I will admit to being stymied by the heated debates about mixed-gender public toilets. For those of us who travel, we know that there are so many places in the world with mixed-gender toilets. Sometimes one walks in past men urinating in order to reach a private stall. Of course, in other locations there is a stalwart bifurcation, a clear separation between men’s and women’s toilets.
I am reminded of a beautiful and wise concept that I learned about as a child. Growing up with Diné, or Navajo, friends in northern Arizona, I was privileged to learn so very much from their experiences, their families, and their culture. One of the transformational ideas for me was that of “two spirits”—that individuals can be both man and woman. Traditionally, this is a blessing, an honor. I can sure see why! Access to differing world views, and a broader emotional, cognitive, and expressive repertoire would be just some of the assets a “two spirit” gender might provide.
Across the planet this fluid or blended gender concept has many terms, some of which you can see in Independent Lens’ interactive “Map of Gender-Diverse Cultures.” From the comments, it appears there remains a need for significant tweaking of the information provided, but it sure is a helpful start to a review of world beliefs and practices on fluid or non-binary gender identification. I urge you to take a look and do some clicking and reading!
Be sure also to subscribe to Cultural Detective Online or license the PDF package and spend some time with our newly updated Cultural Detective Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. It contains a wealth of useful information, and the approach helps us learn to partner across sexual orientations and gender identifications. It is absolutely one of the best resources of its kind. I am so proud of the international team that put it together.
A few years ago, PBS in the USA aired an interesting documentary entitled Two Spirits, directed by Lydia Nibley. It provides an introduction to the topic for those who’d like to learn. The film is available for rent or purchase from Cinema Guild, or via online streaming. In addition to the preview below, there are quite a few companion videos and activities on PBS’ website that are still available and free of charge. Thank you and kudos to all those involved!