“Two-Spirit” is a term used within some Indigenous communities, encompassing cultural, spiritual, sexual and gender identity.
The term reflects complex Indigenous understandings of gender roles, spirituality, and the long history of sexual and gender diversity in Indigenous cultures. Individual terms and roles for Two-Spirit people are specific to each nation. The word "Two-Spirit" was created in the early 1990s, by a group of Two-Spirit community members and leaders. Due to its cultural, spiritual, and historical context, the concept of "Two-Spirit" is to be used only by Indigenous people. However, not all Indigenous people who hold diverse sexual and gender identities consider themselves Two-Spirit, many identify themselves as LGBTQ+.
Before colonization, Two-Spirit people were included and respected as valued community members, often holding revered roles such as healers, matchmakers, and counsellors, among many others. As part of the colonization process, there has been an attempted erasure of Two-Spirit people. The western religious values and belief systems that were imposed on Indigenous people condemned any sort of sexual or gender diversity, and Two-Spirit people were killed or forced into assimilation and hiding. One of many lasting impacts of colonization on Two-Spirit people, is an increased level of homophobia and transphobia within many Indigenous communities, which can often cause Two-Spirit people to leave their home communities (and subsequently, their families, land, and culture).
The role of Two-Spirit people in Indigenous communities is now being reclaimed, and it is becoming increasingly recognized that homophobia and transphobia are in direct contradiction with most traditional Indigenous values. Reclaiming the traditional roles and value placed on Two-Spirit people's gifts, is part of a larger healing process taking place within Indigenous communities. As part of this reclamation, there has been a resurgence of Two-Spirit leadership, resources, community organizations and events, as well as recognition and representation within LGBTQ+ communities and Indigenous communities. Please have a look at our resources section below to find out more about some of the work being done.
Dancing to Eagle Spirit Society Trans positive and inclusive ceremonies led by Tsleil-Waututh, Two-Spirit and trans elder on Tsleil-Waututh Territory. Contact Sandy Leo Laframboise at email@example.com or 778-319-3965.
Two Spirit Sweat Lodge Sweat lodge held on Squamish Territory (North Vancouver) for Two-Spirit folks and allies. Contact Bon Fabian at firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-700-6751.
Urban Native Youth Association Vancouver organization with a wide range of Two-Spirit inclusive services for Indigenous youth, including some programming specifically designed for Two-Spirit youth.
- 2-Spirit Collective is an UNYA program that provides support, resources, and programming for Indigenous youth, ages 15 to 30, who identify as 2-spirit or LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, gender non-conforming, along with many other identities), and for those who are questioning their sexual or gender identities. The 2-Spirit Collective ensures that you have non-judgmental, supportive spaces to get together and explore your identities and what that mean to you. We do this through events, ceremony, workshops, and collaborations with other programs, both at UNYA and with other organizations in the community.
CampOUT! Social justice summer camp for queer, trans, Two-Spirit, and allied youth from British Columbia and the Yukon. Takes place every July near Vancouver, leadership and camper applications begin in February.
Indian Residential School Survivors Society – A provincial organization that provides essential services to Residential School Survivors, their families, and those dealing with Intergenerational traumas. Indigenous trans, two-spirit and other LGBTQ+ Indigenous people are able to connect with their Resolution Health Support Worker and LGBTQ+ Liaison for support, interim counselling, and cultural connection and ceremony. To access this program ask to be connected with the LGBTQ+ Liaison by:
A Two-Spirit Journey: The Autobiography Of A Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder.
Ma-Nee Chacaby & Mary Louisa Plummer, 2016.
Queer Indigenous Studies: Critical Interventions in Theory, Politics, and Literature (First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies). Driskill et al, 2011.
Spaces between us: Queer settler colonialism and Indigenous decolonization. Scott Lauria Morgensen, 2011.
- Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture. Walter L. Williams, 1992.
- Two-Spirit People: Native American Gender Identity, Sexuality, and Spirituality. Jacobs, Thomas & Lang, 1997.
- The Zuni Man-Woman. Will Roscoe, 1992.
- Dancing to Eagle Spirit Society is a Vancouver based organization dedicated to healing and empowerment of Two-Spirit individuals
- Native OUT – a non-profit education and media organization, actively involved in the Two-Spirit movement. They utilize the internet, through their website, multimedia and social networks to educate about the Indigenous LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit people of North America
- The Native Youth Sexual Health Network has a national campaign for First Nations youth across Canada to fight homophobia and normalize healthy sexuality. Includes free Two-Spirit posters to download
- The North American Aboriginal Two Spirit Information Pages – a great site for researching articles and information on Two-Spirit and Aboriginal issues, hosted by the University of Calgary
- Two-Spirited People of the First Nations provides prevention education and support for Two-Spirit people, including First Nations, metis and Inuit people living with or at risk for HIV and related co-infections in the Greater Toronto Area. Work is based on Indigenous philosophies of holistic health and wellness.
- Driskill, Qwo-Li. (2011) "Doubleweaving Two-Spirit Critiques: Building Alliances between Native and Queer Studies." GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, vol. 16 no. 1, 2010, pp. 69-92. Project MUSE, muse.jhu.edu/article/372445.
- Frazer, M. Somjen and Pruden, Harlan. (2010). Reclaiming Our Voice :Two Spirit Health & Human Service Needs in New York State. NYS DOH AIDS Institute: Albany, NY.
- Sarah Hunt & Cindy Holmes (2015) Everyday Decolonization: Living a Decolonizing Queer Politics, Journal of Lesbian Studies, 19:2, 154-172
- Hunt, S. (2016). An Introduction to the Health of Two-Spirit People: Historical, contemporary and emergent issues. Prince George, BC: National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health.
- Ristock, Janice & Zoccole, Art & Passante, Lisa & Potskin, Jonathon. (2017). Impacts of colonization on Indigenous Two-Spirit/LGBTQ Canadians' experiences of migration, mobility and relationship violence. Sexualities.
- Ayden I. Scheim, Randy Jackson, Liz James, T. Sharp Dopler, Jake Pyne, Greta R. Bauer, (2013) Barriers to well-being for Aboriginal gender-diverse people: results from the Trans PULSE Project in Ontario, Canada, Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care, Vol. 6 Issue: 4, pp.108-12.
- Wesley, D., & Morgensen, Scott. (2015). Reimagining Two-spirit Community: Critically Centering Narratives of Urban Two-spirit Youth, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.
- Wesley, Saylesh. (2014) Twin-Spirited Woman: Sts'iyo´ye smestı´yexw slha´:li. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 1.3: 338-351.
- Wilson, A. (2008). N'tacimowin inna nah': Our Coming In Stories. Canadian Woman Studies, 26(3/4), 193-199.