Rainbow and Red

While mainstream America’s hang-ups about homosexuality are
well-known, well-documented, and entrenched, Native American
communities and their queer members are struggling with the past to
make sense of the present and potentially forge a more tolerant
future. Young American Indians are learning that, prior to
Christian colonization, in many tribes an atypical gender or sexual
orientation was not only considered acceptable, ‘two spirited’
individuals were bestowed with both ceremonial and social
status.

To be two-spirited is to have both male and female
characteristics, which allows freedom of movement between the
societal roles and spaces that restrict ‘straight’ men and women.
Two-spirited individuals often prospered in their communities
because of their ceremonial clout, and they were even allowed to
take lovers (even those who self-identified as heterosexual) and
adopt children.

Not all tribes recognize this practice, and even the ones that
did now claim that reverting back to these traditional practices is
all but impossible. Still, many American Indian activists have used
this pre-existing framework of tolerance and acceptance as a
starting point for negotiating their queer identities, inside and
outside their communities.
Brendan Themes

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Rainbow and
Red

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