For the most part, our modern mainstream society divides gender into two domains – man and woman, or boys and girls. Many traditional cultures around the world, including many Native American cultures, have not always viewed things in this way. A person who was born of the male sex was not automatically seen as a boy and a person born as a female was not automatically viewed as a girl.
Genders. Genders were based on societal and cultural roles, and often there were more than just two. A person might be identified as a man, a woman, or another gender blending both men’s and women’s roles. Sometimes gender was not assigned until more was known about the child’s personality.At that time, the child may be identified as belonging to any one of the possible genders recognized in their culture.
Relationships. In a similar way, intimate relationships were not always limited to men and women. In other words, sex and relationships were not always limited by assigned gender. This way of seeing the world allowed for people to be true to their nature as well as benefiting the Tribe or culture.
Special Roles. Other gendered people often had special roles that were just for them. Instead of people being shunned for their differences, the differences were appreciated and each individual had a place in society and a way to contribute. They often had specific names for their assigned gender roles. They were revered leaders, medicine people, Tribal representatives in negotiations, and conducted specific ceremonial roles. If you are interested in your specific Tribe or culture, you might ask an elder or someone from your Tribe who today identifies as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or Two-Spirit. There are also many books published on this topic.
Special Thanks: Tommy Chesboro, Tony Aaron Fuller, Hannabah Blue