By Michele Tyndall, The Leader-Post
Two spirit is a term that usually indicates a person who manifests both the male and the female spirit and has a connection to First Nations cultural beliefs and practices. It can also be used to describe a person with two contrasting human spirits, such as mother and warrior.
Over time, influences, such as religion, lack of proper education and isolation for First Nations people, have led to the same types of discrimination and homophobia towards two spirit people that other GLBTQ communities have experienced, but often magnified because of the unique social structures in native culture.
"For the last two years, I have been the two spirit elder at Camp Fyrefly in Saskatchewan. It is a one-week summer camp to train youth leaders in the GLBTQ2 community. I have become even more aware of the colonial patriarchal legacy that has created fear and judgment and leftour youth without support. I have heard many stories of youth not having their place in a circle that is divided by gender," said artist and elder Marjorie Beaucage.
Organizations, such as Camp fYrefly, two spirits of the North and All Nations Hope, are working to provide support for two spirit people. They strive to educate and foster emotional, physical and mental well-being in two spirit people, while recognizing the emerging changes in both sexual and gender diversity in society today.
"I celebrate the resiliency and survival skills of youth expressing sexual and gender identity freely and openly and not being silenced. They deserve to have a place in the circle of life, in this world," said Beaucage.
The term two spirit is used to describe all aspects of identity (race, gender, sexuality and spirituality) and connect that identity with a person's experiences in their culture and community.
"I offer cultural and spiritual support to youth so their rightful place is restored within our communities. I look forward to the day when a traditional powwow dancer can dance in any regalia without discrimination and the rainbow flag will be carried in all grand entries, honouring two spirit peoples everywhere," said Beaucage.
The struggle of two spirit people continues today as they face the challenges of understanding and embracing themselves while working to better a society that often suffers from lack of education, racism and a fractured sense of where these people fit into their own communities.
"Two-spiritness is a gift from the Creator and needs to be honoured in our own communities in order for healing to happen. Two spirit people have good medicine to offer so everyone can live and love and have healthy relationships," said Beaucage.
And, in time, two spirit people will have the respect and understanding that all people deserve, while at the same time preserving the cultural and spiritual history that is unique to First Nations people.