelations. It can take us further away from ourselves. We cannot live outside of either reality. But that shouldn't stop us from asking questions and learning from our world. It shouldn't stop us from expanding our understanding.

We are never finished products. We are imperfect. But we are capable of much more than we allow ourselves to be. In these truths, I hope for us.

8 comments:

Bubz The Troll said...

This is why I am Wiccan/Pagan and not Christian anymore (although I'm not sure I ever really was).

My Two-Spirited friend please continue to share your wisdom of both worlds.

Adva said...

Well said Chris. The Two-Spirited idea is wonderful and I wish that it was still a prevelent belief. I completely agree that it is a scary thing how we treat the past, like what we do learn from it is to figure out how to forget about it as quickly as possible. Even groups who cherish their histories are often misunderstood or told to get over it.

I've thought a lot about your point about how "hate and fear get so much top billing?" Sometimes I feel like at the root of all religions is a book, and in this book, you supposedly get the answers to so many things that are unanswerable, which give the people who believe in this book, an impression that they can understand the nature of everything. Thus, when they don't, fear is a natural response and hate is quick to follow. Maybe in that particular Native American tradition, the smartest thing about it is that they knew that they can't understand everything and this was ok. No book of rules so you kind of adapt them as you go.

Sorry for the long response, but I'm really glad that you wrote about this, it is very interesting...

Vicki said...

Army, this is so true in many cultures, over many years. Even today, the Asian culture is to respect their elders, for they are wise, and much can be learned from their experience of life. Not so in other cultures, like ours. Instead, many children kill their parents or grandparents. They talk down to them, and treat them like they are lower class. So sad. As you know, I "am" a Christian, and no one can convince "me" that He made a mistake in creating Two-Sprited humans. I refer to the saying that "God doesn't make junk", and that includes ALL HUMANS, ALL RACES, ALL SEXES! Thank you for sharing your writing with ALL of us! I always get more food for thought from you!

Beth said...

Chris, as you know, I'm pathetically trying to pretend that I still know how to speak French. In that vein, we watched french movie last night called "Just a Question of Love" and I think you might like it. If you ever see it, let me know what you think. Netflix is great for boring people with babies :)

Army said...

Thanks for the comments, bubz! I try to be open about Christian beliefs, but I have difficulty keeping it disentangled from what I feel are injustices within the religion.

Adva - very thoughtful remarks. I think you have conceptualized the dilemma quite well... ever thought of starting your own blog??

Vicki (aka, Moms) - I've always felt fortunate to have someone as open and unconditional for a mother! Not everyone is so lucky. I love you!

Beth - I have seen that movie, and I rather enjoyed it. The main actor is cute! And hey, if it keeps you brushed up on your French, so be it! Now you have to watch "Come Undone" for more of your gay/French tutoring : )

Allie D. said...

I love you gays. So adorable.

hahaha j/k

Great post, Chris. You know I agree completely. :)

Allie D. said...

I also have to add -- when I first saw the title of this blog, I thought you might have had a little bit of an experience with some vodka and gin. ;)

Zeke said...

i never trust rephrased history, to much gets lost in translation. The noble savage was typically a slave dealing, horse thieving brute. Some of the tribes had sophisticated social customs but little that we would recognize as noble.
My grandfathers only specific advice (as opposed to simply being one of the kindest men I have ever known) to me was this, "The good old days were not."