Tony Enos is a Two Culture guy who works at the intersection of music and activism. I ran across him when I subscribed to “Indian Country Today” online, where he writes. I thought this article by him, was interesting.
This is a link to him singing and dancing with friends.
These are his “eight” misconceptions:
1. Two Spirit is not a contemporary “new-age” movement.
2. We have proof of Two Spirit individuals in historical photos.
3. Gay is not an interchangeable term with Two Spirit.
4. The Two Spirit Road is a road of long held traditions, prayer and responsibility.
5. Two Spirit people held significant roles and were an integral part of a tribal social structures.
6. Two Spirit Does Not Indicate Colonized Boxed Definitions of “L”, “G”, “B”, “T” or “Q”.
7. Two Spirit is a term only appropriate for Native people.
8. Two Spirit People face compounded trauma’s on top of inter-generational trauma
Enos says: “A western mindset categorizes based on standards of ‘norm’ and ‘other’ in a kyriarchal (to rule or dominate) type structure. This mindset imposes a series of boxes to fit into (you’re either gay, you’re a lesbian, etc.) rather than being comfortable with gender fluidity, Two Spirit acknowledges the continuum of gender identity and expression.”
Usually I stay at least ten feet away from opinions about what “Indians” are or should be, and the same goes for “homosexuals”. But sometimes someone asks me about these issues and I’m never quite sure what to say. There is, as Enos #8 proposes, often an element of trauma that really needs a decent answer, especially if the person is young.
What Enos is doing is calling out a potential social group of people like himself, by marking perimeters. I’ll mark mine: at my age it’s “been there/done that.” Today for me it’s a matter of engaging minds and often emotions, but these things are not just age-linked, but also generation-linked. The gay guys I knew in college in the Fifties didn’t know what they were yet. The gay kids I’ve known on the rez were a little undefined as well. WWII leathermen were not Oscar Wilde types. Nor were they anything like the portrayal in “War Party” of a “berdache” acted out by Rodney Grant, who was known — since the movie was shot here — as vigorously heterosexual in real life. Some people would contest that French word “berdache” which suggests sexworker. Some same sex relationships don’t even include physical sex.
In fact, in traditional societies there were many opportunities (maybe more than today) to form same sex partnerships, esp. among male hunting or war partners. Gilgamesh as well as many Biblical examples stand as examples of deep relationships. Greek and Roman culture included relationships something like apprenticeships or father/son partners, maybe with sex and maybe not.
This is all throat-clearing to clear the table. Enos is Cherokee, which some people consider mostly “metis” or mixed, assimilated, though not the loosely organized descendants of the Euro fur-buyers and their indigenous wives, nor the early mixes of French and British with the East Coast tribes which were often war-based either against each other or unified to resist the Euro-countries. Nor is that like the even older Spanish and Portugese mixes of Central and South American people.
What I’m saying is that there are so many opportunities and variations on the planet that there are as many kinds of “gay” as there are kinds of people, and then they are multiplied by the stages of life or the economic situation. The most deadly danger is from people who see homosexuality as a challenge to their authority or competitors in commerce.
Enos is pretty cute with his rear-pocket foxtail in place of SF bandanna code, switching it around out there in a meadow, not on the streets of Philadelphia where he lives. He’s kind of a cowboy and not much punk. Non-threatening. Not about the F-word. No mention of AIDS. Nice little group of friends.
But there is an element of activism that hasn’t been around for a long time. Maybe it was AIDS that put people in the streets, demonstrating, being identified publicly, writing books, making speeches. Much of that was enraged, desperate, aware of the sometimes lethal consequences of being known. If you're marked to die, what matters? But when you get as far out as Marilyn Manson, where you gonna go next? Now kids use the F-word all the time, as though they were veteran Marines. One wonders if anything shocks them. The truth is that they’re as full of stereotypes and goofy assumptions as anyone else — just different things.
Demographics — age, “gender”, education, ethnicity, etc. — have become boxes, says Enos. What's probably worse is that they’ve become marketing categories so that targeting customers and voters is based on the formulas and they are hard-edged — meaning that the brand-creators don’t like crossovers. Techies and their damned design algorithms are even worse. Apps are boxes and the people who compose them don’t get out much.
Stereotypes are based on expectations and customs, and accommodations conform to them. The “soft” ones aren’t much trouble and are sometimes funny, just confusing. The hard ones will put people in prison and hang a sign on their backs that permits deadly abuse. The lesson will be that the ultimate orgasm is death, maybe as much for the killer as for the victim.
Here’s another non-threatening video from “Indian Country” media, this one a hoop-dancer, evidently “het” at this point and attractive to blondes with cars. Just included for discussion. This is Nakota LaRance. (French surname)
Young R.C. Gorman
And here’s R.C. Gorman, in youth almost unbearably sexy even with his shirt on, and in old age a majestic artist famous for his portrayal of women. Liz Taylor loved him.
Mature R.C. Gorman
Queens, if you like, but a specific interpretation with infinite variations. Indisputably indigenous and identifiably Navajo, in a way no one had ever portrayed Indians before. The lesson is that being deeply unique will make you universal.