The Two Spirit Project

“The Two Spirit term was adopted in 1990 at an Indigenous lesbian and gay international gathering. A Two Spirit person is a male-bodied or female-bodied person with a masculine or feminine essence. Two Spirits can cross social gender roles, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

Since Europeans arrived in the Americas, they’ve documented encounters with Two Spirit people. In many tribes, Two Spirit people were accepted and respected, but that changed with colonization. The colonizers, through forced assimilation efforts, changed acceptance into homophobia in many indigenous communities.”

via NativeOUT


Anishinaabe, Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe, two-spirit, queer, indigenous multiple-disciplinary artist (Preferred Gender Pronouns: They/Them/Their)

Ryan Young is from Lac du Flambeau, WI. They are currently studying for their BFA in Studio Arts and a minor in Performing Arts at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Their focus is to show how art is a tool for identity, empowerment, activism, and education. They have done a number of projects that illustrate just how powerful art can be, for example the Indigeneity photo project.

What they showcased through Indigeneity is “the duality of what it is for an Indigenous person to live in mainstream society, while maintaining their cultural identity”. The project featured Native students attending UW-Madison and served as a way for them to represent who they are in both worlds. Photos from Indigeneity are still trending on Tumblr, a year after being posted.

For The Two Spirit Project, their aim is to “bring visibility and voice to queer indigenous and two spirit folks”. On the website for The Two Spirit Project, each participant has their own set of photos that includes how they identify, their preferred gender pronouns as well as a personal experience shared in the form of a story, memory or poem.


This is an ongoing project. If you would like to submit your own photos or set up a date for photos you can reach Ryan Young at

When submitting, include the following:

  • 2 to 5 photos of yourself
  • Include answers to the following questions:
  1. Name
  2. How do you identify? (example: queer, indigenous, trans, womyn, man, gender fluid, native, two spirit etc.)
  3. What are your preferred gender pronouns?
  4. Please submit any stories, poems, memories, experiences, that are related to the queering of your gender, cultural, sexual identities that you feel you would like to share. This project hopes to bring a larger voice to the community so share whatever you like!

About The Author

Johnnie Jae

Johnnie Jae is of the Otoe-Missouria and Choctaw tribes of Oklahoma. She is the managing partner of Native Max Magazine, founder of A Tribe Called Geek, and contributor to Native News Online. She is the manager and producer for the Success Native Style Radio Network, where she hosts the Indigenous Flame and A Tribe Called Geek radio shows. She is also a founding board member of Not Your Mascots. Known as the "Brown Ball of Fury," Jae seamlessly shifts from humor and pop culture to advocacy and digital media, which has made her a much-sought after speaker and commentator. Her work has been discussed in many media outlets, such as Indian Country Today, ATPN, CBC, USA Today, BBC, Global Post, Women’s E-News, and Upworthy. She has been a guest on several radio shows, including Native America Calling, Native Trailblazers, BBC World Have Your Say and ICI Radio.

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