What's the problem with 'Berdache'? 

While 'berdache' is in common use among white gays, Native Americans find the term offensive as it comes ultimately from the Arabic where it means roughly, 'male prostitute'. We do not appreciate having our sacred people referred to in this way. The consensus of opinion is that 'berdache' should not be used and the tribal name should be used when known. There is no consensus of opinion on a generic term, it is safest to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Native Americans. However, some use the term GAI (Gay American Indian) or Two Spirit. 

Two Spirit is a contested term with no universal agreement of meaning. Two Spirit has multiple meanings 

  • a perjorative term for a person of mixed Native and non-Native blood;
  • ghost-haunted--a powerful concept in many Native cultures, but having nothing to do with gender or sexuality;
  • gay and lesbian, but NOT transgendered
  • transgendered, but NOT gay, lesbian, or bisexual
  • gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered
  • Pan Indian queer but NOT traditionalist
  • Traditionalist, but NOT Pan Indian
  • Attendees of the Two Spirit gathering...
Welcome to the landmines of Native politics :{) 

Gary Bowen 
Coordinator-in-chief, The American Boyz 
Chair, True Spirit Conference 98 
aka Beau Lame Eagle