Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Evolution of Women's Halloween Costumes: Lolita and other fantasies

Good Girls Go Bad, for a Day

October 19, 2006, New York Times

In her thigh-highs and ruby miniskirt, Little Red Riding Hood does not appear to be en route to her grandmother’s house. And Goldilocks, in a snug bodice and platform heels, gives the impression she has been sleeping in everyone’s bed. There is a witch wearing little more than a Laker Girl uniform, a fairy who appears to shop at Victoria’s Secret and a cowgirl with a skirt the size of a tea towel.

Anyone who has watched the evolution of women’s Halloween costumes in the last several years will not be surprised that these images — culled from the Web sites of some of the largest Halloween costume retailers — are more strip club than storybook. Or that these and other costumes of questionable taste will be barely covering thousands of women who consider them escapist, harmless fun on Halloween.

“It’s a night when even a nice girl can dress like a dominatrix and still hold her head up the next morning,” said Linda M. Scott, the author of “Fresh Lipstick: Redressing Fashion and Feminism” (Palgrave Macmillan) and a professor of marketing at the University of Oxford in England.

The trend is so pervasive it has been written about by college students in campus newspapers, and Carlos Mencia, the comedian, jokes that Halloween should now be called Dress-Like-a-Whore Day.

But the abundance of risqué costumes that will be shrink-wrapped around legions of women come Oct. 31 prompts a larger question: Why have so many girls grown up to trade in Wonder Woman costumes for little more than Wonderbras?

“Decades after the second wave of the women’s movement, you would expect more of a gender-neutral range of costumes,” said Adie Nelson, the author of “The Pink Dragon Is Female: Halloween Costumes and Gender Markers,” an analysis of 469 children’s costumes and how they reinforce traditional gender messages that was published in The Psychology of Women Quarterly in 2000.

Dr. Nelson, a professor of sociology at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, said the trend toward overtly sexualized costumes actually begins with little girls. “Heroic figures for women or considered icons of femininity are very much anchored in the femme fatale imagery,” she said, adding that those include an assortment of Disney heroines, witches, cocktail waitresses, French maids and an “interchangeable variety of beauty queens.”

While researching “Pink Dragon,” Dr. Nelson found that even costumes for little girls were gendered. Boys got to be computers while the girls were cupcakes. Today, there are bride costumes for little girls but one is hard pressed to find groom costumes for little boys. Additionally, Dr. Nelson said, the girls’ costumes are designed in ways that create the semblance of a bust where there is none. “Once they’re older women it’s just a continuation of that same gender trend,” she said.

Men’s costumes are generally goofy or grotesque ensembles with “Animal House”-inspired names like Atomic Wedgie and Chug-A-Lug Beer Can. And when they dress up as police officers, firefighters and soldiers, they actually look like people in those professions. The same costumes for women are so tight and low-cut they are better suited for popping out of a cake than outlasting an emergency.

Obviously, however, many women see nothing wrong with making Halloween less about Snickers bars and SweeTarts and more about eye candy.

Rebecca Colby, 28, a library clerk in Milwaukee, said the appeal of sexy costumes lies in escaping the workaday, ho-hum dress code.

“I’m not normally going to wear a corset to go out,” said Ms. Colby, who has masqueraded as a Gothic witch with a low-cut bodice, a minidress-wearing bumblebee, a flapper and, this year, most likely, a “vixen pirate.”

“Even though you’re in a costume when you go out to a party in a bar or something, you still want to look cute and sexy and feminine,” she said.

Indeed, many women think that showing off their bodies “is a mark of independence and security and confidence,” said Pat Gill, the interim director of the Institute of Communications Research and a professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

It is a wonder gyms do not have “get in shape for Halloween” specials.

In her book “Dilemmas of Desire: Teenage Girls Talk About Sexuality” (Harvard University Press), Deborah Tolman, the director of the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality at San Francisco State University and a professor of human sexuality studies there, found that some 30 teenage girls she studied understood being sexy as “being sexy for someone else, not for themselves,” she said.

When the girls were asked what makes them feel sexy, they had difficulty answering, Dr. Tolman said, adding that they heard the question as “What makes you look sexy?”

Many women’s costumes, with their frilly baby-doll dresses and high-heeled Mary Janes, also evoke male Lolita fantasies and reinforce the larger cultural message that younger is hotter.

