The idea of two-spirited people

Dealing with the philosophy of seeing “gay” people as two-spirited.

This is going to be one of those longish blogs, but I will break it up by headings.

Politics and Church

Both in the USA and the UK the issue of same-sex marriage, adoption and rights has split the nation in half.  In the UK the present government is determined to push through laws that will make same-sex marriage legal, with the same rights and obligations as enjoyed by married heterosexual couples.  At the same time service providers, especially those that are tax-funded are required never to discriminate upon grounds of sex, race or religion, be it in running schools or adoption services.

The Church of England is in civil war over “gay” priests; if they should “marry” same-sex couples in the churches.  The Church of England is joined at the hip to the State; their bishops sit in the House of Lords passing laws; the Queen sits at the head of both the Church of England and the State.  The talk is of if the laws are passed on same sex-marriage then Church and State will split, and this will shake the Establishment to its core.

I am a secularist in favour of the split between religion and State, so on that front I am happy; I am wary of how huge the fallout could be on the foundations of the Establishment; but then perhaps it is about time someone dynamited it all.

Genetics and Environment

Being “gay” is rarely a matter of choice.  The debate is ongoing on how being “gay” arises.  Apparently being “gay” is not limited to humans but also to other animal species.

Claims are made, often by religious-biased sources that “gay” people can be converted into “normal” people.  Scientific evidence of these claims are scarce, and I am unaware of any such scientific sources.

It could be that there is a “gay” gene floating around, though it appears few have dared to research this in the scientific community.  A major reason for a person being “gay” is likely in the embryo stage, the same moment that hormones are at work in a lottery of male-female outcomes.  Research claims that chemicals in the environment are playing havoc with the processes in the embryo that selects gender, thus perhaps determines also a “gay” outcome.  At around the age four-years-of-age a boy (a similar situation likely in girls) there is a peak in hormones of similar quantity as is seen in puberty, which reinforces the gender behaviour in the child, and this may be a significant age when the “gay” nature of a human being may emerge.

Whatever the reason for being “gay”, it is not by choice, but a product of nature.

Philosophy of Hylomorphisms

Aristotle gave rise to the idea of a hylomorph to determine the difference between two aspects of an object.  If one were to look at a bronze sphere, or a bronze horse, the form of those objects is the sphere or the horse.  The common essence of the bronze sphere or the bronze horse is the bronze, which is Aristotles version of matter.  To Aristotle matter is the potentiality, the essence, the ingredients that make up the object.

Taking this idea a step further, the body of the human being is the “form”, the gender of the human being is the “matter”, its essence or potentiality.  Just as you are unable to change the matter of a bronze horse, its bronzeness, without destroying it, so this is the same with a “gay” person, you cannot change their essence of what they are without killing them.  A human is a hylomorph, in that they have form and matter, the form may be male with the sex organs of a male, but in essence, the matter, they could be female.


One of the big opposers to “gay” people is the established religions, especially Christianity and Islam.  The religious writings of Christianity and Islam is specific in that they oppose a “third” gender in favour of only male or female genders; they judge that “gay” people and their activity is evil, to the point that it is considered justified to kill them.

Interestingly some Christian religions practice the idea of Holy Communion, the eating of bread and drinking of wine, symbolic of the eating of the body and drinking of the blood of Jesus.  The Church would say they are not practicing or encouraging cannibalism, but that this is a form of hylomorphism, where the Christian eats and drinks the essence of Jesus (matter) rather than his literal body (form). If then the Church can accept the ideas as practiced in Holy Communion, why are they unable to extend hylomorphism to the gender of human beings?

I appreciate a religion to have full integrity it must keep to the full tenets of its beliefs, including its stance in the “gay” issues.  But a religion is not the world, but a house in the world.  What goes on inside the religion, in their house, is a matter for them, but when they force their religion upon the whole world, then I have a problem with that; one reason I support a separation of Church and State in the UK.

If my reading of the holy book of Islam is correct, then they are opposed only to sodomy, rather than a person being “gay”.  Of Christianity, the Bible is a product of hundreds of years of revision and ancient committees who made subjective judgements on what to include, human error is writ large on the Bible.

The impact

Modern society has been shaped by two thousand years of organised religion and culture to see only two genders, male and female.  A “third” gender has thrown a spanner in the works in this established worldview, and many unsurprisingly have a difficulty on how to orientate themselves and “gay” people in a satisfactory way inside these established worldviews.

