Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Guest Author: Quetzalli Cold Thunder

A guest post by Quetzalli Cold Thunder, who is a regular on our message boards and trans and Native American, on the use of the term berdache.

During the IFGE Conference, I heard the term 'berdache' mentioned A LOT. In fact, at a session regarding transgenderism and Native People, folks continued to use the term after the presenter said that among Native People it is derogatory, that he respected their opinion and that he would prefer that the term not be used. (In that audience, a fine, gender counseling Dr. uttered the term that caused the presenter to give his statement. He continued using the term and had he mentioned the expression one more time, I fear I would have made a spectacle of myself, and gone home with a scalp.) The term is my nigger and yes, I also understand its usage among blacks, but I know of no Native People that use this term in any 'endearing' form among themselves. Quite the contrary, it is much more demeaning when directed at a skin from a skin.

As trans people, I think we have a responsibility to understand the meanings of words that are used to describe us and people like us. Unfortunately, Trans Native People are a minority's minority and the few historic and contemporary references to us as subjects, were written by the victors; white, male, non-Native, non-gender blessed people (otherwise known as anthropologists). I also feel that I have a considerable ownership to that term and have earned the right to comment on its use or disuse.

I recognize that many of you may not have ever met or conversed with a 'real live injun', let alone one that is TG. And many of you probably know even less about our traditions. But here on the MHB boards (OK, brand loyalty now), there is a small handful of us and speaking for myself, you all have made me feel comfortable by your willingness to listen to what I share. So it is, in that way like that, that I am gently asking for your support and understanding.

First, for those of you who are not familiar with the term, this is my take on the definition:

It is a relatively recent Anglophonic corruption, which was defined in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French as "a young man who is shamefully abused" or "a young man or boy who serves as another's succubus, permitting sodomy (otherwise known as a whore) to be committed on him."

And finally, the origin of the Two-Spirits term was a pointedly directed response to the distaste that We have for the term and while I have a couple of issues with Two-Spirit usage (i.e., ownership for example), it is the term I prefer others, who are looking for some more defining label (other than lets say, Kelzi), to hang on my lapel (or scalpel) to use.

May you walk in Peace and Harmony.

Quetzalli Cold Thunder

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