According to LGBTQ Health.ca, a two-spirit person is one who “identifies as having both a masculine and a feminine spirit.” The term was coined in 1990 by Myra Laramee at the Third Annual Inter-tribal Native American, First Nations, Gay and Lesbian American Conference.
“Two-spirit” also may include “same-sex attraction and a wide variety of gender variance, including people who might be described in Western culture as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, gender queer, cross-dressers or who have multiple gender identities,” the site states.
The HRC further explains the history behind the term:
Research shows that more than 150 different pre-colonial Native American tribes acknowledged third genders in their communities. And that may have been a unifying feature of different pre-colonial cultures. …
By no means did all pre-colonial Native American communities accept or celebrate gender and sexual orientation diversity. Often when tribes were conquered, they were taken as slaves or forced to submit sexually to their conquerors. However, we also know from writings of the European colonizers that not everyone they wrote about self-identified as third gender — some of them were conquered warriors who were forced to dress femininely. Interpretations of the role and standing of Two-Spirit and third gender people varied by tribe.
Such exclusionary criteria are permitted under Section 14 of the Ontario Human Rights Code to “relieve hardship or economic disadvantage, help disadvantaged people or groups to achieve, or try to achieve, equal opportunity or help eliminate discrimination.”
Since individuals can “self-identify,” it is not clear if there is any level of proof that would be required for applicants. There have been past studies showing an increase in such self-identifications on applications. Students and prospective faculty are aware that diversity is weighed in such selections.
As a result, one student showed that more than a third of white students falsely claimed minority status while roughly half of applicants claimed Native American status. Most notably, 77 percent of students who lied about their race were accepted by those schools.
As discussed in an earlier column, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the most famous example of an academic being challenged on such self-identification. Notably, when Warren claimed a small percentage of DNA possibly linking her to Native Americans, she was denounced by various groups.
The response from Native American groups who denounced Warren for using DNA to show ancestry was interesting. Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin insisted that “using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong. Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.” Warren privately apologized to the tribe for using a DNA test to establish status as a Native American.
Canada has recently had its own such controversies over indigenous identifications by faculty members.
When it comes to sexual identity, there is generally no authentication or confirmation required for applicants.