Ardhanarishwara (Sanskrit: अर्धनारीश्वर, Ardhanārīśwara) is a composite androgynous form of the Hindu God Shiva and his consort Parvati (also known as Devi, Shakti and Uma in this icon). Ardhanarishvara is depicted as half male and half female, split down the middle. The right half is usually the male Shiva, illustrating his traditional attributes.
The earliest Ardhanarishvara images are dated to the Kushan period, starting from the first century CE. Its iconography evolved and was perfected in the Gupta era. The Puranas and various iconographic treatises write about the mythology and iconography of Ardhanarishvara. While Ardhanarishvara remains a popular iconographic form found in most Shiva temples throughout India, very few temples are dedicated to this deity.
Ardhanarishvara represents the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies of the universe (Purusha and Prakriti) and illustrates how Shakti, the female principle of God, is inseparable from (or the same as, according to some interpretations) Shiva, the male principle of God. The union of these principles is exalted as the root and womb of all creation. Another view is that Ardhanarishvara is a symbol of Shiva's all-pervasive nature.
Androgyny is the combination of masculine and feminine characteristics. Usually used to describe characters or persons who have no specific gender, gender ambiguity may also be found in fashion, gender identity, sexual identity, or sexual lifestyle.
Different Identities: Life and Love Among Brazil’s Third Gender↓
Discussions about gender and sexuality can be fraught and complicated, whether by disagreement, embarrassment or by personal values and ideology. And this conversation is further complicated when refracted through the prism of culture.
We sometimes fail to give proper weight to the importance of cultural difference in defining which identities we consider to be normal, acceptable or even possible to adopt.
That’s what makes Don Kulick’s work so fascinating. Don Kulick is a professor of Anthropology at Uppsala University in Sweden, and has spent years living with and writing about travesti… Brazil’s “third gender,” who are designated male at birth but, through lifestyle choices and bodily modifications, live a feminine gender identity.
Is having a feminine gender identity the same thing as identifying as a woman? Not exactly. According to Don Kulick, travesti “want to be feminine, not female.” Whereas transgender women in U.S. culture identify as women, travesti most often consider themselves and are considered to be a different identity with its own rules about how to live, work and socialize.
Consider traditional roles in romantic relationships. Travestis in the community in which Kulick lived and studied sought partners who identified as, and acted like, heterosexual men, forming what would seem like a traditional masculine and feminine pair.
However, Kulick notes that, almost without exception, travestis insist on providing financially for their partners. This may seem paradoxical to someone who expects traditional, binary gender roles– that is, that the masculine partner provide for the feminine partner. From that point of view, it may also be ironic that most travesti people themselves have these traditional expectations about many aspects of life.
Kulick explains that many travestis in Brazil abhor gay marriage and, given that they see themselves as not categorically female, find biological males who consider themselves female–a categorization that would apply to many trans women in U.S. culture–as mentally disturbed.
Many fully expect their heterosexual partners to ultimately be more attracted to women than to them, and explain this using a familiar phrase: “God made woman for man and man for woman.”
These values may well come from the often conservative values of the societies in which travestis are situated. While travesti is recognized in these places as a distinct identity, different from man and woman, travestis are still a gender/sexual minority (GSM) in these societies.
As a result, many travesti folk are relegated to poverty and sex work to survive. Thus, by providing financially for their heterosexual-identified male partners, they gain the benefit of power and control in a life and world that offers very little of it to them.
“We’re the victims of a lot of prejudices on the street,” one travesti tells Kulick. “We need to have a person who we can always be on top of. Who? Our boyfriends. How? Supporting them, giving them money, so that we can dominate them…”
The attitudes and identities we adopt are always shaped to some extent by the culture or cultures we are a part of. But the fact that “third gender” identities exist all over the world, throughout history and mythology–from the Zapotec Muxe or the Thai Kathoey, the Balkan Sworn virgins and so on–suggests something in human nature that resists the categorization that culture inevitably imposes.
