Talk:two-spirit

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RFV discussion[edit]

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Native American mixed gender. Someone has deposited a vast amount of research not well formatted. I think that the substantial cleanup effort requires that the definitions be correct and attestable before the translation-table clean up begins. DCDuring TALK 12:05, 29 August 2009 (UTC)

Uhm, unfortunately, having been involved in published research on this topic, it's essentially undefinable in English which assumes dichotomous sex and gender. I would propose, but solely based on research among 'aboriginal north american peoples' (itself a disputed concept) three primary definitions in common parlance:
  1. Non-heterosexual people, sexual minorities, especially of Aboriginal North American ethnicity.
  2. Non-western gender identified; a person whose dichotomous genetic sex is not the same as the person's gender role or presentation. Especially a person of Aboriginal North American ethnicity.
  3. (queer jargon) Any queer person, especially one embracing a "Native American"-influenced spirituality.
- Amgine/talk 03:25, 2 September 2009 (UTC)

RFV failed, both senses removed and replaced with {{substub}}. —RuakhTALK 15:44, 28 February 2010 (UTC)

Etymology discussion[edit]

Removed etymology because it is unsubstantiated and suspect for grammatical reasons(see detailed reasons at talk section of Wikipedia article on "two spirit").

the "etymology" of this thing is that it has been touted as a politically correct shibboleth since ca. 1993. This is a cultural thing. In the USA, interest groups only feel they are given due attention if everyone is forced to tiptoe around them and emphatically embraces their preferred terminology du jour. "This attempt at rebranding recalls the shifts from homosexual to gay to queer to GLBT." A descriptive dictionary will report this kind of US-specific proscriptivism, but it will not either endorse or reject it.
personally, I feel that "two-spirit" is much more disingenious than the mere "LGBT" or "queer" because it is an attempt to simulate a Sapir-Whorfian "indigenous cultural viewpoint" expressed in vocabulary by means of made-up vocabulary. The PC people in the US are very fond of doing this, see "never again the burning times" in radical pagan feminism, which simulates a "genocide survivor" trauma expressed in culture-specific vocabulary. Exactly the same thing is going on in Maafa, again simulating "genocide survivor" vocabulary, shamelessly imitating the real term Shoah. To my mind, this is despicable linguistic fraud. The real crime of cultural chauvinism is perpetrated by the people using such fraudulent mimicry terminology.
But I can detach myself from this personal opinion sufficiently to just report the facts. Which are that this is a terminlogical fashion which arose in certain subcultures in the USA in the 1990s. --Dbachmann (talk) 12:11, 4 April 2012 (UTC)

Translations[edit]

Per RFC, these have been moved out of the entry until they can be checked and formatted. (Note how badly they are formatted, and how many do not use canonical language names.)

Moved out of the main entry to here by: - -sche (discuss) 19:09, 26 November 2013 (UTC)

Word unknown but known to exist[edit]

  • The Wiyot must have had a word for this, because per Native Americans →ISBN "female berdaches played an important role in Wiyot ceremonialism", and per Handbook of North American Indians: California (1978, →ISBN "Male berdaches were present in Wiyot society". Sabine Lang adds the further detail that Wiyot two-spirits were excluded from the sweat-house, even during ceremonies; they hunted and could wear either men's clothing or women's clothing. But none of these books give the terms used to denote such people. - -sche (discuss) 07:15, 23 June 2015 (UTC)

Specific two-spirit figures[edit]

These were listed as translations of "two-spirit", but are in fact the names of specific two-spirit people:

  • Blackfoot: Saahkómaapi'aakííkoan ("Boy-girl", another name of the female-bodied "Running Eagle") (Southern Peigan dialect)
  • Alutiiq: Tyakutyik (q.v.)
  • Nuxálk / Bella Coola: Sx̣ints (Sxints, Sx̭ınts, Sx’ǐnts) (q.v.)
  • Winnebago: Dedjáŋgtcowiŋga ("Blue lake woman", name of a particular ?male-bodied? two-spirit)
  • Yuman (Yuma, Kumeyaay/Diegueño (Tipai, Kamia), etc): Warharmi (g.v.)

