Go to Navigation Menu
 About Us  Donate 

Two Spirit People (1991)


"Two Spirited People" is classic 20-minute film from 1991 by Michel Beauchemin, Lori Levy & Gretchen Vogel available on YouTube. It features Terry Tafoya (Taos Pueblo), Paula Gunn Allen (Laguna Pueblo, Sioux), Randy Burns (Northern Paiute), Clyde Hall (Shoshonne, Bannock), Will Roscoe (historian), Janice Gould (Maiou).

The film also includes clips from the 1970 film, Little Big Man, with Dustin Hoffman, who encounters a hwame (Mohave Two Spirit term) named Little Horse.

Showing it's historical context, the film references "berdache" regularly as an umbrella term, while also clearly acknowledging the variety of tribal language and meaning. The term "Two Spirit" was coined in 1990, but was still a new term in 1991 as this film as produced.

The film makes a clear distinction from early on between sexual roles and gender roles, exploring the way gender roles inform the Two Spirit person's relationship with their community.

Paula Gunn Allen explores the mixture of acceptance in some places and rejection in others.

I know people who've been banished from the tribe for life and have been declared dead... It's pretty horrifying in a lot of respects because we are still going through all of the agonies of colonization. The remnants of a colonial mind that has been imposed on us.

Terry Tafoya's closing riff takes on authenticity in the context of societal pressure to conform, is helpful.

But if you are different, because you are ethnically different and physically different... then you can't follow the script. That you're constantly having to think and ad lib, trying to figure out what your place is and how you relate to things in a different way. It teaches you a completely different set of skills of thinking about things. I think that's the way it is in terms of being Two Spirited as well. To figure out not what's automatic, but what's most appropriate for you -- what feels best both in terms of your gender as well as your sexuality.


On the Move

Excitement building for the Black Trans Prayer Book creative retreat in 2019. Get your Black Trans Prayer Book t-shirt and join the

Our executive director, Rev Louis Mitchell, reflects on World AIDS Day: Memories, Joy, and Pain.

Transfaith board member, Yadi Martinez, was interviewed on Wednesday about how gendered expectations impact young people

In the News

Upasika tree (aka Cleis Abeni) explains Dharma Day while remembering the blessed life of a young Buddhist named Alphy who was killed in 1999.

Mariette Pathy Allen's 2017 photobook highlights the lived experiences of T/GNC spirit mediums in Thailand and Burma

"It really felt like [the Episcopal Church] had our back!" TransEpiscopal marks a historic year at the 2018 General Convention of the Episcopal Church.