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In order to understand LGBTQ Pride, first you need to be educated on the difference between sex and gender. Sex is the biological term for reproductive anatomy. In America, we generally recognize two genders: male and female. There is also the lesser known intersex, which is a natural occurrence. Intersex is where where an individual develops anatomy, chromosomes and sex characteristics that is different from the male and female specifics.This could mean internally a person have ovaries, but externally they have no sex characteristics of a female.

These genders are based on our understanding of the male and female sex binary. Gender is a social construct and it differs from culture to culture. It encompasses the ideas about biological sex, how males and females should act, look, and think. Western culture is not the only culture that exists and PRIDE month is the perfect time to recognize other cultures who have always had other accepted genders that now face discrimination due to Western ideals of the two gender dichotomy.

There are countries around the world that have passed laws that recognize a third or other gender. In some of these countries a person is only classified as this gender if they are intersex. In other countries a person can choose to identify themselves as a gender different from the one assigned to them at birth. Recognizing other genders is not a new phenomenon. Cultures from all over the world have had more than two genders, some identify up to six different genders.


Two Spirit People Genders of North America

Information from: Indian Health Service and Reuters

**It is important to recognize that while this is written past tense, many tribes and Native Peoples still recognize two spirit people and there are still people who identify as two spirit

  1. Most Indigenous communities have specific terms in their own languages for the gender-variant members and the social and spiritual roles these individuals fulfill. With over 500 surviving Native American cultures, attitudes about sex and gender can be very diverse. Even with the modern adoption of pan-Indian terms like Two Spirit, not all cultures will perceive two spirit people the same way or welcome a pan-Indian term to replace the terms already in use.
  2. The two spirit is a Native American tradition that “indicates that Native people, prior to colonization, believed in the existence of cross-gender roles: the male-female and the female-male, or the two-spirited person.” This practice can be found across America today. This type of cross-gender identity has been documented in over 155 tribes across Native North America. Two spirits were considered gifted, “They were respected as fundamental components of our ancient culture and societies.”
    1. Though Two Spirit may now be included in the umbrella of LGBTQ, the term “Two Spirit” does not simply mean someone who is a Native American/Alaska Native and gay.
    2. Traditionally, Native American two spirit people were male, female, and sometimes intersexed individuals who combined activities of both men and women with traits unique to their status as two spirit people. In most tribes, they were considered neither men nor women; they occupied a distinct, alternative gender status. In tribes where two spirit males and females were referred to with the same term, this status amounted to a third gender. In other cases, two spirit females were referred to with a distinct term and, therefore, constituted a fourth gender. Although there were important variations in two spirit roles across North America, they shared some common traits
  3. Specialized work roles: Male and female two spirit people were typically described in terms of their preference for, and achievements in, the work of the “opposite” sex or in activities specific to their role. Two spirit individuals were experts in traditional arts – such as pottery making, basket weaving, and the manufacture and decoration of items made from leather. Among the Navajo, two spirit males often became weavers, usually women and men’s work, as well as healers, which was a male role. By combining these activities, they were often among the wealthier members of the tribe. Two spirit females engaged in activities such as hunting and warfare, and became leaders in war and even chiefs.
  4. Gender variation: A variety of other traits distinguished two spirit people from men and women, including temperament, dress, lifestyle, and social roles.
  5. Spiritual sanction: Two spirit identity was widely believed to be the result of supernatural intervention in the form of visions or dreams and sanctioned by tribal mythology. In many tribes, two spirit people filled special religious roles as healers, shamans, and ceremonial leaders.
  6. Same-sex relations: Two spirit people typically formed sexual and emotional relationships with non-two spirit members of their own sex. Among the Lakota, Mohave, Crow, Cheyenne and others, two spirit people were believed to be lucky in love, and had the ability to bestow this luck on others. two spirit
James Makokis: James is a gay and two-spirit doctor who operates a clinic in the Enoch Cree Nation 135 serving the Kehewin and Enoch Cree Nations. Makokis is particularly noted for treating transgender people from the Cree communities and around the world, with many patients traveling from long distances to see him. His practices combine traditional Cree and Western medical practices.