Moved out of the main entry to here by: - -sche (discuss) 19:09, 26 November 2013 (UTC)

Itelmen[edit]

The Itelmen translation (koekchuchami) is incorrect. First, the ending -ami is a Russian noun case ending (instrumental plural). Second, Itelmen uses Cyrillic. The word is probably коекчуч. —Stephen (Talk) 04:38, 15 March 2014 (UTC)

Good catch! It seems that the reference which had koekchuchami was in error. Regarding the script, Wikipedia says Itelmen used the Latin alphabet when it was first written (in the 1930s), and switched to Cyrillic in the 1980s. Google Books has mentions of both forms (scripts). - -sche (discuss) 06:12, 15 March 2014 (UTC)

RFC discussion: February 2012[edit]

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Assuming that the term is valid, the translation tables are a mess. But the first issue is still the validity of the uncited definitions, which differ from the ones that failed RfV. DCDuring TALK 13:54, 5 February 2012 (UTC)

RFC discussion: November 2013[edit]

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The translation table is in a form that is a substantial departure from our format, using many multi-part language names, unlinked translations, with non-conforming glosses and at least one out-of place comment. It has the look of a data deposit from someone's academic research project.

Someone who had good knowledge of the range of native American languages, tribes, and geography is needed to render this into our format. Alternatively, the data could be copied to the Talk page and the entry perhaps reverted to a state when it was more conformant. DCDuring TALK 15:52, 25 November 2013 (UTC)

What’s more, there is a hidden translation table with the gloss “Similar mixed-gender identities outside of North America”. — Ungoliant (Falai) 15:55, 25 November 2013 (UTC)
I think DCDuring's suggestion of moving the content to the talk page until it can be checked and formatted is best. I have moved it and will begin checking what I can. - -sche (discuss) 20:00, 25 November 2013 (UTC)


Progress report: I've checked about half of the entries, adding them back to the mainspace if they were valid and adding them to the "translations I couldn't find any evidence for" table above if they weren't. - -sche (discuss) 15:19, 5 June 2015 (UTC)

Definition change[edit]

@-sche, as I know you did some work on this entry, I wanted to make sure that a recent edit that changed the definitions somewhat come to your attention. I for one don't know whether sexual orientation ought to be part of the definition at all. —Μετάknowledgediscuss/deeds 21:01, 18 January 2016 (UTC)

