Being Two Spirits

[Two Spirits:  Across Native American traditions, this term has various nuances; in general, it refers to persons who are born as one gender, but who express or manifest the energy and or attributes of both sexes.  In some traditions, these persons were revered as spiritual leaders or shamans.    Androgynous: (Webster’s):  2).  having both masculine and feminine characteristics.  3). having an ambiguous sexual identity. 4) neither clearly masculine nor clearly feminine in appearance.]

I suppose the first thing you [my new-found readers] should know about me is that I am still more than a little surprised I am here in the first place. I spent most of my life thinking that the experiences, internal emotions and thought processes about those events, and the resulting impacts on my development were really nothing special–merely the stuff of which an individual human being is made. Given that it is true for all of us that we are the continuously forming products of a marvelous mixture of predispositions, experiences and our interpretations of them, it seemed self-indulgent and silly to think that my particular thoughts and conclusions about myself and the world in which I walk would be of any real interest or value to others. It was all, simply, part of the process of becoming and of learning to move in the world we are given. Clearly, some things happened that brought me to a different perspective and, ultimately, to this place.

To be merely demographic and descriptive, I am a 46-year-old Lesbian living, again, in the Southern state that has, off and on, been my home most of my life. I was born in Indiana. I have lived in Illinois, New Jersey, Florida and Philadelphia–which is where I met my [now] partner, Scintillectual, some 26-odd years ago. I was primarily educated in the fine arts, then went back to college to acquire a BA in Psychology and the largest minor in English Literature ever seen without a second major. I went on to train as a mental health/substance abuse counselor and spent 15 years as a fairly successful behavioral health professional. Despite the initial love of my chosen field, relative professional success, good relationships with my family and friends, and a fair amount of personal growth and development, I increasingly felt that something was missing in my life–that I had strayed from things I desired for myself. In 2005, I separated from my partner of almost ten years, left the church I had been attending, made changes in my circle of friends, and began to make plans to change careers and leave my chosen profession. As the old church mystics would say, I went into the desert.

The things I found there [largely, a new but familiar sense of self], learned there and suffered there have all brought me to this place. It has been–and continues to be–a difficult and rewarding journey. One of the most significant outcomes thus far has been the reunion with my long-time friend and off-and-on lover, Scintillectual. She and our constant, but often interrupted connection are a large part of my history…as well as my present. It is my hope we will get it right this time and spend the rest of our interesting and evolving lives together. Her role in my willingness to accept that I might have something to say and that people might want to read what I say is no small thing. And, my brother’s role in this new venture is not small either. As I mused about the hope that there ought to be some purpose, some value other than my own growth, to all the things I have experienced and survived, my brother stated with certainty: clearly, there is; perhaps you should write a book. Perhaps, this is the testing ground for that kind of venture.

In any case, my history is not unlike most in many ways; but also very different from most in other ways. I was, for example, given the gift of being an accidental and reluctant gender-fluid person who grew into a kind of gender-fuck warrior–one with more than a little bit of attitude. From the time I was six or seven years old, my appearance was often ambiguous. I grew up with and faced the anger and contempt of others. I got my ass kicked more than once and learned how to kick ass or avoid the issue whenever I could. I lived with “is that a boy or a girl?” And I still do. This condition in my life was made worse by the times in which I was growing up and a few other distinct circumstances. Not the least of these was the fact that, by the age of five or six, I knew I liked girls in a way that did not seem the norm for other girls. As a true Tomboy in an androgynous body, I also found myself dealing with being Butch from an early age.

In addition, I was born with an ocular abnormality known as Dwayne’s Syndrome: I am missing a nerve that controls motion to the left in my left eye. This results in my seeing the world in unusual ways and having to look very intently at things in order to properly see them. My vision is fine. But, at certain angles, I see two images–one of which is vague and fuzzy; I have to hold my head a certain way and look attentively at things to correct the problem. This led to my becoming a highly adaptive person at a very early age. It led as well to a deeper visual awareness. It also created a kind of intensity about me, about the way I looked at people and the things around me. And, it made people uncomfortable. Often, it still does. I lived with awful, but creative name-calling. I lived with the violence of others born from their own hatefulness toward anything or anyone different from them. For years, everything about my appearance produced unpleasant behavior from others. It was a hard way to move in the world. I learned how to hold my head to make others comfortable. I learned how to push my gender ambiguity or how to hide it.

Add to all of this the normal stuff of growing up such as learning differently [we now know what that stuff is about], being geeky, moving every few years, and ending up in the South where being different is…well…more different…and you have a formula for some truly formative years and not so minor adjustments. Needless to say, as I aged, the issues became–at times–more complex. And, there was always something to be endured–something to be learned and processed.

This is still the case. If you continue to visit here, you will find the topics relate to these issues in the past and the present. There will be, I hope, a healthy, positive shaping of the future as well. The impact of the past on recent issues such as changing careers in my 40s, a growing sense of spiritual identity, and the day-to-day experiences of a Southern Butch, will show up here as well. What you will not find is bitterness, self-pity, or self-indulgent emoting. These things are not in my nature. You will find, I hope, humor and a willingness to ask questions and seek growth and learning. An overall appreciation of life and a joy for what it brings will pop up even in the hardship. There will be thoughts on Butchness, daily life, sex and sexuality, spiritual becoming, and…poetry. Always, poetry and, I hope, some worthy prose.