My idea of the "Indigo Group" in my writing "Terrace",could be seen as a modern day "Molly House",where straight men(black),go to be sexual satisfied by persons like myself "Molly Michael"
Miss Molly (referring to an effeminate or homosexual male).
Excerpt from:"Welcome to the Molly-House"
By the 1750s, the idea of the sodomite as a distinct kind of person was well established. The sodomite-molly in the public’s mind was always going to show some sign of effeminacy. It might have simply been in the way he walked, the way he talked, the way he dressed, with excessive elegance. The idea that one could be recognized by his mannerisms or style of dress is corroborated by reports of people trying to catch someone by running down the street calling, “Stop! A Sodomite! Stop! A Sodomite!” and of a crowd gathering to assist them. There were also some mollies who dressed as women. From what I can tell, in the 18th century most of these transvestite mollies were involved in prostitution. Trial accounts suggest that mollies who dressed as women were often very convincing, which, of course, created difficulties for their heterosexual customers.
This notion of types is very interesting because what happens, I would argue, is that in the early 18th century the world for the first time splits into a heterosexual majority and a homosexual minority. A world in which men like boys and women is a world that no longer exists after 1700 in Western Europe. One of the last English examples of acceptable bi-sexuality was Lord Rochester, who had female mistresses and a wife but also openly liked boys. In a famous poem he says to one of his female mistresses, “Nor shall our love-fits, Chloris, be forgot, / When each the well-looked link boy strove to enjoy, / And the best was the deciding lot / Whether the boy fucked you, or I the boy.” The world where an adult woman and an adult man share the sexual favors of an adolescent male is one that disappears circa 1700.
As you move into the 18th century, sodomitical desire is articulated in three different forms. You have, first of all, the group that likes other sodomites and whose sexual preference is for an attractive male around 20 or 30. You then have a second group made up of those who prefer adolescent males between 15 and 19. Then there is a third group of men who want heterosexual males.(my type) These three forms of homosexual or sodomitical desire in the 18th century were not yet sharply differentiated in the public mind, but I suspect that it is very likely that this differentiation did exist in the minds of individual sodomites.
Psychologically female / biologically male
I have a hard time understanding ,why society wants or needs to call some one like myself, transgender if not changing appearance? (I’d use the word transgender. I’d also use “non-operational female to male.” I’d also use the word “genderqueer.” I identiﬁed as a feminist before identifying as trans. It was really embedded in me. It played a big part in my decision not to have surgery. I’ve tried with my identity to not reinforce the gender binary system, and options have been limited to the trans community by focusing so much on transsexualism (involving gender reassignment surgery). The only option is, if you’re male, to become female, or vice-versa. Transgender youth have felt that binary gender system is not for them. We want to increase the number of genders. [Bilodeau, 2005]-Brent L. Bilodeau, Kristen A. Renn / msu.edu
My Point about Transgender is→ Not all of Us want to be classified as Male or Female,or wish a complete gender reassignment surgery , least for myself I prefer "Fem-male" or partly male ,partly female
It really concerns me and should all of Society,,"That we can't understand that every Individual is Psychologically different
"culturally speaking the farmers constitute an extremely homogeneous group"
I would much rather have changed my Looks to appear like this person.back in the late 90's when the above two pic's of me where taken. If I where, 35 again,I might very well try to look similar to the person above.(I was prettier back then,lol)
I think I could of in reality ,liked to look Fem to this person's Fem charactor
A Article I found helpful:
IN this chapter I propose to deal not only with the male and female shamans and their relation to each other, but also with it curious phenomenon-the mystical change of sex among shamans, by which a male shaman is 'transformed' into a female, and vice versa.