Sexual orientation is definitely part of it in the Native communities. In some instances sexual orientation is the only way the people are "gender variant," while in other communities there are also factors in traditional ceremonial dress and ornamentation. I really am not sure what's in the books that have been written. My knowledge on this comes from traditional Two Spirits in the Dineh community, as well as ceremonial people in a handful of other Nations. CorbieVreccan (talk) 21:06, 18 January 2016 (UTC)
This article mentions that traditional Two Spirits among the Dineh may identify in contemporary terms as either a gay male or a transgender woman: "Although both Naswood and Enfield identify as nádleeh, they choose a different gender identity in English that influences their gaze and politics. Naswood identifies as a gay male, and Enfield states that she is a transgender woman. Their division in identities is a recent cultural evolution because Navajos did not make this exact kind of differentiation among nádleeh prior to contemporary times." [1] CorbieVreccan (talk) 21:16, 18 January 2016 (UTC)
The term refers to gender variants. It refers mostly to people who belong to defined gender categories which are either equivalent to transgender categories or else third-gender and fourth-gender, it usually also covers known cases of people who would now be considered transgender or third-gender but whose tribes did not have defined gender categories besides ones that would now be termed cis male and cis female. It doesn't refer to just any gender variance, though; for example, a cisgender, heterosexual woman who wears a suit and works as a lawyer or who works as a construction worker is unlikely to be considered a two-spirit.
As Corbie points out, there are a few tribal categories which are subsumed under the broad umbrella of "two-spirit" where "cross-dressing" (for lack of a better way of putting it) and other gender-variant actions are either optional or not part of the definition of the category at all, and the only thing "gender variant" about the category is sexuality and (/or?) social role (and the fact that the category was classified by the tribe, or possibly only by outsiders, as a gender category). However, defining the term as "homosexual, bisexual or gender-variant" is inaccurate and gives far too much prominence to sexuality, which is not a primary meaning of the term.
"Transgender or ... third-gender", despite being modern terms, are fine to using in explaining the meaning of this term, IMO (or if not, why add "homosexual", another modern term?), but Corbie is right to have highlighted that defining this term as "identifying as transgender" suggests, well, identification with the term "transgender". I'll mull over how this could be (re)worded best. The difficulty in defining this term is that it's a broad umbrella term. - -sche (discuss) 23:16, 18 January 2016 (UTC)
This is further complicated by the fact that many Indigenous people whose communities recognize them as Two Spirits see mainstream/non-Native definitions of gay, lesbian, bi and/or trans as not identical to their understanding of themselves or their roles in their cultures. It's not an exact translation. In these cases they relate more to the (also modern) term, Two Spirit (or, more traditionally, the specific term used in their culture) and not as any of the LGBT terms used by non-Natives. "Two Spirit" itself is a modern, pan-Indian term coined for intertribal organizing. It's not even clear if the term originated in the Indigenous communities, though it does bear a strong resemblance to some tribes' ideas of gender (but not others). One of the ways it tends to differ from current, non-Native ideas of trans is that biology is acknowledged, with people describing themselves as, for instance, "a male-bodied two spirit" or "a female-bodied two spirit," and neither being seen as the same as men or women. It's a different perspective, so making it understandable to a general audience is not the easiest task. CorbieVreccan (talk) 03:31, 19 January 2016 (UTC)

@-sche I think it's getting there, but I really think sexuality needs to be mentioned in some way. In some communities being gay or bi (etc) is the only gender-variance involved. Gender-variant, non-heterosexual? (We gots lots of "non-"s...) CorbieVreccan (talk) 17:03, 19 January 2016 (UTC)

Hmm, can you name a tribe where two-spirits are distinguished only by sexuality? I'm having trouble recalling one, now that I think about it, though I can think of tribes (e.g. the Tewa, according to some sources) where wearing clothing associated with another sex was optional or not done, and the distinctive feature was an androgynous social role and choice of work as well as range of partners. A number of reference works by gay white men interpret two-spirits as gay based on the fact that e.g. trans-woman-like (femininely dressed, etc) people often took men as partners, but that's a questionable interpretation, and raises the question of why the cisgender men who had sex with two-spirits — as well as cisgender gay men who had sex with other cisgender gay men, and cisgender lesbian couples (as among the Tewa, where they existed alongside and distinct from two-spirits) — aren't considered two-spirits, if sexuality is sufficient to be a two spirit. The defining feature seems to be that two-spirits belong to a not-cis-male, not-cis-female gender category, rather than sexuality — they may have a certain sexuality, but cisgender people might have the same sexuality.
By the way, if anyone wondered, my logic behind putting "gender-variant, non-cisgender, or non-binary" rather than just "gender-variant" is that adhering to a socially-defined and -recognized third-gender role doesn't seem "variant" except from the point of view of a culture that only has two gender roles.
- -sche (discuss) 20:32, 19 January 2016 (UTC)
I don't know if anyone legit has written about it, but among Lakota I know, "winkte" is used for gay men, even if they are masculine males. Yet the anthropology books I've seen say it only refers to those who are gender-variant in work and dress. Two-Spirit is a modern term that largely relates to cultures with two genders. Those who have four genders may use the term Two-Spirit for the sake of intertribal/pan-Indian organizing, but the traditional people don't usually use it unless they think it's the only word someone from outside their culture will understand.
More later. Busy at the moment. CorbieVreccan (talk) 01:53, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
Aha, thanks! Yes, in the modern era some people apply winkte to gay men. It was historically a gender category, though; they did feminine work like embroidery and cooking (Mirsky 1937), beadwork and quillwork (Hassrick 1982), and crocheting (William 1986); they danced in women's dances (Williams 1986); and at least some wore clothing associated with women (Williams 1986). Looking into it, Sabine Lang (Men as Women, 2010) has something that sounds like prime usage-note material; she says two-spirit "originated under very specific historical circumstances and [...] in its original meaning, it encompasse[d] contemporary gay and lesbian Native Americans as well as people, both in the old tribal cultures and in the present, who identify themselves as being of a gender other than [cis] man or woman, such as the Navajo nadleehe, the Shoshoni tainna wa'ippe, or the Lakota winkte. In that meaning, Native American gays/lesbians of today and the alternatively gendered people of the tribal cultures are viewed as essentially identical. This view, however, is not even unanimously shared in Native American communities, especially by people who are still familiar with the traditions of gender variance in their cultures and who will often [...] view gays and lesbians as different from winkte, tainna wa'ippe, and so on." - -sche (discuss) 05:30, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
I've tweaked it a bit more. I wish we could make this more concise, but only using modern, mainstream LGBTQI+ terminology falls short (see my edit summary). It's important to remember that people who fill this ceremonial role in living cultures still exist, alongside more mainstream (non-Native) LGBT groups; terminology is still evolving, and I think we need to prioritize actual Two Spirit voices over non-Native anthropological ones. Some Two Spirit folks also participate in mainstream groups, but many others do not. CorbieVreccan (talk) 18:49, 20 January 2016 (UTC)

