“Stolen From Our Bodies” by Qwo-li Driskill

The term “Two-Spirit” is a word that resists colonial definitions of
who we are. It is an expression of our sexual and gender identities as
sovereign from those of white GLBT movements. The coinage of the
word was never meant to create a monolithic understanding of the
array of Native traditions regarding what dominant European and
Euroamerican traditions call “alternative” genders and sexualities. The
term came into use in 1990 at a gathering of Native Queer/Two-Spirit
people in Winnipeg as a means to resist the use of the word “berdache,”
and also as a way to talk about our sexualities and genders from within
tribal contexts in English (Jacobs et al. 2). I find myself using both the
words “Queer” and “Trans” to try to translate my gendered and sexual
realities for those not familiar with Native traditions, but at heart, if
there is a term that could possibly describe me in English, I simply
consider myself a Two-Spirit person. The process of translating Two-
Spiritness with terms in white communities becomes very complex. I’m
not necessarily “Queer” in Cherokee contexts, because differences are
not seen in the same light as they are in Euroamerican contexts. I’m not
necessarily “Transgender” in Cherokee contexts, because I’m simply the
gender I am. I’m not necessarily “Gay,” because that word rests on the
concept of men-loving-men, and ignores the complexity of my gender
identity. It is only within the rigid gender regimes of white America that
I become Trans or Queer. While homophobia, transphobia, and sexism
are problems in Native communities, in many of our tribal realities
these forms of oppression are the result of colonization and genocide
that cannot accept women as leaders, or people with extra-ordinary
genders and sexualities.3 As Native people, our erotic lives and identities
have been colonized along with our homelands.

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