Today I’ll be reading some more of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Myths from the Arapaho to the Zuni: An Anthology, edited by Jim Elledge. I’ve been reading this book for class — namely, so I could find a myth to turn into a skit that would be performed in order to teach our classmates about trans* issues from a Native perspective (my class is a 400-level First Nations Studies course in community development). I’ve found that myth now, and so the other thing I’ll be doing today is writing the skit and putting together a props list.
However, I’m still reading the book. Some of the myths are really interesting, some are funny, some are WTF — like most myths from most cultures. The one thing they all have in common, however, is they show that the origins of American and Canadian literature were most definitely not heteronormative and cissexist — knowledge of queer and trans identities has existed in North America as long as Native cultures have. This book is not even a complete anthology — it is a selection of some of the myths, notably ones where Two-Spirit characters are more prominent then those where they have more secondary or tertiary roles.
In fact, in many of the myths, Two-Spirit characters were responsible for much of why the world is the way it is. They create cultural traditions, they decide how the animals will be, they create the earth itself…. They were not people of little importance; they were vital parts of community and cosmology.
Interesting how easily that narrative can get turned around. From the original literature of this continent acknowledging and even featuring prominently trans and queer individuals to us fighting for our right to live in peace, let alone have the same basic rights as cis and het people do.
Another example of how colonialism is still alive and well in these countries. We’ve come a long way, but it’s not even a fraction of an inch of the distance we still need to travel. Let’s not forget that.