This still leaves out the most central factor of ceremonial role and community, and the over-reliance on "nons" is a problem. See the sources in the WP article. CorbieVreccan (talk) 19:46, 10 November 2018 (UTC)

I'm going to re-iterate the ongoing issue we have on the 'pedia and wiktionary with Native topics and terminology: It is very tough to write for a general audience when it comes to matters that are private, and not meant to be defined, let alone dissected, by those outside the culture and community. A lot of the information about these things is purposely not written down, and not shared with non-Natives. Some feel we shouldn't even interact here, and let the misinformation sit. Others, usually young people who may be Native but who are not part of their traditional cultures, or from a culture that does not have a Two Spirit tradition, confidently give interviews or write opinion pieces for mainstream sources where they give incorrect definitions, and those wind up being used as sources. Worse, the anthro misinformation gets recycled ad nauseum. Here are a couple quotes. CorbieVreccan (talk) 20:38, 11 November 2018 (UTC)

Pember, Mary Annette (Oct 13, 2016). "'Two Spirit' Tradition Far From Ubiquitous Among Tribes". Rewire. Retrieved October 17, 2016. "Unfortunately, depending on an oral tradition to impart our ways to future generations opened the floodgates for early non-Native explorers, missionaries, and anthropologists to write books describing Native peoples and therefore bolstering their own role as experts. These writings were and still are entrenched in the perspective of the authors who were and are mostly white men."
"A Spirit of Belonging, Inside and Out". The New York Times. 8 Oct 2006. Retrieved 28 July 2016. "'The elders will tell you the difference between a gay Indian and a Two-Spirit,' [Criddle] said, underscoring the idea that simply being gay and Indian does not make someone a Two-Spirit."
Pruden, Harlan; Edmo, Se-ah-dom (2016). "Two-Spirit People: Sex, Gender & Sexuality in Historic and Contemporary Native America" (PDF). National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center. "The term/identity of two-spirit does not make sense unless it is contextualized within a Native American frame." "Today, most people associate the term with LGBT Natives; however, the work of the two-spirit organizations is more akin with the traditional understanding."