If a child is born “gay”, they have no choice in the matter, nor is it likely they can change the way they are.  These children come up against an impossible situation, the consequences can be tragic.  Cameron McWilliams, aged ten, is a boy, but has the essence of a girl, he killed himself. The tragedy of McWilliams is reinforced, because he was influenced by the media stories of a mass of young people killing themselves over a period of time in Bridgend.  The tragedy did not stop there, another boy saw the media story of the death of McWilliams, the eleven-year-old Cameron MacDonald became “mesmerised” by the story of another Cameron killing themselves, and he killed himself.


I am aware of a few case studies of skeletons of males or females being found, buried in ways that contradicted their gender.  The ancients had specific ways of how to bury the two genders, who also had specific roles based on gender in life and mythology.  Interestingly the “gay” burials seemed to occupy a special status, short of priests and shamans in the way they were buried.

Cave paintings

The Source, the mother goddess, also known as a Venus, was a popular central archetype in ancient cultures, often symbolised with vulvas.  Although the Source was female in activity it was contradictory in certain aspects.  I originally had the idea that the Source was passive and potential, but mythology and nature determines it can also be kinetic, as expressed if you encounter a mother who thinks you are a threat to their children.

On cave paintings there are two significant drawings of Source that shows it is male-female.  The first is the so-called Unicorn at Lascaux. This image shows a pregnant horse with exaggerated horns of a bull; horse is female and bulls are male aspects on cave paintings.  The second cave painting is at Chauvet of a Venus figure showing a vulva, the two thighs that end in a bear and a bison.  The bison is a male figure to do with abundance, the bear is a type of bridge archetype between the material and the spiritual world.  The Source is a far more complicated archetype than most people think, but one thing is certain in that it includes male and female aspects in its form.

Two-spirited people

This was a eureka moment for me when I came across a Native American idea on “gay” people.  Often indigenous people of the modern era are guardians of ideas that go back tens of thousands of years straight back to the people who painted those ideas on cave walls.  The mythology and the ideas of probably all indigenous and ancient people is animistic in nature, that everything has spirit; the shamans are those that act as bridges between the spiritual and the material world.  To step into the shoes of how an indigenous person would see the world rapidly assists in understanding their myths and the archaeology.

The hunter-gatherers zeroed in on the essence, the potential, the spiritual in the world, rather than the form or appearances, thus a “gay” person was not as we saw them, but a person who was inhabited by two spirits, a male and a female spirit.  Such people also were representative of the top archetype, the Source, which also appears to be multi-spirited.  The ancients treated “gay” people as two-spirited people, who could walk two worlds, they could hunt, but also look after children.  The two-spirited people were a blessing, afforded special status, looked after and valued as a source of great wisdom in matters of tribal stalemate.  It could be these people were likely to become a shaman to the tribe, or someone equivalent to that.

My personal position is to see “gay” people as two-spirited, since I tend to deal with the essence of objects rather than appearances.


4 responses to “The idea of two-spirited people

  1. Just goes to show, ancient people were more enlightened than modern folks. My present government is not enlightened, but gay marriage is allowed. The religions were against people being gay, because they produced no children, no new additions to the flock.

    • True, the more I study ancient peoples and their cultures the more I am impressed by the advantage they have over us today as far as wisdom is concerned.

  2. I kind of hate to ask, but I feel that it’s necessary: are you yourself gay? I feel like a good deal of these discussions, even positive ones tend to press certain groups into predefined places within a larger ontology which could not otherwise allow for them.

    What I mean is, having encountered the two spirited theorem before, I have never felt to accurately describe in anyway the actual experience of gay-ness. As a gay man, I do not possess two spirits, as far as I can tell. I am not a female spirited man, or a man with an extra feminine aspect. Indeed, modern biology has shown that gay men tend to have more testosterone, the hormone necessary for the development of masculine traits, than straight men in there bodies.

    There is a certain cultural context wherein it is necessary for homosexual people to be described as you explain, but outside of that context, does the description accurately speak to the experience of homosexuality? Something like it may work for certain forms of Queerness (such as transgender people) but I question it’s usefulness when applied in broad strokes to the gay community.

    • In answer to your question, no.

      Most people are happy to approach life on a certain level, but others like me like to go deep. It is like how some treat icebergs, they are happy to accept what is seen above the water is their reality, but I like to see what is under the ocean too. I will see things on multiple levels, and I like to gather all the threads up and attempt to come to a holistic whole, to make sense of all the threads.

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