The term two-spirit (also spelled 2-spirit or two-spirited) was coined by Myra Laramee in 1990. Two-spirit means different things to different people and different communities. One of the most commonly cited understandings of the term is a person who possesses both masculine and feminine spirits; however, two-spirit is used throughout English-speaking communities on Turtle Island to distinguish the wide variety of Indigenous concepts of gender and sexual diversity as separate from the European gender binary, which was violently imposed on Indigenous communities through Christianization and the residential school system. Within Indigenous cosmologies, gender and sexual diversity are viewed holistically, with people of many genders and sexualities holding important roles in families and communities.
The term "Two Spirit" became official in 1990, to describe Native American people who are believed to be blessed with both male and female spirits. But the concept of gender fluidity has existed in Native culture for centuries. In this episode of BESE Explains, Paola Ramos tells us how a group that was once celebrated by its community has had to fight to keep itself from being erased.