Eastern Kentucky University

Poster Title

Native American Berdache: An Advantageous Social Organization

Institution

Eastern Kentucky University

Abstract

From at least the time of first documented European encounters with North American indigenous peoples, same-sex sexuality and transgender activity has been interwoven within Native American culture. The Europeans labeled these Native Americans as berdache and noted how they did not abide by traditional gender roles. In Native American culture, it was common that men participated in war and were the hunters of the tribe, while women stayed local and tended to gardens, sewing, and homes. The berdache were usually men, but sometimes women, who abandoned the exceptions associated with their anatomical gender. From early ages, for boys anywhere between the ages of five and twelve, they adopted the lifestyle of the opposite gender. Rather than destructive, however, berdache existence and contributions were pivotal in the structure of Native American tribes, allowing anatomical men to adopt the role of women and perform tasks too strenuous for women.

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Native American Berdache: An Advantageous Social Organization

From at least the time of first documented European encounters with North American indigenous peoples, same-sex sexuality and transgender activity has been interwoven within Native American culture. The Europeans labeled these Native Americans as berdache and noted how they did not abide by traditional gender roles. In Native American culture, it was common that men participated in war and were the hunters of the tribe, while women stayed local and tended to gardens, sewing, and homes. The berdache were usually men, but sometimes women, who abandoned the exceptions associated with their anatomical gender. From early ages, for boys anywhere between the ages of five and twelve, they adopted the lifestyle of the opposite gender. Rather than destructive, however, berdache existence and contributions were pivotal in the structure of Native American tribes, allowing anatomical men to adopt the role of women and perform tasks too strenuous for women.