Two-spirit is an umbrella idea referencing indigenous peoples of the Americas who also identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual, intersex, or genderqueer, among others. Especially before European colonization of the United States, two-spirit individuals played prominent roles in various tribes. They would have rites of passages for two-spirit individuals to recognize their spirit, often similar to rites of passages for adolescents.
Different tribes have different roles for these individuals, such as appointing them as the tribe’s healer or those who pray to the creator. But due to colonization of indigenous nations, knowledge of two-spirit identities and traditional rituals have decreased.
Below are some images that have documented two-spirit individuals.
Grace Seidel, 55, recently decided to have her remains composted once she dies. Seidel has a passion for death and dirt which reinforces the idea of her body going back to the earth.
“It’s easier for me to just know that when my life s over, it will be over,” says Seidel. “So I can make the best of what I have now, be the kindest person I can be, and hope people feel good when they think about me.”
“If I did have a counselor who was Japanese from Brazil and he was my middle school counselor, I think I would have had more questions answered then I had at the time. And I think that’s what every student wants is to have somebody that can answer those questions.”
As part of the reporting process for her story on Native American two-spirit identities, NPR Next Generation Radio reporter Imana Gunawan visited a traditional Native American gathering, commonly known as powwows, held in Kirkland, Wash., on Oct. 11, 2014 in order to learn more about indigenous cultures. In American Indian traditions, “two-spirit” is an umbrella term for Native identities that intersect with LGBTQ identities.