While we might consider gender fluidity as a modern concept, it’s far from the case and in fact, Native Americans tribes acknowledged at least five different genders.
Those who had both masculine and feminine qualities were actually seen as fortunate because they could view life from both sides and were viewed as having extra wisdom because of it.Within Native American culture, there was no specific belief of how men and women should live their life and those who identified with other genders, on the most part, were accepted by their tribe and lived openly within the community.
This was normal from birth, as children weren’t assigned gender roles by their parents and had gender neutral clothes.
Gender division wasn’t an important concept and they instead valued people based on their contribution to the tribe and how they treated one another.
According to Indian County Today, Native Americans viewed gender as “Female, Male, Two Spirit Female, Two Spirit Male and Transgendered.”
“Two Spirit” referred to people who were born as one gender, but lived as the other, or had shown strong masculine and feminine attributes.
“Every tribe has their own particular term, however there was a requirement for an all inclusive term that the overall public could get it. The Navajo allude to Two Spirits as Nádleehí (one who is changed), among the Lakota is Winkté (characteristic of a male who has an impulse to act as a female), Niizh Manidoowag (two soul) in Ojibwe, Hemaneh (half man, half lady) in Cheyenne, to give some examples. As the reason for “Two Spirit” is to be utilized as an all inclusive term in the English dialect, it is not generally translatable with a similar importance in Native dialects. For instance, in the Iroquois Cherokee dialect, there is no real way to decipher the term, however the Cherokee do have sexual orientation difference terms for ‘ladies who feel like men’ and the other way around.” – The Daily Check
One such person was a Lakota warrior called Osh-Tisch meaning “Finds Them and Kills Them.”
Born as a male, Osh-Tisch married a woman and lived daily life as a woman, dressing in female clothing. Osh-Tisch’s story was recorded and became famous after rescuing a fellow tribesman during the Battle of Rosebud Creek in June 1876, but the gender fluidity of the Native American tribes is something Christian Europeans had tried to cover up and erase from history.
The new settlers did not approve of the “Two Spirit” tradition and as well as imposing their strict views of gender on the Native American tribes, attempted to destroy any record of the gender fluidity.
Indian Country Today claims, Spanish Catholic Monks actually eradicated Aztec Codices that depicted the Two Spirit custom.
Slowly, the Christian settlers were successful in enforcing their designated gender roles on the Native Americans, forcing androgynous people to either live in hiding or in many cases, they ended up taking their own lives.