The outdated anthro-type quote, of straight males trying to "have sex with" two-spirits "for luck" was frightening younger members of the community, as well as those who care for them. It came off as rapey. I've replaced it with those above. Try to put yourself in the shoes of someone being seen as a target that way. It's not just the word, Berdache, that needs to be gotten rid of, it's the attitudes the colonists brought with it. CorbieVreccan (talk) 20:32, 12 November 2018 (UTC)

@CorbieVreccan: I saw that you're an admin on en.wiki, so I thought you'd understand the w:WP:NPOV policy. It applies here too. We're a dictionary, just like Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia. We're not in the business of getting rid of misguided attitudes or avoiding frightening people. It doesn't make a big difference to me which quotations are on the page, but you have to understand that we're not going to censor quotations or definitions you don't like in favour of those you do. Our only job here is to describe how the word is used. —Μετάknowledgediscuss/deeds 20:45, 12 November 2018 (UTC)
Then collaborate instead of just hitting a wholesale revert. CorbieVreccan (talk) 20:57, 12 November 2018 (UTC)
It's difficult; I don't know about the topic, whereas you do. Meanwhile, your highest priority is protecting the interests of affected communities, whereas mine is to build a comprehensive, neutral dictionary. —Μετάknowledgediscuss/deeds 21:03, 12 November 2018 (UTC)

I looked at the text of what Neill has written about two-spirit in google books preview. He's not usable. His text on Native topics is laughable and offensive; he knows nothing on the topic. It's full of third-hand misinformation and stereotypes. It's not "censorship" to cut inaccuracies. I realize the use of quotes on wiktionary is simply to show usage, but there's an implication of sourcing, and a chance that readers will look to the source quoted for more information. There's no reason to quote randos that misrepresent the topic, when better ones are available. People in these communities know all too well about genocide and being predated on, and live with it every day. It's not that discussing it is too sensitive; it's discussed all the time. The point is to discuss it accurately. I don't believe in censorship or trigger warnings. The point is to use accurate, current definitions, not outmoded, inaccurate ones, and to draw a distinction between historical usages and current ones. CorbieVreccan (talk) 21:49, 12 November 2018 (UTC)

  • When someone says "there are three two-spirits living in this Ojibwe community", they mean there are three individuals, not three ceremonial roles, and likewise when they say "___ is a two-spirit": the term refers to "a person who..." not "a role [for persons who]...". That much of the definition is straightforward to revise, and I'll revise it. Wording the next bit is indeed harder. I can see benefits and drawbacks to both the previous and the current revision/definition, but even the adjective that was retained in both of them is tricky: is it really "gender-variant" to conform to a societally-defined [third, etc] gender? As far as the revision to the second half of the definition, do the speakers who include homosexuals under the term really include only homosexuals and exclude e.g. bisexuals? Some may; others don't. The previous definition resorted to "non"s because it is, in some ways, a category partially delimited by being not other categories (like "non-binary" is). - -sche (discuss) 02:42, 13 November 2018 (UTC)
I added bisexual. It would be very clunky with the current parenthetics, but I think it would be more accurate to put something like, (less often, bisexual). Having both "tribal" and "cultural" is a bit redundant, I know; if we compress it, I'd prefer we go with "cultural", as I think some of the connotations around "tribal" can also add to the past-tensing and othering issues. CorbieVreccan (talk) 20:24, 13 November 2018 (UTC)
- -sche you said,"When someone says "there are three two-spirits living in this Ojibwe community", they mean there are three individuals, not three ceremonial roles, and likewise when they say "___ is a two-spirit": the term refers to "a person who..." not "a role [for persons who]...". Actually when someone says 'there are three two-spirits living in this Ojibwe community" they are stating there are three individuals who are considered ceremonial people in the two-spirit context. They don't mean three random people who are not straight. As CorbieVreccan shown in numerous sourced quotes by indigenous peoples it is a ceremonial role. There are enough indigenous sources available so as not to use white anthros doing time for pedophilia. I would think that one would want a non-biased entry that is accurate. Using questionable sources that have no in community relationships and are wildly inaccurate perpetuates ignorance. Indigenous girl (talk) 23:17, 13 November 2018 (UTC)
The "who"-clause followed by ellipses in my comment, in "a person who...", show where I was aware of, but elided because they were not the immediate focus of that part of the comment, the parts of the definition that delimit which (indeed non-random) individuals the term refers to.
Mentioning that two-spirits generally have a ceremonial role is fine, it was only an error to begin the definition "A ceremonial role...": that was a simple 'rookie' misunderstanding of how definitions are written, similar to when new users of Wiktionary define adjectives as "the state of being X" (as if they were nouns) and other Wiktionarians have to rewrite them to say "being or pertaining to X". If you want to change e.g. the "...cultural category" clause to "...ceremonial category" or "...cultural category that has a ceremonial role" or something like that, go ahead.
- -sche (discuss) 08:27, 15 November 2018 (UTC)