“It’s not a good long-term strategy for women,” Dr. Tolman said.

But does that mean women should not use Halloween as an excuse to shed a few inhibitions?

“I think it depends on the spirit in which you’re doing it,” Dr. Tolman said. “I’m not going to go and say this is bad for all women.”

Perhaps, say some scholars, it could even be good. Donning one of the many girlish costumes that sexualize classic characters from books, including “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” “Cinderella” and “The Wizard of Oz,” can be campy, female sartorial humor, said Professor Gill. It can be a way to embrace the fictional characters women loved as children while simultaneously taking a swipe at them, she said. “The humor gives you a sense of power and confidence that just being sexy doesn’t,” she said.

Dr. Tolman added that it is possible some women are using Halloween as a “safe space,” a time to play with sexuality. By taking it over the top, she said, they “make fun of this bill of goods that’s being sold to them.”

“Hey, if we can claim Halloween as a safe space to question these images being sold to us, I think that’s a great idea,” Dr. Tolman said.

But it may be only an idea. Or, more fittingly in this case, a fantasy.

“I love to imagine that there’s some real social message, that it’s sort of the female equivalent of doing drag,” Dr. Nelson said. “But I don’t think it’s necessarily so well thought out.”

Tanda Word, 26, a graduate student at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, who wrote a satirical article about the trend for The Daily Toreador, agreed. “I think it’s damaging because it’s not just one night a year,” she said. “If it’s all the costume manufacturers make, I think it says something bigger about the culture as a whole.”

Salacious costumes — the most visible reminder that Halloween is no longer the sole domain of children — have been around longer than plastic Grim Reaper scythes. But there has been an emergence of “ultrasexy” costumes in the last couple of years, according to Christa Getz, the purchasing director for, which sells outfits with names like Little Bo “Peep Show” and Miss Foul Play.

“Probably over 90 to 95 percent of our female costumes have a flirty edge to them,” Ms. Getz said, adding that sexy costumes are so popular the company had to break its “sexy” category into three subdivisions this year.

Heather Siegel, the vice president of, said her company’s sexy category is among its most popular. (The two best-selling women’s costumes are a low-cut skin-tight referee uniform and a pinup-girl-inspired prisoner outfit called Jail Bait.)

“Almost everybody gets dressed up really, really sexy for it,” said Carrie Jean Bodner, a senior at Cornell University in Ithaca who wrote about the abundance of skimpy Halloween garb for The Cornell Daily Sun last year. “Even the girls who wouldn’t dream of going to class without their pearls and pullovers.”

Last year Ms. Bodner, 21, dressed up as a sexy pinch-hitter for an imaginary baseball team. This year she and her friends are considering being va-voom Girl Scouts.

Ms. Getz of said far more women are buying revealing costumes than firing off indignant e-mail messages asking, “Why are all of your costumes so sexy?” (though some do).

Still, women may be buying racy outfits because that is all that is available. Ms. Getz said she wished there were more sexy men’s costumes on the market and that the lack of them is but further evidence of the gender double standard. “It’s just not as socially acceptable,” she said, adding that men feel comfortable expressing themselves with Halloween costumes that are “either crude or outrageous or obnoxious.”

Ms. Siegel of said the costume industry is merely mirroring the fashion industry, where women have more variety in their wardrobes. Besides, she said, men are less interested in accessorizing. “They’re happy grabbing a mask and a robe and being done,” she said.

At least they get a robe. Ms. Bodner of Cornell estimated that it will be about 30 degrees in Ithaca on Oct. 31.

“We’re not just risking our dignity here,” she said. “We’re risking frostbite.”

Sunday, October 08, 2006

"It just saddens me to see so many of our strong butch women giving up their womanhood to be a man..."

Very interesting and informative article from the New York Times on the controversy in the lesbian community over FTM sex changes.

August 20, 2006 Sunday
Section 9; Column 2; Style Desk; Pg. 1
"The Trouble When Jane Becomes Jack"

SAN FRANCISCO: In the most recent season of the lesbian soap opera, ''The L Word,'' a new character named Moira announced to her friends that, through surgery and hormone therapy, she would soon be a new person named Max. Her news was not well received.

"It just saddens me to see so many of our strong butch women giving up their womanhood to be a man," one friend said.

