Researching for LGBTQ Health

Two-Spirit Community

“Two-spirited” refers to a person who has both a masculine and a feminine spirit, and is used by some First Nations people to describe their sexual, gender and/or spiritual identity. As an umbrella term it may encompass same-sex attraction and a wide variety of gender variance, including people who might be described in Western culture as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, gender queer, cross-dressers or who have multiple gender identities. Two-spirited can also include relationships that would be considered poly. The creation of the term “two-spirited” is attributed to Albert McLeod, who proposed its use during the Third Annual Inter-tribal Native American, First Nations, Gay and Lesbian American Conference, held in Winnipeg in 1990. The term is a translation of the Anishinaabemowin term niizh manidoowag, two spirits.

Two-spirited people may also reclaim traditions related to same-sex attraction or gender variance within First Nations communities. These can include terms such as the Lakota’s winkt or the Dinéh’s nŕdleehé, both of which refer to men who fill social roles associated with women, or terms which refer only to sexuality, such as the Mi’kmaq phrase Geenumu Gessalagee, which means “he loves men.” The use of these terms by people who are not descendants of the First Nations is considered cultural appropriation. For some, two-spiritedness is more than just an identity; it is a traditional role that some First Nations people now embody in their modern lives.


Currently none of our projects are specifically focused on Two-Spirit communities, although we encourage Two-Spirit people to participate in any of our studies that are relevant to them:

Two-Spirit people may be particularly interested in our project on bisexual mental health, since we use a broad definition of bisexual which includes all those who have relationships with and/or are attracted to men and women (as well as, in some cases, people of other genders). Please visit our Projects page for more information about this study and our other studies.

We also welcome collaborations with Two-Spirit researchers and communities to explore other research possibilities. Please contact us if you have an idea for a project or would like to get involved with one of our projects:


Below are some resources that may be of interest to people who identify as Two-Spirit. For more resources of interest, please visit our Resources page.

Two-Spirited People of the First Nation

Two-Spirited People of the First Nations

Ristock, J., Zoccole, A., and Passante, L. (2010). Aboriginal Two-Spirit and LGBTQ Migration, Mobility and Health Research Project. Winnipeg.

Taylor, C. (2009). Health and Safety Issues for Aboriginal Transgender/Two Spirit People in Manitoba. Canadian Journal of Aboriginal Community-based HIV/AIDS Research, 2, 63-84.

Brotman, S., Ryan, B., Jalbert, Y. & Rowe, B. (2002). Reclaiming Space-Regaining Health -- The Health Care Experiences of Two-Spirit People in Canada. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 14(1), 67-87, doi: 10.1300/J041v14n01_04.