In Cree there are eight terms encompassing sexual, gender and/or spiritual identity. Six of the genders are not heterosexual. Of those six, not every one of the folks that fall into these roles are two-spirit however all Cree two-spirit people fall into these roles. Two-spirit is simply not generic to all non-hetero indigenous peoples. Indigenous girl (talk) 23:31, 13 November 2018 (UTC)

Non-Native people seem to have a difficult time grasping the fact that concepts such as two-spirit or wíŋkte are done a huge disservice when they try to express an entire cultural way of thinking about something using a hyphenated place holder or word from a culture that has no equivalent term and limited comprehension by the dominant culture. Traditionally wíŋkte for example were not pigeonholed into a strictly feminine only role. In 'Fieldnotes from the Pine Ridge Reservation', H. Skudder McKeel notes wíŋkte that are married (to women) who have children as well as others who were killed while actively participating in conflict. It's really difficult when non-Native people want to control the narrative of our communities and cultures yet have no in person context or ability to evaluate sources yet are adamant about defining things inaccurately. Indigenous girl (talk) 00:28, 14 November 2018 (UTC)

  • Having followed this discussion with interest, it seems important to point out that uses of the word which are considered to be, from a cultural point of view, misguided or offensive, are nevertheless, from a linguistic point of view, valid uses of the word which our definition needs to cover. We deal in "lexical definitions". Our job is not to interpret an entire complex and subtle cultural tradition, it is to explain what is meant by writers of English when they use the word in the contexts in which they use it. Obviously we do not want to propogate misinformation or offence, but let's please start from the citations, rather than from anthropological expertise. Ƿidsiþ 07:57, 14 November 2018 (UTC)
Ƿidsiþ I am not sure what you are speaking of when you mention anthropological expertise. There are valid citations from an indigenous world view. The anthro sourses are kind of crappy and incorrect. I'm not at all offended nor do I think other indigenous peoples would be if the definition were accurate. The term is newly coined in the grand scheme of things (1990s), it was coined by indigenous Peoples for a very specific role which CorbieVreccan has provided sources to. I think it to be worthwhile to mention that the term has been distorted by the dominant culture because, well, it has. To the point where well meaning individuals want to redefine the term away from it's actual intended meaning. Indigenous girl (talk) 20:37, 15 November 2018 (UTC)
Yes, this. CorbieVreccan (talk) 21:49, 15 November 2018 (UTC)
My point is that a word's "intended meaning" is irrelevant when it comes to looking at how's it's actually used. But I wasn't trying to comment on your reactions or behaviour, it was just a general comment on the nature of this debate. Ƿidsiþ 07:43, 16 November 2018 (UTC)


The definition as it stands now is far more accurate than previous versions though could use a bit of tweeking. I'm in the middle of moving or I would jump in and tweek. Indigenous girl (talk) 20:39, 15 November 2018 (UTC)

Tweak when you get a chance. Or if it's easier to note here on talk what you want adjusted, just note it here and we can brainstorm. CorbieVreccan (talk) 21:47, 15 November 2018 (UTC)