1. Why do you use the word Indigenous?
This campaign uses the term Indigenous as an inclusive, international term based on self-identification in reference to individuals and communities who identify as being First Nation, Métis, or Inuit, as an alternative to Aboriginal, which is a term defined by the Government of Canada.
2. What does Turtle Island mean?
Turtle Island refers to the continent of North America and is based on the creation story, which you can read more about here.
3. I’ve seen the term Two Spirit spelled like two spirit, two-spirit, Two-Spirit, and 2 Spirit . What is the correct spelling?
All the above spellings of the term are correct; in this learning tool I used the spelling “Two Spirit” and decided to keep it consistent throughout the resource for style and clarity purposes. I could have done the same with any of the spellings. Also the abbreviation 2S is used in the LGBTQ+ acronym.
4. Who can identify as Two Spirit? Can white people or non-Indigenous people use this term?
Two Spirit was a term created for and by LGBTQ Indigenous people to reclaim the ideas and traditions that had been lost through colonization. This is word allows Indigenous people an alternative to the Western terms like gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, etc. and offers a way to resist the colonial definitions of ourselves. Language often comes from the colonizers, and can become its own prison if we are not constantly creating new words and uncovering ancient ways to describe our reality. Two Spirit is a term that is available to anyone who self-identifies as being Indigenous to Turtle Island.
Although the sentiment of the term Two Spirit might be shared by non-Indigenous folks, it is important to remember that this term is created for and by Indigenous LGBTQ folks to undo some of the damage done by colonialism. When people who are not Indigenous appropriate and steal this term, they are continuing the colonial legacy that is based on centuries of theft, not just of words, but of land, resources, traditions, and lives.
5. How do I know if I am Two Spirit?
Like with any identity, only you can know if it fits for you. If you are of Indigenous descent and are LGBTQ identified, then you can claim the identity Two Spirit and work towards learning the traditions and your role specific to your nation.
6. Is Two Spirit a neo-tradition and what does that mean?
The Two Spirit movement is a neo-tradition, meaning that it has historical and traditional roots, however due to colonialism, some of those roots and teachings have been lost. Therefore, to reclaim some of those lost traditions, the term Two Spirit was coined and the movement was started to start this gender decolonization and reclamation.
7. How is Two Spirit different than being queer or transgender?
Two Spirit people are Indigenous people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, other gendered, and third/fourth gendered individuals who walk carefully within and between the genders. Although Two Spirit is sometimes used as an umbrella term for LGBTQ Indigenous people, it is important to note that not every Indigenous person who identifies as LGBTQ will identify as Two Spirit, and not everyone who identifies as Two Spirit will identify as LGBTQ. Two Spirit is a term that can be used by Indigenous folks as an alternative to colonial terms of sexuality and gender. The term and movement create a space where one can express and talk about their identity in terms of their gender, sexuality, and race/culture all at once, whereas terms like transgender or queer tend to refer solely to one’s gender or sexuality.
8. Is Two Spirit is the same as intersex?
Intersex is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy (or, more rarely, chromosomal arrangement) that doesn’t seem to fit the “typical” definitions of female or male. These sexual characteristics can’t be classified as clearly or exclusively male or female according to hegemonic definitions of sex.
While some intersex folks do identify as queer or transgender, some do not and it is important to not assume how one identifies. Therefore, someone who lives at the intersections of being intersex and Indigenous can choose to use the term Two Spirit if they so desire.
9. I’m indigenous but from Europe, can I use the term?
The term Two Spirit was coined by and for Indigenous people of Turtle Island, and the use of the term by folks who aren’t Indigenous to Turtle Island can be harmful. If you are Indigenous from another region, this campaign would suggest looking into your own culture for their traditions relating to gender roles, as many Indigenous cultures across the world have their own specific and even sometimes similar traditions relating to gender roles beyond the gender binary.