Researching for LGBTQ Health

Two-Spirit Community

“Two-spirit” refers to a person who identifies as having both a masculine and a feminine spirit, and is used by some Indigenous 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-spirit can also include relationships that could be considered poly. The creation of the term “two-spirit” 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-spirit people may also reclaim traditions related to same-sex attraction or gender variance within Indigenous communities. These can include terms such as the Lakota’s winkt or the Dinéh’s nàdleehé, 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.” Because the term two-spirit was developed by Indigenous people to describe experiences of their communities, the use of this term by people who are not Indigenous is considered cultural appropriation. For some, two-spiritedness is more than just an identity; it is a traditional role that some Indigenous people now embody in their modern lives.

In 2018, our team chose to change our name to Re:searching for LGBTQ2S+ health, in order to make two-spirit people a more visible part of our research. We hope to be able to work in partnership with Indigenous communities to use research as a tool to make visible and address the impacts of colonization on Indigenous LGBTQ2S+ people.

Past Projects

Current Projects

  • Canadian Coalition Against LGBTQ2S+ Poverty. Although our team is still in the process of developing a program of research, addressing poverty among LGBTQ2S+ Indigenous people will be a key area of focus. We welcome new collaborators in this work.

We also welcome other collaborations with two-spirit researchers and communities to explore new research possibilities. Please contact us if you have an idea for a project or would like to get involved with one of our projects: l.ross@utoronto.ca

Resources

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.

Resources from the Two-Spirit Roundtable Discussion Series