by Elton Naswood

About Elton Naswood

Elton Naswood (he/him) is the co-coordinator for the National Native HIV Network and was a Senior Program Analyst at the Office of Minority Health Resource Center. He is Navajo, Diné, originally from Whitehorse Lake, New Mexico, on the Navajo Reservation. He is the co-author of “Unique Challenges Facing Native American People Living with HIV” and a contributor to “Dispatches on the Futures of AIDS,” in AIDS and the Distribution of Crises. He is a member of the Southwest Indigenous Women’s Coalition Two Spirit / LGBTQ Advisory Council and the US Leader for the International Indigenous Working Group on HIV/AIDS.

Two Spirit

Two Spirit is a contemporary term that American Indian / Alaska Native and Indigenous individuals may use to self-identify. The use of this term to name oneself may be in addition to using such mainstream identifications as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) with a traditional and cultural understanding of gender roles and identity. Two Spirit was first adopted in 1990 by attendees, activists, and elders in attendance at the third International Native Gay/Lesbian Gathering held in Winnipeg, Canada. The embracing of this term at the gathering arose out of discussions for the need to have a specific and empowering cultural term defined by Native LGBTQ people themselves. By adopting the term Two Spirit, the community sought to disavow the colonized and anthropological term Berdache—a derogatory French word meaning “a boy kept for homosexual practices” or “male prostitute.”