I wanted to take a minute to address PolicyMic's recent article on diversity in gender identity, '27 Powerful Portraits Challenging the Definition of What It Means to Be LGBT', which highlighted San Francisco-based photographer Sarah Deragon’s The Identity Project.
I will be blunt. This is racist. Definitively and absolutely. The term ‘three spirit’ is an appropriative bastardization of Native Two-Spirit identities, roles which have very specific meaning that cannot be preserved outside of that cultural context. Let me repeat this: white people cannot be Two-Spirit because this is an identity that is intimately tied with the individual’s role in a specific tribe.
The solution to this is not to create a direct and bastardized derivation. This is still racist. To attempt to assume either Two-Spirit, or this racist perversion, is is racist and culturally appropriative. Similarly, ‘third gender’ as an identifying term is available only to IaoPoC (Indigenous and/or People of Color) whose cultures have non-binary identities for reclamation. This particular term has been used oppressively by Westerners to marginalize the people of these cultures. It is for them alone to reclaim and use, if they so choose.
We have already spoken on cultural appropriation and it’s harmful effects before. This is not up for debate. As we promote further diversity and inclusion, this needs to be addressed in all communities: fetishization of Natives and their cultures, as perpetuated by white supremacy and popular American culture, cannot be allowed to continue.
Stand with us in respect and solidarity.