The sentiment was a tamer version of what many other women wrote on lesbian blogs and Web sites in the weeks after the episode was broadcast last spring. Many called for the Max character to be killed off next season. One suggested dispatching him ''by testosterone overdose.''

The reaction to the fictional character captured the bitter tension that can exist over gender reassignment. Among lesbians -- the group from which most transgendered men emerge -- the increasing number of women who are choosing to pursue life as a man can provoke a deep resentment and almost existential anxiety, raising questions of gender loyalty and political identity, as well as debates about who is and who isn't, and who never was, a real woman.

The conflict has raged at some women's colleges and has been explored in academic articles, in magazines for lesbians and in alternative publications, with some -- oversimplifying the issue for effect -- headlined with the question, ''Is Lesbianism Dead?''

It has been a subtext of gay politics in San Francisco, the only city in the country that covers employees' sex-change medical expenses. And it bubbles to the surface every summer at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, a lesbian gathering to which only ''women born as women and living as women'' are invited -- a ban on transgendered people of either sex.

Barbara Price, a former festival producer, said the uneasiness has been ''a big topic among lesbians for quite some time.''

''There are many people who look at what these young women are doing, and say to themselves, 'Hey, by turning yourselves into men, don't you realize you're going over to the other side?' '' she said. ''We thought we were all supposed to be in this together.''

Beyond the political implications, the sense of loss is felt most keenly in personal relationships.

''I am a lesbian because I am attracted to women, and not to men," said a 33-year-old woman who broke up with her partner of seven years, Sharon Caya, when Sharon became Shane. The woman, who asked to be identified only as Natasha, to protect family members who are unaware of her lifestyle, said that she was ultimately faced with the reality of her sexual orientation and identity. ''I decided I couldn't be in a romantic relationship with a man.''

The transgender movement among men is at least as old as the pioneering surgery that turned George Jorgensen into Christine Jorgensen in 1952. Among women who wish to become men, though, the movement has gained momentum only in the last 10 years, in part because of increasingly sophisticated surgical options, the availability of the Internet's instant support network, and the emotions raised by the 1999 movie ''Boys Don't Cry,'' based on the true story of the murder of Brandon Teena, a young Nebraska woman who chose to live as a man.

The word for the process is ''to transition,'' a modest verb for what in women usually means, at the minimum, a double mastectomy and heavy doses of hormones that change the shape of the face, deepen the voice, broaden the upper body, spur the growth of facial hair, and in some cases, trigger the onset of male pattern baldness.

Politically and personally, the change has equally profound effects. Some lesbians view it as a kind of disloyalty bordering on gender treason.

The Census Bureau does not try to count the number of transgendered people in the United States, and many who make the transition from one sex to another do not wish to be counted.

A European study conducted 10 years ago, and often cited by the American Psychiatric Association, says full gender reassignment occurred in 1 in 11,000 men and 1 in 30,000 women, a ratio that would place the number of men who have become women nationally at only about 13,000 and women who have become men at about 5,000.

Transgender advocates, however, say those statistics fail to reflect an increasing number of people, especially young people, who call themselves transgendered but resist some or all of the surgeries available, including, for women becoming men, the creation of a penis. Some delay or avoid surgeries because of expense. For women especially, the genital surgery is still risky.

''There are tens of thousands of us, probably more than 100,000,'' said Riki Wilchins, the executive director of GenderPAC, a lobbying group in Washington, citing the looser definition of being transgendered.

Dr. Michael Brownstein, a surgeon in San Francisco, said he had performed more than 1,000 female-to-male surgeries in the last several years, and transgender advocates say there are a dozen surgeons specializing in the work in the United States.

The numbers are slight, considering the estimated five million gay men and five million lesbian women in the United States. Still, coupled with a simultaneous trend among the young to reject sexual identity labels altogether, some lesbians fear that the ranks are growing of women who once called themselves lesbian but no longer do.

''It's as if the category of lesbian is just emptying out,'' said Judith Halberstam, a gender theorist and professor of literature at the University of Southern California, San Diego, whose books include ''Female Masculinity.''

Leaders of some lesbian organizations dismiss the idea of a schism or contend that it has been resolved in the interest of common human rights goals among lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people.

''The view in some lesbian corners that we are losing lesbians to transitioning is absurd,'' said Kate Kendall, the executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. ''Given our history of oppression, all lesbians should encourage people to be themselves even if it means our lesbian sister is becoming our heterosexual-identified brother.''

