Sociology Index

BERDACHE OR TWO SPIRITS

Transvestitism, Transsexual, Amazon

Berdache is generally a male who takes on the roles of women and who may also dress as a woman and engage in sexual intimacy with men. Berdache also refers to a transvestite or a person given to transvestitism. Transvestitism is the practice of wearing or desire to wear the clothes of the opposite sex, esp. as a sexual stimulus.

More recently, the term ‘Two Spirits’, which has traditional roots, has been preferred. This status was found in several North American First Nation's cultures and is interpreted as a way of integrating deviant members into cohesive, small societies.

While the term berdache is sometimes used to refer to women who take on male roles there do not appear to have been female berdache in North America and authors tend to prefer the term ‘amazon’ to describe these women.

The terms berdache or two spirits and amazon are important parts of the anthropology of gender and sexuality and reveal the social or cultural construction of gender.

American Indian and Alaskan Native lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and two-spirited individuals (two spirits) are a drastically understudied and underserved group, at risk for multiple health and mental health problems. Building upon solid preliminary data, it proposes three innovative and significant aims.

First, we will conduct structured survey interviews with 400 two spirits drawn from six sites across the U.S. - Abstract - Health Survey of Two-Spirited Native Americans - WALTERS, KARINA L.

The second aim is to test the, feasibility of an innovative non-probability sampling methodology that combines targeted, partial network, and respondent-driven sampling procedures in order to approximate a representative national sample of two spirits.

Our third and final aim is to conduct a qualitative study involving 12 focus groups and 60 key informant interviews in order to identify emergent themes regarding stressors and coping strategies specific to two spirits. We aim to develop the research infrastructure at the six community agencies comprising our participant recruitment sites in order to facilitate future goals of designing and evaluating interventions to address the urgent needs of two spirits.