Monday, April 1, 2013

Homosexuality - Maybe the First Nations Had It Right

The Arrow, Symbol
of the Heart Line
On pages 35 and 36 of CUT HAND, Billy Strobaw and Cut Hand have a significant discussion of differing cultural approaches to the subject of homosexuality. The two young men are on their way to Cut Hand’s village where Billy will take up an unfamiliar role among a strange society as Cut’s male wife.

The passage is a little long, but in view of the change in the contemporary American attitude on the subject of same-sex marriage, I believe it is worth reproducing below.


We dawdled away most of the phase of a moon gaining fluency in one another’s languages. I shuddered to think I had been bound for the Santa Fe Trail where I would have missed him. But even the joy of Cut’s presence could not purge the occasional guilt over my libertine practices.

“Don’t you understand, Cut?” I snapped once when he challenged my mood. “I love you, but my God says that is wrong. Men don’t lie with men!”

“This God of yours must be the same Great Mystery who made me. My creator gave me a hunger in the loins so I can make children, but he never said there was only one way to enjoy the act. Why would he make it pleasurable if it was not to be used?”

“Even you said it was wrong for two men to lie together.”

“Yes. And it is wrong for two women to lie together, and two Win-tays to lie together. That is against nature.”

“But I am a man,” I cried in anguish. “I have a yard and stones like you! We are two men lying together, Cut!”

He went so quiet that I grew deathly afraid. “If that is true, I will leave you here and hang my head in shame. But a pipe and stones do not make a man, Billy. You are not a man because you were born with a penis. You are not a man because you are brave and strong and killed two warriors.” He tapped his heart. “Your spirit determines what you are, not your genitals.”

“That can’t be right!” I protested. “God makes you a man or a woman. There isn’t anything else!”

Then I learned one of the great differences between the Red and the White worlds. To the European, life begins, progresses, and ends along a linear. A man is a man and behaves as such or suffers for it; a woman travels an even narrower pathway. They are opposite sexes.

The Indian perceives life as a Sacred Circle. There is no “only-man” or “only-woman,” no opposite genders, merely complementary ones. Cut drew a hoop in the earth. Humans, according to his notion, might fit anywhere within the circle. A man was a man according to his spirit; a woman was a woman because of hers. A man became a man by accepting a man’s responsibilities. His sexual appetite had less to do with his orientation than his choice of responsibilities.

If a boy child selected a bow as his toy, he was allowed to grow into what he would become, a man. If the boy chose a woman’s tool, he was allowed to grow into what he would become, a Win-tay, a not-woman, a double-face, a human being with male genitals who accepts the responsibilities of a woman.

One male may appear more manly than another, or less so, but his spirit determined his lifestyle. So men or two-spirits or women fit at various places on that great circle according to choices made before the Soul Journey ever commenced. The point was that humans belonged wherever they felt natural, and one man’s “natural” was not necessarily another’s. It was a powerful philosophy allowing a person to live where he fit, rather than fit where he lived—a staggering concept that brought me some ease of mind.


I am not saying that all of the indigenous peoples were tolerant of “deviants.” Like the white man, some punished such behavior with death. But many of the tribes not only tolerated what we term “gays” today, but gave them places of honor in the tribe or band when it was earned. As you can see from the passage above, such differences were considered as a normal part of life, and societies were unwilling to “throw away” people just because they fit somewhere else on the Circle of Life.

When I reached adulthood--at least in my part of the world--the mere suspicion an individual was gay brought condemnation, scorn, ostracization, police harassment, and the very real danger of physical beatings or death. Support for the lifestyle saw the end of political careers, changes in control of the federal government, and the overt and covert demeaning of a significant portion of the population. Marriage between gays was totally unthinkable...even among many members of the gay population.

Today, polls indicate the general public supports the legalization and social acceptance of same-sex marriage--and by extension--of gays as human beings and fellow citizens. Many individuals still object to the humanization of gays on religious grounds (and they are entitled to their beliefs), but many more are coming to see opposition to gays and their ability to share the benefits--all the benefits--of a formal marriage as a matter of the denial of civil rights.

Could it be the ancestors of our Red Brothers and Sisters had it right all along?

Note: New posts are published around the first of every month.

Comments are welcome, not only on this post, but also about any relevant subject the reader wishes to discuss.


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