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Refusal to Recognize the Gender Non-Binary Can Be… Racist?

[dropcap][/dropcap]In the case of Two Spirit Indigenous North Americans, the intersection of gender and culture has historically been deeply intertwined. Native Americans believe in the existence of gender variant roles known as Two Spirit. Two Spirit people have long been regarded as gifted and respected above all others because they carried the spirits of both a male and female.

Not to be mistaken with LGBT+identities (this identity is not interchangeable with LGBT+), Two Spirit, a term adopted in the 1990’s as an alternative to Western labels, is an umbrella term for LGBT+ Native Americans. Two Spirits don’t have same-sex relationships with people who don’t identify as Two Spirit- they don’t subscribe to the imperialist gender binary. They occupy a distinct, alternative third or fourth gender status.

In certain tribes, like the Navajo, there were usually four genders: man, woman, masculine female-bodied nádleeh, and feminine male-bodied nádleeh. In others, the Two Spirit male and female were considered the same third gender, there was no fourth. Sexual relations between Two Spirits, regardless of biological sex, wasn’t stigmatized. In most Native societies, biological sex didn’t play a part in any gender variant identity.

The failure to recognize the gender non-binary in modern society isn’t only a problem for us “snowflakes”. Our generation didn’t invent gender fluidity. The gender variant have existed before Columbus had a clue and began the colonization of Native land in 1492. By saying “there are only two genders”, you’re only accepting the imperialist gender binary, invalidating Indigenous North American cultures.

“Christian leaders, stand on our soil and claim: “gay marriage” has never occurred here. Over 130 tribes in every region of North America performed millions of same-sex marriages for hundreds of years. Their statements are both hateful and ignorant. your “homosexual” was our “Two Spirit” people… and we considered them sacred.” Pretty Shield (1856-1944), Crow Nation

The mediocre Oxford dictionary definition of racism can’t even scratch the surface of how deep it actually is, but the invalidation of a culture on the belief that imperialist culture is the only correct way of life is racist. Failure to recognize third and fourth genders of Indigenous people is racist. Western trans and homophobia have no place in Indigenous North American culture, there is no phobia of Two Spirit people, it’s just racist.

Colonization had a lasting detrimental effect on Native American societies, Europeans not only brought disease, but also toxic gender conformity struck North America. European missionaries set out to convert Native Americans to Christianity, as a step towards completely eliminating Native American culture to reduce resistance. Christianity even urged Native peoples to disown Two Spirits. The attempted whitewashing of Indigenous North American culture is an important component of Native peoples denying Western LGBT+ labels, their refusal to conform to the Imperialist gender binary is a powerful statement against the diminishment of their culture.

The lack of respect and cultural sensitivity for Native Americans has not seen resolve, threats to their way of life are still as prevalent as ever. From the exploitation of Native culture to construction on sacred land, racism against Native Americans is still prevalent today. The DAPL and Keystone XL are only two of many treats that are attacking the Native North American way of life. Colonization is alive and well, and all we can do is can show support in the resistance and denial of modern influence on Native American culture.

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