Warfare, Homosexuality, and Gender Status Among American Indian Men in the Southwest
From: Long Before Stonewall
Chapter 1 Warfare, Homosexuality, and Gender Status Among American Indian Men in the Southwest Ramón A. Gutiérrez For the last forty years, and particularly since the height of the gay liberation movement, there has been a rather prolific scholarly project committed to a quest for the historical roots of contemporary homosexuality. In this search for older forms, alternative patterns, and cultural variants of signification of sexual behavior between and among men, one can point to the absolutely catalytic documentary history that Jonathan Katz edited. In his massive and foundational Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. (1976), Katz chronicled patterns of homosexuality in what is now the United States from pre-Columbian times to the present. Among the many things that he uncovered were the shards of a Native American tradition that was known only to a few anthropologists, and before that, to a number of early sixteenth-century European explorers and missionaries.1 Called berdache by Europeans and by a more complex set of indigenous terms in the Americas, these men who had sex with other men were particularly fascinating. Not only did they offer exclusive sexual service to members of their own sex, but they also were transvested as women and performed women’s work. A number of historians and anthropologists were fascinated by this discovery and set out to chronicle the berdache tradition. They saw in it a potential model for childhood socialization that might ultimately lead to gay liberation, and if not that, at least a path toward a more gender tolerant society for tomboys and sissies to develop into lesbians and gays. While American scholars have called the berdache a “third sex,” a “fourth sex,” “two-spirited persons,” and “man/woman,” to the Zuñi Indians they were 19 la’mana, to the Tewa they were quetho, and to the Navajo they were nadle.2 The berdache putatively embodied both the masculine and the feminine, moved easily between the segregated worlds of indigenous men and women, and offered moderns an alternative, more natural and less constrained way to live and love. Anthropologists like Will Roscoe and Walter L. Williams celebrated the berdache, situating them in mystical New Age worlds, heralding their primitive premodern ways, unfettered by homophobic cultures, and free of rigid masculine and feminine gender roles.3 Many of these unwitting projections backward of the then contemporary gay liberation moment’s politics of yearning profoundly distorted the history of the berdache. As will be argued below, what we mainly know about the history of the berdache has them located in warps of masculine power, in warfare, slavery and exploitation, not in worlds of egalitarian possibilities and of gender harmony and accord. The lives of the berdache were lives of humiliation and endless work, not of celebration and veneration. Here we will study historically how the berdache were first described by European colonial soldiers and priests in the 1500s, where they were located socially in the gender division of labor; and whom and how they served. Clearly these European observers came with a set of biases that were hard for them to overcome, but they nevertheless were intent on trying to understand indigenous social organization in order to conquer and eventually exploit the natives, or in the case of the missionaries, to Christianize . While this historical excursion will be limited primarily to those areas previously under Spanish control that ultimately became part of what is today the American Southwest, larger hemispheric patterns and longer historical trends will also be noted. Native American berdache still exist among many tribal groups in North and South America. Here we reference their experiences particularly as they illuminate larger historical patterns and permutations of longer institutional histories. When Spanish soldiers and missionaries first saw Native American men pressed into impersonating females, forced to perform women’s work, dressing as women, and offering receptive sexual service only to men, they asserted that these individuals were living in bradaje. Bradaje as a word was derived from the Arabic bradaj, which means male prostitute; hence the English word berdache. Bradaje was something Europeans were quite familiar with in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, having inherited it themselves from East Asia and Islamic Africa where it was extensive. When they found men so employed in Florida and New Mexico, in central Mex20 r a m ó n g u t i é r r e z ico and in the highlands of Peru, they were not particularly surprised and...
quariwarmi (men-women) shamans mediated between the symmetrically dualistic spheres of Andean cosmology and daily life by performing rituals that at times required same-sex erotic practices. Their transvested attire served as a visible sign of a third space that negotiated between the masculine and the feminine, the present and the past, the living and the dead. Their shamanic presence invoked the androgynous creative force often represented in Andean mythology.”
Among the 19th century Chuckchi, the “soft men” (yirka-lául) were a category of biologically male shamans who adopted first female hairstyle, then female dress, and finally married males. They were hated and scorned but also feared by the rest of the Chuckchi, as they were considered to be much more powerful than other shamans (Price 2002, 302). The masculine gendered males who married the yirka-lául were not seen as ‘third genders’ but as ‘men.’
