therapy and surgery. Unfortunately, transgender people suffer from a higher proportion of mental health diseases, as well.
In addition, they experience barriers to accessing health care and healthde-
termining resources, such as education, employment and housing (3). These barriers are largely attributable to legal, economic and social deprivation, marginalization, stigmatization, and discrimination, including non-recognition of a gender identity that is different from the sex assigned at birth (Thomas, Pega, Khosla, Verster, Hana, & Say).
Because transgender people have been stigmatized for far too long, they
often cannot access adequate medical care that they so desperately need. While transgender identities have been around for many years, it has just recently become a topic for open discussion in America. Gender equality
advocates are speaking up for their loved ones and themselves. We as a
population have been striving for equality of all sorts. Now it is time to speak about, and recognize, topics that may make us uncomfortable. Equality has at all times been an uphill fight, but it is a fight worth being had.
In the Native American culture, there exist persons known by the widely
accepted term two spirit (Pullin, para 4). This term replaced the Anthropological term berdache, which means “kept boy,” as it held many negative
connotations. The two spirit peoples take on the dress, role, mannerisms, and status of the opposite sex. These terms do not refer to one’s sexual
interests; they are far more spiritual, sacred, and ceremonial. The Elders of the Two Spirit’s ceremonial community officially recognize these persons.
Not all tribes have defined gender roles, but those that do typically have at least four: feminine woman, masculine woman, masculine man, and femi-
nine man. It is also important to note that a gay native is not automatically a
two spirit person. Prior to 1990, many tribes had their own terms for persons
who expressed different gender identities. For example, the Navajo used the
term nadleeh, which translates to “the changing one”; the Zuni had ihaman; the Lakota had the terms lila witkowin and winkte; and the Plains Cree had a’yahkwêw. “At least 165 tribal gender traditions existed in North America histori-
cally, when many of our Native cultures accepted and respected individuals encompassing a balance of both feminine and masculine qualities” (Pullin,
para. 8) The variety of terms which were available throughout the culture is a great representation of how widely accepted these persons were. As we have learned in class, when a culture has multiple synonyms for a word, it implies the significance of the concept.
In the Samoan culture, there exists persons known by the term Fa’afafine.
(Kluger, para. 3) These persons identify as a third gender. Fa’afafine is com-
prised of the words Fa’afa (which means “in the manner of”), and fine (which
means “woman”). The Fa’afafine are genetically male at birth, and exemplify both masculine and feminine gender traits. These persons are integral to
Samoan culture. While some choose for themselves, others are chosen to
be raised as Fa’afafine. This will typically happen if there is an abundance of males in the family, and the females require more assistance. 38 >
The Macomb Community College journal of student words and images.