Berdache is generally a male who takes on the roles of women and also dresses as a woman. Berdache also refers to a transvestite or a person given to transvestitism. 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 instead of berdache or two spirits to describe these women. This berdache or two spirits status was found in several North American First Nation's cultures and is interpreted as a way of integrating members with deviant behavior into cohesive, small societies. "Two Spirit" is not interchangeable with "LGBT Native American" or "Gay Indian."
Transvestitism is the practice of wearing or desire to wear the clothes of the opposite sex for sexual stimulus. The term Two Spirits is now preferred instead of Berdache to refer to a male who takes on the roles of women, dresses as a woman and engages in sexual intimacy with men. 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.
"Two Spirit" was intended to carry on the traditional meanings of the terms in Indigenous languages for the culturally-specific ceremonial roles recognized by the Elders of the two-spirit's ceremonial community. The term two-spirit was created in 1990 at the Indigenous lesbian and gay international gathering in Winnipeg, and "specifically chosen to distinguish and distance Native American/First Nations people from non-Native peoples."- de Vries, Kylan Mattias. "Berdache (Two-Spirit)". In O'Brien, Jodi (ed.). Encyclopedia of gender and society.
American Indian and Alaskan Native lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and two-spirited individuals are a drastically understudied and underserved group, at risk for multiple health and mental health problems. More recently, the term Berdache or two spirits, which has traditional roots, has been preferred instead of transvestitism. Transsexual is an individual who has physically crossed the boundary between the sexes and thus becomes the other sex.
Health Survey of Two-Spirited Native Americans - WALTERS, KARINA L. Abstract: First, we will conduct structured survey interviews with 400 two spirits drawn from six sites across the U.S. 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 research 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.
TWO TAKES ON TWO SPIRITS | RECORDING THE HISTORY OF MULTIPLE GENDERS IN NATIVE NORTH AMERICA. - GEORGE CATLIN. Many explorers, missionaries, traders, soldiers and artists reported sightings of third or fourth gender (Berdache, Two Spirit) tribal members on their travels through the American West and of the perceived acceptance they observed in their clans. That said, some were disdainful of the practice of assuming opposite gender characteristics, including artist, showman and entrepreneur George Catlin best known for his international traveling Indian Gallery which included over 500 paintings, drawings and artifacts.