All was not Love and Light for the Native American Two-Spirit, according to Jim Elledge, in his anthology Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Myths: From the Arapaho to the Zuni (Peter Lang Publishing, 2002). Native Americans could be as conflicted as we over Queer People, and a distressing number of stories reflect violence against LGBT Two-Spirits. For instance, in the Assiniboine story “Lesbian Love” (1909), a man lived with his wife and sister: “The woman wished to have intercourse with the girl.” “While her husband was hunting, she eloped with her sister-in-law.” Finding the two of them gone when he returned, the man went to look for them. He found them in a camp, his sister nursing their child. Having been born of an “unnatural ” love, the child had no bones in its body, and was all floppy and continually crying. The man approached the two women, and demanded to know, “Which of you has seduced the other?”
His sister cried that, “Your wife persuaded me to elope with her.” The man killed the abominable child and told the women to accompany him home. After a distance, he bade his sister to go ahead. He pulled out his knife and killed his “wicked wife.” He severed her limbs from her body, and although the “slain woman had many relatives, no one cared to avenge her death.”
The idea that grotesque children resulted from Queer Love was widespread. In the 1907 Fox story of “Two Maidens Who Played the Harlot With Each Other” (the title alone tells you all that you need to know about this tale): “Once a long time ago,” there were two young men who were interested in two young women. But these two women were so aloof, they would not even speak to the two young men, who began to suspect “something was wrong with them.” One day, when the women went to gather bark from the trees, the two men stole after them, creeping out of hiding to spy upon them. “When they drew nigh, behold, the maidens were then in the act of taking off their clothes! The first to disrobe flung herself down on the ground and lay there. ‘Pray, what are these (girls) going to do?’ was the feeling in the hearts of (the youths). And to their amazement, the girls began to lie with each other.”
As shocked an exposure to Same-Sex love as one might hope ever to encounter. The two young men ran up to the two young women; the one who had been lying on top fell back- her “clitoris was standing out and had a queer shape, it was like a turtle’s penis.” The maids pleaded with the youths not to tell on them, explaining that they did not act under their own will; “we have done it under the influence of some unknown being.”
In time, one of the young ladies came with child, which was (“strange to relate”) born like a “soft-shell turtle”- another example of the Native American belief that unnatural babies came from “unnatural” unions.
Then there is the 1906 Pawnee tale of “The Hermaphrodite.” Once there lived in a village a young man who, despite being a “fine-looking” youth, “never cared anything for women.” One night, the youth dreamed of Spider-Woman, “sitting with her legs spread out and a spring of water was coming out from between her legs.” She told the young man that she was turning him into a woman. The youth felt sick, and had medicine-men come to him. One confirmed that Spider-Woman was turning him into a woman, and told the young man’s family that they would have to gather the green moss from the bottom of a stream, for the medicine-man to cure him. Alas, no moss was to be found, so it was decided that Spider-Woman did not want the youth cured. The young man was so ashamed, “he committed suicide rather than be half woman and half man.”
An extreme form of anti-Gay bullying might be seen in the Western Mono story of “The Coyote Called ‘Another One’.” (1942) There were three coyotes, and “another one,” who wished “that he might be a woman, for he wanted to cohabit with one” of the coyote brothers. That night, “Another One” changed himself into a woman, and approached the three coyotes. They recognized him as “Another One,” and skinned him alive. While they laughed themselves sick at the sight of him, “Another One cried at every twig that touched him, for being nothing but raw flesh, he was bleeding all over.”
Let us not forget how “Falcon Captures the Cannibal Berdache” (Yokut, 1940): “Berdache [a somewhat derogatory word denoting a debased 'Two-Spirit'] was a cannibal. He went around tying men up and cooking them.” Talk about your rabidly anti-Berdache stereotyping: this is a Berdache John Wayne Gacy, combined with a Berdache Jeffrey Dahmer.
However, few stories, are equal to the Sioux tale of “The Sioux Woman Who Acted Like a Man.” Powerful in its brevity and concision, I offer it (quoted verbatim) beyond the jump, as an example of how ideas of honor and propriety may differ from culture to culture.
The Sioux Woman Who Acted Like a Man (1903)
Among the Sioux, there was a woman whose parents were good and kept her dressed finely, but she wanted to dress as a man. Her father was displeased at her immodesty.
A war party started against the Pawnee, and she went along, wearing men’s clothing. She struck many enemies, was unwounded, and achieved much honor. After the return of the party, the sundance was made.
The woman said: “I know you do not like my conduct. You are ashamed of me. I cannot be killed by the enemy in war, but anyone in the tribe can kill me. Let some man kill me.”
Then her father dressed her as a man.
The woman mounted a good horse, stood in front of her father’s tent, closed her eyes, and said, “I am ready.”
Then the man who had been selected shot her.