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by Diane Pavlat

June is Pride Month

During June, Pride Month celebrates the 2SLGBTQ+ community's achievements and advocates for equal rights and community acceptance. It’s also a time to remember a people known as “Two-Spirits,” who were once revered before colonization and considered gifted by the Creator.

“Colonization forced us to accept values and beliefs that did not fit within our own customs and traditions,” said CEO Lori Jump, StrongHearts Native Helpline. “Culture is very important to the health and well-being of our people, and that is why it is important to remember that as this nation’s first people, we look to the past to find that part of history that helps us to define who we were and still are today.”

The Two-Spirited People

It was during an Indigenous lesbian and gay gathering in Winnipeg in 1990 that the term “Two-Spirit'' was used to distinguish Native LGBTQ+ peoples from non-Native LGTBQ+ peoples. It is a name that ties Two-Spirit to our cultural beliefs and spirituality. In many ways, the 2S and LGBTQ+ people share the same life experience: sometimes accepted, shunned, or even ignored.

According to the Indian Health Service, “Native American two-spirit people were male, female, and sometimes intersexed individuals who combined activities of both men and women unique to their status as two-spirit people.” For example, women may have had to be the hunter and the gatherer, or men the homemakers. These were skill sets tied to their natural inclination.

Two-Spirit people may be straight, gay, bi-sexual or asexual, male, female, transgender female, transgender male, non-binary, queer, or plus (something else). Two-Spirit embodies an Indigenous worldview of gender, including any individual who may express or present as having both male and female qualities.

“The biggest takeaway from the concept of our Two-Spirit relatives is that alternative lifestyles were accepted as a matter of course; they were never frowned upon,” Jump explained, adding that Indigenous people understood that a birth didn’t have predetermined assignments and there was a purpose and a need for all walks of life.

“If only we could see through the eyes of our ancestors,” Jump concluded. “We might see how acceptance is key to our health and wellbeing.”

Bullying and Suicidal Risk Factors

Sadly, a lack of awareness, education, and an understanding of 2SLGBTQ+ people often leads to bullying, discrimination, and harassment, which can contribute to a decline in mental health and increase the risk of suicide.

Bullying and Discrimination: Two-Spirit individuals often face bullying, discrimination, and harassment based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. This can occur in various settings such as schools, workplaces, communities, and even within families.
Impact on Mental Health: Persistent bullying and discrimination can have serious negative effects on the mental health of Two-Spirit individuals who experience these forms of mistreatment. It can lead to a higher risk of developing depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and other mental health issues.
Suicide Risk: Two-Spirit youth, in particular, are at a significantly higher risk of suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and completed suicides. This is due to persistent bullying and discrimination, which can exacerbate feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and worthlessness.
Lack of Support: Two-Spirit individuals who experience bullying and discrimination may also face challenges in accessing supportive resources and networks. Fear of rejection or further mistreatment can lead to social withdrawal and reluctance to seek help.
Intersectional Factors: The impact of bullying and discrimination can be compounded by intersecting factors such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, and cultural background.

Acceptance, Protection and Justice

It is essential to understand that addressing bullying and discrimination against the 2SLGBTQ+ requires a multifaceted approach involving education, raising awareness, supportive environments, and increased access to services. Also, creating inclusive and affirming spaces where individuals feel safe, valued, and supported is crucial to the health and well-being of future generations.

StrongHearts Native helpline stands with Two-Spirit people and the LGBTQ+ community and recognizes the need for acceptance, equal protection, social and racial justice, and reconciliation across the nation. For those who may be experiencing domestic and/or sexual violence, StrongHearts can help by providing culturally appropriate support and advocacy for Native Americans and Alaska Natives.

StrongHearts Native Helpline serves all individuals who reach out for their services regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or any other factor protected by local, state, or federal law. Call or text 1-844-762-8483 or chat online at

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