In a nutshell: everything in my life [including all of my physical predispositions] has served to teach me that there are many worlds and that they overlap and influence each other. In various ways, we all know this. This is no big revelation. There is the world of our work. Our home world. The world of our circle of friends. The world we share with our lover. There are many. And, I have come to learn that there are many ways that we walk in these worlds. I have also come to believe that Native Peoples and my Celtic ancestors were right. There are other worlds overlaying this world. And, there are places where the veil is thin–very thin, indeed. I used to be uncomfortable with all of this. At times, I feared the worlds I walked in and those I had yet to trod. But over time, I have come to embrace them, to seek them out, and to try to learn to walk in them with some grace, to marvel at them and appreciate the journey. I have, further, come to believe–through my own learning to see–that if you look closely, if you are still and hold yourself with a willingness, you can see the thin places. There are gifts there. There are things to be learned about ourselves and the world we are seeing. There is beauty in those places. There are discoveries. Friends. Unexpected turns. Surprises. There is ugliness too. But, always there are things to be gained if we are willing to look, too fully see and be seen.

So, given that I was accidentally provided countless opportunities for doing so, I am learning to walk between worlds. I hope you will walk with me.

10 Comments

  1. Femme Fairy Godmother said,

    Did you know that The Ex and I lived on an Ojibwe rez for a year? She was the Behavioral Health adminstrator and I was a mama. Anyway, I learned a lot. One thing that I learned is that “two-spirited” does not actually mean lesbian. It means someone who is equally male and female. So, given that definition, The Ex is Two-Spirited, but I am not. I am so a lesbian, though a femme lesbian. Of course, I say this not to criticize your choice of words, simply to give you another perspective. I’m so glad to see your foray into blogging, sweet friend. I am looking forward to getting to know the woman who has earned my Diana’s heart.

    • androgynonamous said,

      Thanks for this. I am actually aware of the definition and intended it to refer to the androgyny issue. Perhaps this is not clear and I appreciate the heads up!!! Your support and input mean a lot.
      By the way: my grandparents lived in Arizona for years and we went every year to see them. My grandmother intorduced me to her Hopi, Navajo and Apache friends. I had a strong Native influence in my growing up. It shaped my belief systems and my life in wonderful ways. I did not realize you lived on the rez. Looking forward to hearing more about that.

  2. Blazer said,

    Looking forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks in advance for sharing.

  3. Scintillectual said,

    I’m just so damn proud of you, honey (not to mention incredibly turned on at the amount of intellect on display here)! I kind of feel as if you’ve just had a baby and I got to help push! 🙂 xoxo

    • androgynonamous said,

      Glad to hear this, sugar…Your brain turns me on too! Feels like we have it all: good looks, great chemistry and brains to boot! You know I would not be here had you not helped me find this in myself. I’m grateful.

  4. sweetspiced said,

    Welcome to the blog world. You have a unique voice and I’m sure many stories to tell. I’ll be looking forward to hearing them.

    Your obviously very wise – you listened to Scintillectual!

    • androgynonamous said,

      Thanks for the support. I hope to hear more from you. I, too, think it is wise to listen to Scintillectual. She’s a very smart woman…wise too. So, I listen. And, like a good Butch, I tend to do what I am told…*wink*!!!

  5. PumaJ said,

    I appreciate your use of Two-Spirit as a term to describe your gender. In the past I’ve been in relationships with a Butch who Native American and another who is Native Alaskan. They both ID’d as Two-Spirit.

    The Butch who was Native American (was, because she passed away 14 yrs. ago), and I were together as lovers in the very early 90’s. It was during this time that the term Two-Spirit was being claimed by Native American lesbians, gays, Trans and Queer people to ID themselves as LGBTQ, etc. There was much debate at the time over which of the many terms historically used by various Tribes would most suit the modern understanding of LGBTQ. Two-Spirit is what was finally chosen, for it seemed to be the most common meaning or understanding of all of the various terms, or so I was led to understand.

    Not too long ago, my ex of many years, who is Tsimshian, explained why I as a High Femme lesbian is also considered to be a Two-Spirit person. First, she explained that the term wasn’t only used in the community of Native American/Native Alaskan Queer folk as a term to replace Butch, but it is used by all the Queers. Then she made this observation regarding Femme lesbians: “You are not feminine like a straight woman is feminine because underneath a Femme’s femaleness is her female masculinity, because of that, Femmes walk in the world with an inherent power not seen in straight women. With you in particular, the masculine becomes apparent by the way in which you express your intellect, for it comes across as very masculine and not feminine at all. Yet, you clothe it in a High Femme glam package so at first glance you are seen as a very feminine woman, your look matching your physical gender. Then you begin to speak and the feminine disappears. I have seen how many in the straight world were surprised and discomfited by your female masculinity. I saw how they tried to control it, squash it and invalidate it because it doesn’t match what is expected of your physical gender. It is the opposite of a Butch who at first glance may be seen as a man and then is recognized perhaps as being in female form. Both reflect the Two-Spirit nature.”

    • androgynonamous said,

      Thank you very much for your input and for being here. I appreciate both your experience and your thoughts on this. I hope you will be coming back…I am, finally.

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