On nearly every continent, and for all of recorded history, thriving cultures have recognized, revered, and integrated more than two genders. Terms such as transgender and gay are strictly new constructs that assume three things: that there are only two sexes (male/female), as many as two sexualities (gay/straight), and only two genders (man/woman).
Yet hundreds of distinct societies around the globe have their own long-established traditions for third, fourth, fifth, or more genders. Fred Martinez, for example, was not a boy who wanted to be a girl, but both a boy and a girl — an identity his Navajo culture recognized and revered as nádleehí. Most Western societies have no direct correlation for this Native “two-spirit” tradition, nor for the many other communities without strict either/or conceptions of sex, sexuality, and gender. Worldwide, the sheer variety of gender expression is almost limitless. Take a tour and learn how other cultures see gender diversity.
Two Spirits Gender Map
Blessing is a moving short film that explores how families can heal the divisions caused by conflicting religious beliefs around sexuality. See Stephen Williams’s award-winning film in two parts on You Tube.
Blessing part-1 – A Gay Mormon Short Film
7 min – Aug 21, 2009 – Uploaded by VoicingsMovie
Gay Mormon Film – Released 2004 – a film by Stephen Williams. Watch or Purchase Blessing at Gay Mormon Films – protextfilms.com
Blessing (part 2) A Gay Mormon Film
10 min – Aug 15, 2009 – Uploaded by AffirmationLDS
Gay Mormon film in conjunction with Affirmation Gay and Lesbian Mormons (www.affirmation.org). Watch or purchase Blessing.
Two Spirits, One Heart: A Mother, Her Transgender Son, and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance
In this first of its kind, illuminating new book, mother, educator and LGBT activist Marsha Aizumi shares her story of parenting a young woman who came out as a lesbian, then transitioned to male. Two Spirits, One Heart: A Son’s Journey and a Mother’s Love chronicles her personal journey from being the mother of her dearly desired adopted baby girl Ashley, to offering unconditional love, acceptance and support amid her child’s struggles to reconcile her gender identity and follow her path to become a man, Aiden. In the process, she also becomes a passionate advocate for the greater rights of transgender, bisexual, gay and lesbian citizens.
Co-edited by Dr. Wesley Thomas, who is featured in the film, Two-Spirit People: Native American Gender Identity, Sexuality, and Spirituality is a landmark scholarly investigation of “third gender” expression in American Indian societies. It examines cultural rules, ideologies, and expected behaviors for individuals within a range of gender identity possibilities, and includes the voices of contemporary Native American two-spirit people and scholars to form a sensitive picture of the past, while illuminating forward-looking ways of seeing the complexities of gender, sexuality, and spirituality. (University of Illinois Press)
Gender diversity is one of the most common and least understood features of native North America. Such roles have been documented in over 150 tribes throughout the continent, and the result is a strikingly different view of native North America before the arrival of Europeans. In Changing Ones, TWO SPIRITS Advisory Board member Will Roscoe carefully reconstructs the place of these roles in traditional tribal cultures and traces their history up to the present, in a fascinating and comprehensive exploration of an overlooked dimension of native North America. Changing Ones challenges many assumptions, old and new, about the nature of human sexual and gender diversity. (St. Martin’s Press)
TWO SPIRITS Advisory Board member Lori Girshick’s book, Transgender Voices: Beyond Women and Men, brings together the voices of 150 sex-and gender-diverse people who speak with courage and candor about their lives. By showing us a variety of perspectives, Girshick demonstrates that there is nothing inherently binary about gender—and that the way each of us experiences our own gender is, in fact, normal and natural. The book speaks with wisdom and compassion about subjects that can illuminate our shared understanding of men, women, and those who liberate gender from oversimplification and into something more nuanced, flexible, and humane. (University Press of New England)
What can straight people do to support gay rights? Ian Ayres and Jennifer Brown–law professors, activists, husband and wife–propose practical strategies for helping straight men and women advocate for and with the gay community. Straightforward suggests that to make real progress at the central flashpoints of controversy straight as well as gay people need to speak up and act for equality. The book tells stories about real people and the difficult decisions they have faced at home, in church, at work, in school, and in politics. Straightforward engagingly shows how to change the way America thinks about–and participates in–the gay rights movement. (Princeton University Press)
Homosexuality has been politicized. But when the issue hits home, whether it involves a family member, colleague, or neighbor who’s gay, all that controversy fades in the face of a real person who wants and deserves basic human rights and freedoms. With essays by Candace Gingrich, Margaret Cho, Judy Shepard, Rebecca Walker, and leaders of organizations including the ACLU, Amnesty International USA, GLAAD, Human Rights Campaign, and PFLAG, 50 Ways to Support Lesbian and Gay Equality is a compendium of informative, joyful, and poignant personal stories, each promoting understanding while suggesting simple actions. From defining terminology to exploring family issues, the book deftly navigates workplace, family, cultural, and human rights issues. A timely and much-needed guide, 50 Ways is full of positive solutions to everyday incidents of homophobia and heterosexism, offering guidance on issues from the personal to the political. Essays include, “Get Beyond Stereotypes,” “Learn the Facts about Lesbian and Gay Families,” “Cherish the Diversity of the Human Family,” “Stop Hate Before It Kills,” and “Keep the Faith,” among others. (Inner Ocean Publishing)
The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities is an anthology of original essays, poems, and true stories written by young adults in their teens and early 20s. The book chronicles emerging sexuality and identity in insightful ways, with an emphasis on giving voice to authentic identity. Co-editors David Levithan and Billy Merrell have selected a comprehensive and complex group of real-life stories about coming out, falling in and out of love, mistaken identities, families and friends, confronting homophobia, and more. While many of the stories share feelings of isolation, others delve into empowerment, awareness, and involvement in the community. These personal stories are an invaluable collection for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth. As coeditor Levithan notes in his introduction, “One way to effect change is to share truths. To tell our stories.” (Knopf)
Out In The Silence – Out in the Silence is a documentary that captures the remarkable chain of events that unfold when the announcement of filmmaker Joe Wilson’s wedding to another man ignites a firestorm of controversy in his small Pennsylvania hometown. Drawn back by a plea for help from the mother of a gay teen being tormented at school, Wilson’s journey dramatically illustrates the universal challenges of being an outsider in a conservative environment and the transformation that is possible when those who have long been constrained by a traditional code of silence summon the courage to break it.