Malidoma Some about the Dagara- in an interview http://www.csuchico.edu/pub/inside/archive/01_03_29/07.gatekeeper.html
“The Dagara not only embrace gay and lesbian diversity, he noted, but honor such individuals as “gatekeepers” between the physical world and the divine. In Dagara cosmology, geography is not only physical, but an energetic existence encompassing other realities crucial to the spiritual health of the individual and the community, explained Some. among the Dagara people, gender has very little to do with anatomy. It is purely energetic. In that context, a male who is physically male can vibrate female energy, and vice versa. That is where the real gender is. Entrance to these worlds is facilitated by the gatekeeper, who is born with the ability to participate in a wider web of consciousness.
Although not all gatekeepers in the Dagara tribe are gay or lesbian, “all gays and lesbians are gatekeepers,” said Some.
“Without the gatekeeper,” he added, “we’re left with a gate unattended” — a sort of spiritual clamping down. Not only is the gatekeeper then robbed of his or her identity, but the community is left without a source of spiritual solace.
The gay person is looked at primarily as a “gatekeeper.” The Earth is looked at, from my tribal perspective, as a very, very delicate machine or consciousness, with high vibrational points, which certain people must be guardians of in order for the tribe to keep its continuity with the gods and with the spirits that dwell there. Spirits of this world and spirits of the other worlds. Any person who is at this link between this world and the other world experiences a state of vibrational consciousness which is far higher, and far different, from the one that a normal person would experience. This is what makes a gay person gay. This kind of function is not one that society votes for certain people to fulfill. It is one that people are said to decide on prior to being born. You decide that you will be a gatekeeper before you are born. And it is that decision that provides you with the equipment (Malidoma gestures by circling waist area with hands) that you bring into this world. So when you arrive here you begin to vibrate in a way that Elders can detect as meaning that you are connected with a gateway somewhere. Then they watch you grow, and they watch you act and react, and sooner or later they will follow you to the gateway that you are connected with.
Now, gay people have children. Because they’re fertile, just like normal people. How I got to know that they were gay was because on arriving in this country and seeing the serious issues surrounding gay people, I began to wonder it does not exist in my own country. When I asked one of them, who tad taken me to the threshold of the Otherworld, whether he feels sexual attraction towards another man, he jumped back and said, “How do you know that?!” He said, “This is our business as gatekeepers.” And, yet he had a wife and children — no problem, you see.
So to then limit gay people to simple sexual orientation is really the worst harm that can be done to a person. That all he or she is is a sexual person. And, personally, because of the fact that my knowledge of indigenous medicine, ritual, comes from gatekeepers, it’s hard for me to take this position that gay people are the negative breed of a society. No! In a society that is profoundly dysfunctional, what happens is that peoples’ life purposes are taken away, and what is left is this kind of sexual orientation which, in turn, is disturbing to the very society that created it.
I think this is again victimization by a Christian establishment that is looking at a gay person as a disempowered person, a person who has lost his job from birth onward, and now society just wants to fire him out of life. This is not justice. It’s not justice. It is a terrible harm done to an energy that could save the world, that could save us. If, today, we are suffering from a gradual ecological waste, this is simply because the gatekeepers have been fired from their job. They have been fired! They have nothing to do! And because they have been fired, we accuse them for not doing anything. This is not fair!
Let us look at the earth differently, and we will find out gradually that these people that are bothering us today are going to start taking their posts. They know what their job is. You just have to get near them, to feel that they don’t vibrate the same way. They are not of this world. They come from the Otherworld, and they were sent here to keep the gates open to the Otherworld, because if the gates are shut, this is when the earth, Mother Earth, will shake — because it has no more reason to be alive, it will shake itself, and we will be in deep trouble.
By the time we reach a certain level, all the gatekeepers are going to find their positions again. We cannot tell them where the gates are. They know. If we start to heal ourselves, they will remember. It will kick in. But as long as we continue in arrogance, in egotism, in God-knows-what form of violence on ourselves, no, there’s that veil of confusion that’s going to continue to prevail, and as a result it’s going to prevent great things from happening.”
