Sacred Rights of the International Two Spirit Gathering

Gay and transgender Native Americans find acceptance in tradition

| January-February 2009

He checks his plaid skirt, stockings, and deep-cut white blouse. When another man’s eyes fall on his cleavage, Richard squeezes his breasts together and answers the silent inquiry: “They’re real!”

Beyond the bathroom doors, men and women dance around a drum in more traditional costume—feathers, fox pelts, moccasins, beads, and bells. They’re all here for the 20th annual International Two Spirit Gathering, a celebration of and for those who feel they carry both male and female spirits.

In late August 2008, some 85 Native lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people from three dozen tribes in Canada and the United States traveled to the Audubon Center of the North Woods, 90 miles north of Minneapolis.

There, communing under the tall pines, they would sit in a sweat lodge, pray together at the sacred fire, engage in a water ceremony, and dance at the powwow. They would listen to a mother talk about her son’s struggle with coming out, hear the results of a groundbreaking health study, and receive a blessing from an elder.

They would also watch Sanchez—in full drag, lip-synching his version of “I Kissed a Girl”—win the event’s annual talent contest.

“We want people who face difficulties in their day-to-day lives to be able to stop and breathe,” says Richard LaFortune, a Yupik from Minneapolis and national director of Two Spirit Press Room, sponsor of the 2008 event. “We want people to walk away with new friendships, good memories, and something to restore themselves.”

1/27/2009 12:52:17 PM

i am with the shamanistic point of view...that is, "Vive La Difference"....the "two-spirited" takes the role of standing between two "worlds" in order to protect those two very, yes, of course it is an honoured place....and necessary....

Lola Chingwa_1
1/15/2009 2:45:55 PM

Thats why I love AIM.

Vanessa Fuller
1/15/2009 2:11:16 PM

No comment at this time.