Breaking Down the Binary: Two-Spirit

We’ve been working to break down the many different gender identities that exist, provide context for what each means, and further illustrate how gender identity protections benefit a multitude of different people.

This identity is part of many Native American cultures. Throughout the history of numerous tribes, those who have identified as two-spirit have been considered sacred.  

 Two-spirit is a broad term that means that one person holds both male and female identities. It can refer to a person who is raised as a certain sex, but takes on the mannerisms and gender expression of a different sex. For example, a person who is raised as a boy, but expresses in a more feminine way. It can also refer to a person who doesn’t feel they are either a man nor a woman, or feels they are a combination or somewhere in between genders.  

 There are cultural differences between tribes. Some do not conceptualize gender in this way. Of the ones that do, some have spiritual and ceremonial roles for people of this identity.  

 Two-spirit people may use different pronouns, such as she, he, or they. If you don’t know what pronoun someone uses, it’s okay to ask!  

The Indian Health Service, the federal health program or American Indian and Alaska Natives, has incredible resources on two-spirit identity. Click here to visit them!

 Notable Two-Spirit People: Susan Allen (MN State Representative) 

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