Listen to Quynn’s shamanic workshop called “BLENDED SPIRITS Third Gender in Shamanic Culture“
Though the term transgender is often used as a broad and universalizing identity category, the term’s western origin and logic prevent it from accurately representing the gender diversity that exists around the world. To address problematic deployments of transgender, Dutta and Roy suggest that, “rather than use transgender as an umbrella term encompassing all possible gender variant identities, it is perhaps better deployed as an analytic rubric for variant and liminal gendered positions” (334). Following this advice, the DTA uses transgender as an “analytic rubric” (rather than an identity label) to aggregate related materials while simultaneously recognizing that the term is often imprecise with respect to time, place, and individual identities.
We offer the following list of global terms to begin distinguishing among gender-nonconforming practices in various geographic and cultural contexts. Some entries may not fully capture the nuances of particular terms, which are often complex and culturally dependent (similar to the complexity of transgender). Many terms listed have ambiguous or multiple definitions, intersect with other gender identities and sexual orientations, and can depend on personal interpretation, cultural background, and location. Some terms are linked to specific regions or tribes, but they may extend across national borders and may not be limited to the countries listed. A single term may exist in multiple dialects and languages, or may bear different meanings within a single language.
In compiling this list of more than 60 terms, we consulted various sources including PBS’s “A Map of Gender-Diverse Cultures,” which offers especially useful information. We encourage you to contact us with suggestions, corrections, and new information!
Acaults (Myanmar): “A third gender consisting of males assuming the dress and social role of women is known in Burmese slang as acault. Acaults often serve as spirit mediums in the indigenous animistic belief system. While some acault are gay, not all are.” –PBS
Travesti (Brazil): “[. . .] a travesti is a person who was born male, has a feminine gender identity, and is primarily sexually attracted to non-feminine men. Travestis' feminine identity includes feminine dress, language, and social and sexual roles. However, in contrast to transsexual women, they often don't see themselves as women, and many describe themselves as gay or homosexual. Travestis may modify their bodies with hormones or silicone, but rarely seek genital surgery.” –PBS
Ten Intersex people have contributed to all historical eras and human societies and cultures and their presence and contributions are also celebrated in myths such as those mentioned by Lantigua. Like real life intersex people, each mythic figure has their own unique story.
1. Hermaphroditus (Greek) (also on Wikipedia)
In Greek mythology, Hermaphroditus was associated with androgyny, at whose sacrifices men and women exchanged garments. Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (1st century BC) in Bibliotheca historica, book IV, 4.6.5 wrote that Hermaphroditus was born of Hermes and Aphrodite and received a name which is a combination of both parents and had a dual gender body.
2. Agdistis (Phrygian, Greek, Roman) (also on Wikipedia)
Agdistis was a deity of Greek, Roman and Anatolian mythology possessing both male and female organs. Some scholars have theorized that Agdistis is part of a continuum of androgynous Anatolian deities (including one called "Adamma") in the 2nd millennium BC.
3. Hapi (Egyptian) (also on Wikipedia)
The Egyptian Nile-flooding god Hapi was considered to be male and wearing the false beard, but was also pictured with pendulous breasts and a large belly as representations of the fertility of the Nile.
4. Ardhanarishvara (Hindu) (also on Wikipedia)
Ardhanarishvara is a composite androgynous half male and half female, split down the middle. The name Ardhanarishvara means "the Lord who is half woman."
5. Lan Caihe (China) (also on Wikipedia)
Lan Caihe is one of the Eight Immortals. Lan Caihe's age and sex are unknown. Lan is depicted in ambiguous clothing or as a young boy or girl carrying a bamboo flower basket, and is associated with male minstrels and female singers. Like the other immortals, Lan Caihe left this world by flying on a heavenly swan or crane into heaven.
6. Ymir (Norse) (also on Wikipedia)
In Norse mythology Ymir is a primeval being in the Edda and skalds. Ymir birthed a male and female. Scholars have linked Ymir to Tuisto, who some scholars argue is a "two-fold" or hermaphroditic being. Scholars also believe that Ymir is an echo of a primordial being reconstructed in Proto-Indo-European mythology (Persian and Vedic) and the Egyptian goddess Hathor.
