Alternate Gender Roles in Native American and Hindu Societies
Anthropology 101: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
January 09, 2014
While many cultures have defined societal gender roles that are specifically male or female, there are some cultures that also recognize that some individuals belong to an alternate gender role. Individuals that may participate in alternate gender roles are those that are born as male of female, but identify themselves as being the opposite of their biological sex. These individuals may also be only sexually attracted to members of the same sex as well. Some cultures recognize this alternate gender role, and ...view middle of the document...
These Two-Spirited individuals were often called upon to be active in ceremonial roles and may even act as the Shaman, or medicine man, of the tribe. If the Two Spirit happened to be a woman, this was even more highly regarded and the woman would then be in a position to acquire more wealth and were more prominent members of the tribal society. Being a Two Spirit even allowed a woman to take part in things that were mostly male dominated, such as making trades. This was probably mostly beach a female Two Spirit was far more rare than the male counterpart. (Crapo, 2013)
For Native Americas, the term Two Spirit is an all encompassing term that includes people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and they represent what we commonly refer to as the LGBT community. Once these individuals were believed to be holy or scared, but are now subject to the same degrading and dehumanizing behaviors as Americans that identify as being homosexual or a part of the LGBT community. This is most likely a result of the colonization of Native Americans and the after effects of what is known as “the boarding school era.” During this time, the traditional ways of the Native Americans were forced out by the Americans were didn’t care to understand their meaning. The Americans took the Native children to boarding schools and assimilated them into their culture and impressed their Christian beliefs upon them. (Evans-Campbell, Walters, Pearson & Campbell, 2012)
In more recent times in America, Two Spirits have formed their own culture within the communities where they live, so that they can liberate themselves and be in a place where they can “be Indian and gay at the same time.” (Gilley, 2010) Traditionally, Native Americans didn’t have a term such as “homophobia” to describe the hatred that many people harbor against the LGBT community. Instead, they accepted each other as different and praised them as Two-Spirit. Now, even though the traditional ways of Native Americans is less prominent or noticeable throughout America, many Natives have worked diligently to ensure the ways of their people are not forgotten. Even Two Spirit communities work in efforts to bring back their sense of unity and embrace their identities in a newly accepted way.
Native Americans are not the only culture to acknowledge people within their community as having alternative gender role. In India, individuals that identify as being an alternate gender are called Hijra. The individuals are male bodied but identify more with being a female. Within their culture they are considered as being a third sex, and if they are able to, they participate in elective castrations to emasculate themselves and continue life as an asexual being. In many cultures this also more commonly called being a eunuch.
For the Hijra, the act of castration is performed as a sacrifice to appease the Hindu goddess Bahuchara Mata. This is done in hopes of being gifted with heightened...