But in private conversations and in public forums like women's colleges, the questions about how to frame the relationship among lesbians, former lesbians and young women who call themselves ''gender queer'' rather than lesbian at all, seem largely unresolved.

''There is a general uneasiness about this whole thing, like 'What are we losing here?' '' said Diane Anderson-Minshall, the executive editor of Curve, a lesbian magazine. The issue stirs old insecurities about women being ''not good enough,'' she added.

Koen Baum, a family therapist in San Francisco who is a transgendered man, said the anxiety some lesbians feel has complicated roots. Some, he said, believe that women who ''pass'' as men are in some ways embracing male privileges.

Ben A. Barres, a professor of neurobiology at Stanford and a transgendered man, recently provided fodder for that view in an article in Nature and an interview with The New York Times. ''It is very much harder for women to be successful, to get jobs, to get grants, especially big grants,'' he told The Times.

The idea of male privilege was also part of ''The L Word'' plot: When Max learns he is to be offered a job that he was rejected for as Moira, he promises that he will refuse it and tell off the would-be boss, but he later decides to take the job and say nothing.

Mr. Baum said the anxiety also stems from fear over the loss of an ally in the struggle against sexism. ''The question in the minds of many lesbian women is, 'Is it still going to be you and me against sexism, you and me against the world?' '' he said.

There are also practical questions: What place should a transgendered man have in women's spaces such as bathhouses, charter cruises, music festivals and, more tricky still, at women's colleges, where some ''transmen'' taking testosterone are reportedly playing on school sports teams?

Laura Cucullu, a freelance editor and recent graduate of Mills College in Oakland, Calif., phrased the question this way: ''When do we kick you out? When you change your name to Bob? When you start taking hormones? When you grow a mustache? When you have a double mastectomy?''

The fact that there is no apparent parallel imbroglio in the gay community toward men who become women is a subject of some speculation.

''There is the sense that a transman is 'betraying the team,' joining the oppressor class and that sort of thing,'' said Ken Zucker, a clinical psychologist and a specialist in gender research at the University of Toronto.

Despite the tangled set of issues involved, the survival rate of lesbian couples seems higher than among gay couples when one partner changes gender, advocates say.

After Susie Anderson-Minshall became Jacob several years ago, he and his partner of 15 years, Ms. Anderson-Minshall, the Curve editor, decided to marry. Their March 19 wedding was actually their second union. The first had been a partnership ceremony as lesbians; the second was as legally recognized husband and wife under the laws of the state of California, where they live.

Other couples, like the former Sharon Caya and Natasha, found the transition much rougher. Sharon's decision to become Shane coincided with Natasha becoming pregnant, having conceived with donor sperm. ''When the baby came along, I wanted to become myself,'' Mr. Caya said. ''I wanted the baby to know me as I truly am.''

She began taking testosterone about three years ago, then had ''top surgery'' -- a double mastectomy -- and is now a muscular 42-year-old of medium height with long sideburns and a goatee.

For financial and practical reasons, Mr. Caya, the legal director of the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco, decided to forgo ''bottom surgery,'' which could cost as much as $100,000 and would involve two or three operations to graft on an ersatz penis.

According to the standards of the European study, Shane Caya would not be counted as a transgendered person.

Natasha, a financial manager in San Francisco, still cries when describing Sharon's decision to become male.

''You're in love with a person, but there is something about gender that is so central to identity it can be overwhelming if the person changes,'' she said.

''When she told me what she wanted to do, I was completely blown away at first,'' Natasha said. Then, ''I thought to myself, 'All right, we're good lesbians. We should be able to figure this out.' ''

But after a month of struggling with the idea, Natasha said she could not make the adjustment. The breakup occurred when the child was 5 months old. The couple remain on friendly terms and share custody.

And when Mr. Caya attended a lesbian organization's lunch recently, he recalled, he was welcomed by a woman who said she was ''pleased to see a man supporting us lesbians.'' His reply, he said, was quick and to the point:

''Of course I support lesbians,'' he said. ''I used to be one.''

CORRECTION: August 27, 2006

An article last Sunday about transgender lesbians referred incorrectly to Judith Halberstam, a gender theorist and professor of literature whose books include ''Female Masculinity.'' She teaches at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles; it has no San Diego campus.