7. Ometeotl (Aztec) (also on Wikipedia)
Ometeotl (Two God) is the combined god Ometecuhtli (male)/Omecihuatl (female) or Tonacatecuhtli (male)/Tonacacihuatl (female) in Aztec mythology. This"Lord of the Duality" is the supreme creator deity.
8. G-d (Jewish) (also on Orthodox Union)
According to the rabbinic commentaries on Genesis the Primordial Human (Adam means human) was not a male, but both a male and a female, one face forward, one face behind. The Hebrew word tzela mistranslated in some Christian Bibles as â€œribâ€ means â€œside.â€ Since Adam was made in resemblance of G-d, then G-d is a being of all genders.
9. Phanes (Greek) (also on Wikipedia)
Phanes was the mystic primeval deity of procreation and the generation of new life, who was introduced into Greek mythology by the Orphic tradition. Other names for Phanes are Ericapaeus, Metis ("thought") and Protogenus ("First Born"). Phanes was depicted as androgynous with several animal heads and golden wings.
10. Ahsonnutli (Navaho) (see History of Arizona, Navaho)
â€œIn the Ure mountains lived two women, Ahsonnutli, the turquoise hermaphrodite, and Yolaikaiason, the white shell woman... â€˜Ahsonnutli, the hermaphrodite, had white beads in her right breast, and turquoise in her left... And Ahsonnutli commanded the twelve men to go to the east, south, west and north, to hold up the heavens, which office they are supposed to perform to this day.â€
Read the original article (with images) at Lusmerlin's Blog: "Ten Intersex Gods and Goddesses" by Lusmerlin Lantigua
I simply learned,accepted it ok to be a "Fem-male",even though living in a Society constrained by "Ego"
Rather than the physical body, Native Americans emphasised a person's "spirit", or character, as being most important. Instead of seeing two-spirit persons as transsexuals who try to make themselves into "the opposite sex", it is more accurate to understand them as individuals who take on a gender status that is different from both men and women. This alternative gender status offers a range of possibilities, from slightly effeminate males or masculine females, to androgynous or transgender persons, to those who completely cross-dress and act as the other gender. The emphasis of Native Americans is not to force every person into one box, but to allow for the reality of diversity in gender and sexual identities.
Most of the evidence for respectful two-spirit traditions is focused on the native peoples of the Plains, the Great Lakes, the Southwest, and California. With over a thousand vastly different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, it is important not to overgeneralise for the indigenous peoples of North America. Some documentary sources suggest that a minority of societies treated two-spirit persons disrespectfully, by kidding them or discouraging children from taking on a two-spirit role. However, many of the documents that report negative reactions are themselves suspect, and should be evaluated critically in light of the preponderance of evidence that suggests a respectful attitude. Some European commentators, from early frontier explorers to modern anthropologists, also were influenced by their own homophobic prejudices to distort native attitudes.
In the 20th-century, as homophobic European Christian influences increased among many Native Americans, respect for same-sex love and for androgynous persons greatly declined. Two-spirit people were often forced, either by government officials, Christian missionaries or their own community, to conform to standard gender roles. Some, who could not conform, either went underground or committed suicide. With the imposition of Euro-American marriage laws, same-sex marriages between two-spirit people and their spouses were no longer legally recognised. But with the revitalisation of Native American "red power" cultural pride since the 60s, and the rise of gay and lesbian liberation movements at the same time, a new respect for androgyny started slowly re-emerging among American Indian people.-excerpt from "The 'two-spirit' people of indigenous North Americans"
The Social Construction of Gender
That gender is a social construct becomes especially apparent when one compares how men and women behave across different cultures, and how in some cultures and societies, other genders exist too.
In Western industrialized nations like the U.S., people tend to think of masculinity and femininity in dichotomous terms, viewing men and women as distinctly different and opposites. Other cultures, however, challenge this assumption and have less distinct views of masculinity and femininity. For example, historically there was a category of people in the Navajo culture called berdaches, who were anatomically normal men but who were defined as a third gender considered to fall between male and female.
