Modern Two-Spirits

Following the colonization, transportation, Reservations, and Boarding Schools, maintenance of tribal traditions meant that minority concerns within the tribes were sacrificed for the sake of survival.  Sexually distinct practices and interpretations were harder and harder to preserve.   Eventually ideas of gender that were not readily translatable into the new American Culture were forgotten, or actively destroyed.  In many ways, The history of the modern Two-Spirit movement involved a rediscovery of pre-Western Expansion records from the very cultures that had done the damage in the first place.  This revival and revitalization effort is complex and becomes quickly interwoven with identity, politics, disease, and concerns of cultural appropriation.

An original flier for GAI, from the archives of The GLBT Historical Society

An original flier for GAI, from the archives of The GLBT Historical Society

One of the first organization that can be related is the the Gay American Indians. Founded in July 1975 in San Francisco by Barbara Cameron and Randy Burns in San Francisco. Barbara had been raised on a Sioux reservation in South Dakota, and Randy, a Northern Paiute and a member of the Pyramid Lake Indian Tribe, had moved to California from Nevada.

By the 1980s their business office was in the Pride Center at 890 Hayes St., where they held community gatherings and dances and shepherded the Gay American Indian History Project.  Barbara has since passed away but the organization remained active for several years. Randy has remained active in the Two-Spirit movement, writing editorials, serving on advisory committees, and producing a film of Paiute elders speaking on tribal tradition.

The GAIHP has also contributed much to Two-Spirit awareness and identity. One former coordinator, Will Roscoe, is the author of several books on Two-Spirit history and practice from various tribes.

Leave a Reply