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What does it mean to identify as Two-Spirit?

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"What does it mean to be Two-Spirit?"

Identifying as Two-Spirit is a term and concept rooted in Indigenous cultures in North America, primarily among Native American, First Nations, and Indigenous peoples. Two-Spirit is a term used to describe a person who embodies both masculine and feminine qualities, often encompassing a spiritual and gender identity outside the binary understanding of male and female.

Two-Spirit individuals are often seen as having unique roles within their communities, which can include spiritual leadership, healing, and caregiving. They may also take on different gender roles and responsibilities depending on the specific Indigenous culture and community they are part of.

This term should not be used as an identity by non-Indigenous folks. Appropriate alternatives for a non-Indigenous person who identifies as multiple genders are bigender, pangender, and polygender.

This video by them is a great introduction to the term and who it pertains to:


"Is being Two-Spirit the same as being trans?"

No. While both Two-Spirit and trans folks may have non-binary or non-conforming gender identities, they are distinct concepts with different cultural contexts and meanings. Being Two-Spirit is rooted in Indigenous culture and has specific cultural and spiritual significance within Indigenous communities.

It can sometimes help to remember that "Two-Spirit" is a modern, inclusive term that covers a wide array of identities (including LGBTQ+ identities) which have existed long before the colonization of the Americas. Research indicates that over 150 distinct Native American tribes recognized the presence of third genders within their communities before the era of colonization. Different Indigenous tribes have had their unique gender concepts and roles, and the term "Two-Spirit" is meant to encompass these traditional understandings.

"If I identify as Two-Spirit, do I need to use a different name or pronouns?"

Not necessarily. Two-Spirit individuals, like all people (trans or cis!), have the autonomy to choose how they want to express their gender identity and what names and pronouns feel most comfortable and authentic to them. Some Two-Spirit individuals may choose to use names and pronouns that reflect their unique gender identity, while others may continue using their birth names and pronouns.

"If I'm Indigenous and queer or questioning, does that mean I'm Two-Spirit?"

Again, not necessarily. Not every trans, non-binary, or queer Indigenous person is Two-Spirit. If you’re Native and LGBTQIA+ or questioning, Two Spirit is always available to you as an identity. There's no rush or pressure to decide whether or not this identity fits with you.

We recommend reading our guide, "How Do I Know If I'm Trans?"which answers a lot of questions that non-binary and questioning folks also may have around understanding gender, gender dysphoria, gender expression, transition, and ways to explore your identity.