“Two Spirit,” or "Berdache," or "gay & lesbian" Native Americans

An interesting article from the New York Times, October 8, 2006. I'm not sure why the author does not mention the word "berdache." This is the term used by the anthropological literature (to which the author refers) for what are now called "Two Spirit" people.

A Spirit of Belonging, Inside and Out


ALISTAIR BANE went to his first weekend gathering five months ago and was so nervous that he barely participated. By the time of his second, last month, he had sewn his own outfit and was comfortable enough to dance in the powwow and the drag show.

“This has been a big thing for me,” said Mr. Bane, who is a mixed-blood Eastern Shawnee. “If somebody had talked to me when I was 16 and said people like me were once respected, my life might have been different.”

The occasion was the ninth annual Montana Two-Spirit Gathering, a weekend retreat here in northwestern part of the state for a few dozen American Indians who define themselves as embodying both male and female spirits. Many are refugees from the gay or lesbian bar circuit who are now celebrating an identity among themselves that they never knew existed, in a setting without drugs or alcohol. Some identify themselves as gay or lesbian; others as a third or fourth gender, combining male and female aspects.

Since the term “Two Spirit” was coined at a conference for gay and lesbian natives in the early 1990’s, Two-Spirit societies have formed in Montana as well as in Denver; Minnesota; New York State; San Francisco; Seattle; Toronto; Tulsa, Okla.; and elsewhere, organized around what members assert was once an honored status within nearly every tribe on the continent.

“A lot of our tribal leaders have their minds blocked and don’t even know the history of Two-Spirit people,” said Steven Barrios, 54, who lives on a Blackfeet reservation in northwestern Montana, and who has been open about his sexual orientation since he was a teenager. Mr. Barrios cited a small and sometimes contested body of anthropological evidence that suggests that before the arrival of Christian missionaries, many tribes considered Two-Spirit people to be spiritually gifted and socially valuable.

Like the Montana group, most Two-Spirit societies rely on financing from the federal government — usually under public health auspices — and few are recognized by the members’ tribes. The societies hold their own powwows but most do not dance together in general tribal ceremonies. Members say they confront anti-gay sentiments from the general culture and from within their tribes, which they attribute to Christian influence.

“We can’t get a Two-Spirit person on our tribal council,” Mr. Barrios said. “We had a historian from our tribe on the reservation, and when he was asked what they did with Two-Spirit people, he said, ‘We killed them.’ But before the Christians came, Two-Spirit people were treated with respect. What we’re doing now is coming together, showing documentation that we have a history.”

Whatever their traditions, modern tribes often have complex relationships with homosexuality. In 2004 Kathy Reynolds and Dawn McKinley, two Cherokee women in Tulsa, petitioned to marry under tribal law, setting off a complicated legal and political battle that spread to other tribes. The women, who became unwilling public figures, were granted the right to marry by the Cherokee Judicial Appeals Tribunal but have yet to file their marriage certificate and complete their marriage. In response, several tribes, including the Cherokee Nation, passed laws defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Mr. Bane, 40, said he first heard about Two-Spirit gatherings in his late 20’s but did not attend one until he went to a gathering in Tulsa five months ago. As an adolescent, when he told his parents he was gay, the sense of rejection led him to leave school and home. He had little connection with his Indian heritage (most people at the gathering used the term Indian more often than Native American or First Nation), and after leaving home he found community with people living on the street, using heroin and selling his body. “I felt that at least somebody wanted me for something,” he said. Even when friends died of overdoses or took their own lives, he said, “We didn’t see ourselves as worth more than the life we lived.”

Like several others at the gathering, he said that at gay clubs he always felt he had the wrong hair or clothes, and felt pressure not to come off as “too Indian.” He said: “I can’t count the number of guys who have made comments about ‘If you cut your hair you’d be cute.’ If you conform to the whole Western culture idea of what a gay man is supposed to act like, then people want you around. But if not, you are either invisible or people outwardly make it clear that they don’t want you around.”

He added: “When I went to the gathering in Tulsa in May, there was a sense of acceptance I had never felt before. The mistakes I made in my past didn’t matter. What mattered was I came home. It goes beyond sexuality to a cultural role. That was important to me.”