Berdaches married other ordinary men (not Berdaches), although neither was considered homosexual, as they would be in today’s Western culture.
What this suggests is that we learn gender through the process of socialization. For many people, this process begins before they are even born, with parents selecting gendered names on the basis of the sex of a fetus, and by decorating the incoming baby's room and selecting its toys and clothes in color-coded and gendered ways that reflect cultural expectations and stereotypes. Then, from infancy on, we are socialized by family, educators, religious leaders, peer groups, and the wider community, who teach us what is expected from us in terms of appearance and behavior based on whether they code us as a boy or a girl. Media and popular culture play important roles in teaching us gender too.
One result of gender socialization is the formation of gender identity, which is one’s definition of oneself as a man or woman. Gender identity shapes how we think about others and ourselves and also influences our behaviors. For example, gender differences exist in the likelihood of drug and alcohol abuse, violent behavior, depression, and aggressive driving.
Gender identity also has an especially strong effect on how we dress and present ourselves, and what we want our bodies to look like, as measured by "normative" standards.-ThoughtCo.com
The Berdache Tradition Walter L. Willams
But to American Indians, the institution of another gender role means that berdaches are not deviant-indeed, they do conform to the requirements of a custom in which their culture tells them they fit. Berdachism is a way for society to recognize and assimilate some atypical individuals without imposing a change on them or stigmatizing them as deviant. This cultural institution confirms their legitimacy for what they are. Societies often bestow power upon that which does not neatly fit into the usual. Since no cultural system can explain everything, a common way that many cultures deal with these inconsistencies is to imbue them with negative power, as taboo, pollution, witchcraft, or sin. That which is not understood is seen as a threat. But an alternative method of dealing with such things, or people, is to take them out of the realm of threat and to sanctify them.' The berdaches' role as mediator is thus not just between women and men, but also between the physical and the spiritual. American Indian cultures have taken what Western culture calls negative, and made it a positive; they have successfully utilized the different skills and insights of a class of people that Western culture has stigmatized and whose spiritual powers have been wasted. Many Native Americans also understood that gender roles have to do with more than just biological sex. The standard Western view that one's sex is always a certainty, and that one's gender identity and sex role always conform to one's morphological sex is a view that dies hard. Western thought is typified by such dichotomies of groups perceived to be mutually exclusive: male and female, black and white, right and wrong, good and evil. Clearly, the world is not so simple; such clear divisions are not always realistic. Most American Indian worldviews generally are much more accepting of the ambiguities of life. Acceptance of gender variation in the berdache tradition is typical of many native cultures' approach to life in general.
In most tribes a relationship between a two-spirit and non-two-spirit was seen for the most part as neither heterosexual nor homosexual (in modern-day terms) but more hetero-normative; European colonists, however, saw such relationships as homosexual. Partners of two-spirits have not historically viewed themselves as homosexual, and moreover drew a sharp conceptual line between themselves and two-spirits.
In Treuer’s stunning book The Assassination of Hole in the Day about the great 19th-century Ojibwe chief, he notes, “Sex usually determined one’s gender, and therefore one’s work, but the Ojibwe accepted variation. Men who chose to function as women were called ikwekanaazo, meaning ‘one who endeavors to be like a woman. Women who functioned as men were called ininiikaazo, meaning, one who endeavors to be like a man.”
He further notes, “the role of ikwekanaazo and ininiikaazo in Ojibwe society was considered to be sacred, often because they assumed their roles based on spiritual dreams or visions.”
In addition to written scholarly documents, Treuer regularly works with elders and speakers of the language on his work. Far more than mere consultation, working with elders and other community members ensures that the essence of the language, the primary conveyor of spirituality and culture, remains strong and true.
As elders age and die, much of the past dies with them. Therefore, much of what we know about the roles of the ikwekanaazo and the ininiikaazo has been given to us by the conquerors.
The legacy of Western domination robbed many, including Native Americans, of any religion or culture that fell outside of narrow Western norms.- Mary Annette Pember