by Kai Minosh
From the historical classics of Maurice Kenny to new voices like Gwen Benaway, two-spirit people have long been writing down their experiences and interests. Even before the phrase “two-spirit” was ever thought of, LGBTQ Native Americans like Chrystos and Beth Brant were making their mark on North American literature. Today, there are more two-spirit writers than ever sharing their thoughts and artistry with the world. Here are a few authors whose work is more than worth checking out.
A poet, memoirist, and professor, Miranda doesn’t pull punches in her writing. Her book Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir stretches from the history of California Indian missions (keep an eye out for the “historically accurate grade school mission project”) to her own family history, where her self-awareness and insight shine bright. She also has published several highly regarded books of poetry, such as The Zen of La Llorona, and is one of the editors of the two-spirit literature collection Sovereign Erotics.
One of Canada’s most celebrated authors and playwrights, Highway mixes humor with difficult subjects in his work ranging from Kiss of the Fur Queen, a coming-of-age novel that follows two Cree boys through residential school to adulthood, to The Rez Sisters, which is full of laughter as well as revelations about life. His essays have also featured in the collections Me Funny and Me Sexy, where he argues that his native language, Cree, is both the funniest and sexiest of all languages.
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A professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Oregon State University, Driskill is one of the foremost academics writing on two-spirit issues. Hir most recent book, Asegi Stories, looks at two-spirit Cherokee histories and blazes a path for further tribally-specific two-spirit critiques. S/he has also published a book of poetry, Walking with Ghosts: Poems, and is one of the editors of Queer Indigenous Studies and its accompaniment, Sovereign Erotics.
Describing herself as a “two-spirit nokomis, mom, writer and community worker,” Proulx-Turner writes poetry and nonfiction that map intimate relational ties between people. Her book she walks for days inside a thousand eyes (a two spirit story) brings to the forefront the stories of two-spirit women from history on a visceral, personal level. She has also written a memoir, Where the Rivers Join, and is the editor of Beverly Little Thunder’s memoir, One Bead at a Time.
Best known for her lesbian vampire novel The Gilda Stories, Gomez has also written a collection of short fiction, a collection of personal and political essays, and several plays. Her works explore the lives of queer people of color, especially Black and Indigenous women, with great sensitivity and nuance, and often with an element of speculative fiction.
One of the most well-known two-spirit poets, Chrystos was first featured in the groundbreaking collection This Bridge Called My Back. Her poetry, published in works such as Not Vanishing, Dream On, and In Her I Am, ranges from piercing critiques of white saviors to tender descriptions of loving women. In her poetry and activism, she aims to challenge the idea of ‘the single issue.’
Though he does not use the identity “two-spirit” for himself, Scofield’s writing is deeply entrenched in his experiences as an urban gay indigenous man. His work, including poetry volumes like Love Medicine and One Song as well as an autobiography called Thunder Through My Veins, intertwines prairie imagery, Métis-Cree language, and gorgeous sensuality and sexuality in a powerful statement of queer Native life.
It is well worth listening to the audio recordings of Webber’s first work, Blues Divine, to hear her smooth, and yes, bluesy, delivery. Described as an “ancestral mixtape,” the poetry moves seamlessly through music and imagery, drawing upon Webber’s Alaska Native and African-American parentage as well as pre-Stonewall queer life. Her most recent project, Noirish Lesbiana, explores the history of queer Seattle in a multimedia installation.
Daniel Heath Justice
A Cherokee currently working as a professor at the University of British Columbia, he is another of the editors of the two-spirit literature collection Sovereign Erotics. His writing varies from scholarly works such as Our Fire Survives the Storm, which traces Cherokee literary history, to Badger, a natural history of the badger, to the The Way of Thorn and Thunder, an epic series blending high fantasy with themes of gender and indigeneity.
Most well-known for his book of literary criticism, Red on Red: Native American Literary Separatism, Womack is a professor of English at Emory College. In his work, he argues for a nationalist approach to indigenous literature and for the creation of tribally-specific literary criticism. His novel, Drowning in Fire, follows the coming-of-age story of a young gay Muskogee boy, making it one of the relatively few novels with a queer Native protagonist.
These are just ten of the many two-spirit and LGBTQ Native American people who are publishing today. I hope you will take this opportunity to look at a few of them, and keep your eyes open for the many others!
Want more from Kai? Read their work in BGD’s newest collection, The Solidarity Struggle: How People of Color Succeed and Fail At Showing Up For Each Other In the Fight For Freedom.
Kai Minosh is a Métis two-spirit living in the homelands of the Dakota people. They are a writer of fiction and nonfiction, an indigenous language advocate, and a disabled geek who is currently wrestling with the beast that is academia. In their work and their free time, Kai likes to dream about creating indigenous futures, building connections among oppressed peoples, and imagining worlds beyond this one.