The term for Two-Spirit people is different in each tribal language, but the practices and traditional social position of Two-Spirits is fairly consistent, said Brian Joseph Gilley, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Vermont and author of “Becoming Two-Spirit: Gay Identity and Social Acceptance in Indian Country.” In tribal tradition, when children exhibited interest in activities not associated with their gender — for boys, typically cooking or sewing; for girls, hunting or combat — they were singled out as inhabited by dual spirits, Mr. Gilley said.

In some tribes they were considered spiritually gifted, and might have been sought sexually for their powers. Often Two-Spirit people helped raise children or accompanied war parties as surrogate wives, Mr. Gilley said. At the Montana gathering, one man brought his two grandchildren, whom he was raising. “It was never about sexuality,” Mr. Gilley added. “It was about your role in the community.”

John Hawk Co-Cke’, whose parents descended from four different tribes and were Methodists, said he heard about Two-Spirit traditions in the 1980’s, when he started seeing a Indian therapist. He was having high-risk anonymous sex with men in parks and other public places and also drinking heavily at gay bars to compensate for feeling undesirable.

“At the time I had nothing to do with my Indian-ness,” he said. “I didn’t want to be more different.” The therapist, he said, told him, “‘You need to come home. Warriors would never put themselves in that position.’”

At the gathering Mr. Co-Cke’ wore women’s makeup, and at the powwow he wore a traditional native woman’s dress. Since embracing his Two-Spirit identity, he said, he has stopped heavy use of drugs and alcohol and is much happier. But he said he does not wear women’s clothing in Tulsa or at a general Osage powwow. “I teach guys: ‘Be smart. You have to remember you live in Oklahoma.’ Because we’ve had guys beat up. ‘As far as your sexuality, please be careful you don’t flaunt it.’ ”

Mr. Co-Cke’ said Two-Spirit gatherings often draw men who are hiding their orientation from their wives. At the Montana gathering several people did not come because of the presence of a reporter because they did not want their orientation to become public knowledge.

For three days, solemn rituals alternated with pop cultural references, high camp and playful but sharp intertribal teasing.

Matthew Reed, 32, who manages a Starbucks franchise in Denver, began the Saturday night powwow by leading an august gourd dance to cleanse the grounds. “Does everyone know how to gourd dance?” he asked, then advised: “Drop it like it’s hot,” a reference to a dance-filled rap video by Snoop Dogg.

As the night grew cold, Joey Criddle, who led a contingent called the “Denver divas,” explained for the group the historical significance of some of the dances and clothing, encouraging each dancer, “You go, Miss Thing.” Mr. Criddle, 45, a respiratory therapist and part Jicarilla Apache, was once married and has four children. He said that in Denver his group was trying to gain credibility and acceptance from tribal leaders by preserving the old language, skills and dances. “The elders will tell you the difference between a gay Indian and a Two-Spirit,” he said, underscoring the idea that simply being gay and Indian does not make someone a Two-Spirit.

Involvement with Two-Spirits has changed Mr. Bane’s life. After the Tulsa gathering he moved to Denver to live near Mr. Criddle’s group, and he stopped dating a man who refused to acknowledge their relationship in public. “I used to think that was O.K.,” he said. “Now I don’t.” He was also embracing some traditionally female tasks and slowly learning to do beadwork. “Beadwork gives you patience for traffic,” he said.

The surprise for his non-native friends, he said, was how much fun the gatherings were. “You read about it and think it’s real serious, and it is,” he said. “But then you have the drag show on the first night. When I told my friends, ‘I gotta get my drag outfit together,’ my white friends, they’re like, ‘What?’ ”

Jaxin Enemy-Hunter, 28, who helped Mr. Bane with last-minute stitching on his moccasins, found it rewarding to see people who were not raised in the Two-Spirit tradition embrace it, but their journey was not his. Growing up on a Crow reservation, he had been singled out early by his great-grandmother and given a double helping of education: studying with the boys and then studying with the girls when the boys played. He described the experience as both high status and extremely stressful.

“A lot of Two-Spirit societies, their focus is to bring the Two-Spirit role to their tribes,” he said. “With my tribe, we had never lost that. The younger generations focus more on the mainstream way of being a gay person, going out and partying, and not having responsibilities and being stressed out.”

Off the reservation, he added, “I would see friends going through hell over being gay. It was just very sad. They didn’t know about our history.”