Domestic Violence Awareness Month - A Two-Spirit View

Bearing witness to a community that is closed, conservative, fragmented, and anti-Two-Spirit has propelled me on a journey to fully support our most marginalized community members - Two-Spirits.  This community is also very colonized and Christianized.  My own community is not this way but very accepting of Two-Spirits. There are Two-Spirits within my family.  We are all supported.  I personally identify as Androgynous, Genderqueer, Gender Non-conforming and Two-Spirit (Ogichidaakwe).  I was lucky to be raised in a very liberal community where I observed gay pride parades and festivals right outside my front door.  In 1990 I was 9 years and I was exposed to my first Pride Fest which took place just outside my front door.  Just a block from my house I clearly remember seeing the walkers from the PrideFest.  The impact for me as a 9 year old was important as this is something I would never forget. We were raised to be open minded and I was excited to see people in drag and others celebrating who they are as GLBTQ people.

There was a gay bookstore two blocks from my house.  One of my favorite movies as a kid was Hairspray and I was inspired by the drag queen Divine.  Friends in junior high talked about lesbian and gay issues.  When I was in high school I had several gay and lesbian class mates who I adored and supported.  In high school I still wasn't sure of my identity and my Mother supported my choice to decide who I like and even if going it alone was okay.  What an awesome Mother!

By my early twenties I knew I was no longer a boy.  Although I had felt this way my whole life.  I would rather hang out with guys and do guy stuff.  You know like be mischievous and build bonfires on the railroad tracks in my hometown.

For many Two-Spirited Native Americans be comfortable or safe is not an option.  Many don't have an awesome Mom like I have to allow me to decide who I am without any judgement.  For many Two-Spirits who grow up in ultra-conservative places where hate and oppression is directed at them from multiple angles.  It is not safe to be who you were born to be.  When Two-Spirits were honored and revered community members we are now shunned and ostracized by the majority culture and even our own communities.  Personally it is refreshing for me to be on my own rez and know that I am safe from attack. 

Domestic violence is a huge issue in the Native American community.  But for Two-Spirit Women the oppression is triple.  I am speaking from my space as a Two-Spirit mixed blood Kwe.  I am speaking from my space and body having been wounded, hurt, and marginalized.  I am speaking as a survivor of domestic violence.

"Two-spirit women must negotiate their triply oppressed status (Jacobs, Thomas, &Lang, 1997). Often, they confront stigma regarding their sexual orientation, not only from the wider society but also from other Natives, their families, and their tribal communities; racism from the wider society and from other sexual minorities; and sexism from both Native and LGBT communities. Facing multiple aspects of oppression, two-spirit individuals not surprisingly are at even greater risk for adverse health outcomes than other Natives (Balsam, Huang, Fieland, Simoni, &Walters, 2004; Walters, 1997; Walters, Simoni, & Horwath, 2001). Despite this increased risk, however, public health and psychological research largely has ignored two-spirit people. Thus, gathering data on two-spirits, including their experiences of abuse and violence and its effects, is an important area for research." - Abuse, Mastery, and Health Among Lesbian, Bisexual, and Two-Spirit American Indian and Alaska Native Women

Violence against Two-Spirit women is not traditional.  This article speaks about the heavy burden Two-Spirits must bear in order to bring changes to our communities.  This work can be dangerous and is not necessarily safe.  This is why during domestic violence awareness needs to be more than a month, an event, or a "crisis line."  We have an epidemic of violence towards Two-Spirit women.  We have work to be done. But the work can't come from Two-Spirits towing the front lines alone.  It must come from everyone in the community.  This is where decolonization must occur in our communities.  This is where stories need to be shared and heard.  Our most vulnerable community members should never be ignored, silenced, abused, hurt, neglected, or ostracized.  We need to give Two-Spirit women more than just a voice or a space but look at what was traditional in our own individual tribes to honor and uphold Two-Spirits.  My tribe, the Ojibway, traditionally honored and upheld Two-Spirits. 

I feel my community is further ahead on honoring Two-Spirits and there is a feeling of safety and support when I am in Keweenaw Bay.  However this should be the case for all Two-Spirit women in Native communities across Turtle Island. We have work to do.

How Two-Spirits Can Be Supported

  • We need greater supports for Two-Spirits whether this be urban, suburban, rural, or in a reservation community. 
  • We need mental health and behavioral health services that support Two-Spirits.  Without judgement and Christianization.  Without hatred and violence.  
  • With an understanding of the fact that GLBTQQIA can be colonizing terms and the Two-Spirit term in the language for the specific tribe has the meaning and teachings.  These need to be honored. 
  • We need people to understand the teachings on Two-Spirit identity as per their own tribe and not a pan-Indian definition. 
  • Healing and decolonization means we will be able to be ourselves fully as Two-Spirits.
  • We need a voice in our own communities as healers, mediators, leaders, etc.  

What Can Be Done Right Now

  • Two-Spirit support groups.
  • Two-Spirit safe spaces - workplaces or a community space.
  • Give Two-Spirits crisis line information.
  • Listen to Two-Spirits stories.
  • Be supportive in our healing.

Articles & Information

Abuse, Mastery, and Health Among Lesbian, Bisexual, and Two-Spirit American Indian and Alaska Native Women

Two-Spirit Leaders Call on Washington to Include Native Women in Re-Authorization of VAWA

Aboriginal Two-Spirit Women's Domestic Violence Fact Sheet