In the following scene from Chapter 4 (Pages 35 and 36) of the novel, Cut Hand and Billy Strobaw have left Billy’s two companions, Splitlip Rumquiller and Wild Red Greavy, on their way to the warrior’s village. They intend to build a life together among Cut Hand's people where their way of life would be more accepted than among the Americans. At the moment, they are discussing Billy’s difficulty reconciling a “win-tay” lifestyle with his upbringing. Let’s watch and listen.
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 I experienced in private 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.
Too bad that philosophy did not become the prevailing one. It would have alleviated a great deal of suffering in this world of ours.
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