Two-Spirit People (also Two Spirit or Twospirit) is an umbrella term sometimes used for what was once commonly known as berdaches, Indigenous North Americans who fulfill one of many mixed gender roles found traditionally among many Native Americans and Canadian First Nations communities.
Third gender roles historically embodied by Two-Spirit people include performing work and wearing clothing associated with both men and women. The presence of male two-spirits “was a fundamental institution among most tribal peoples.” Male and female two-spirits have been “documented in over 130 tribes, in every region of North America.
These individuals were sometimes viewed in certain tribes as having two spirits occupying one body. Their dress is usually a mixture of traditionally male and traditionally female articles.
Two-spirit people, specifically male-bodied (biologically male, gender female), could go to war and have access to male activities such as sweat lodges. However, they also took on female roles such as cooking and other domestic responsibilities. Today’s societal standards look down upon feminine males, and this perception of that identity has trickled into Native society.
Two-spirits might have relationships with people of either sex. Female-bodied two-spirits usually had sexual relations or marriages with only females. In the Lakota tribe, two-spirits commonly married widowers; a male-bodied two-spirit could perform the function of parenting the children of her husband’s late wife without any risk of bearing new children to whom she might give priority.
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