Who were the Plains Indian berdaches?

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Issue Date
1979
Authors
Blakeslee, Donald J.
Advisor
Citation

Blakeslee, Donald J. (1979). Who were the Plains Indian berdaches? -- Lambda Alpha Journal of Man, v.11, no.1, p.41-65.

Abstract

The standard anthropological view of berdaches is that they were men who took up their society 1 s version of the woman!~ role by choice -- male homosexuals who adopted women's dress and women's work without any loss of respect from their respect~ve communities. There is very little in the ethnohistoric and ethnological literature to support this point of view, however. The scattered and varied references to berdaches among the Plains Indians reflect a more complex situation. Berdaches may not always have been homosexuals, sometimes did not wear women's clothing, performed roles that were not identical to women's roles, and, in at least some tribes, appear to have inherited their status. It is probably misleading to assess Plains Indian berdache~ in terms of the sex role and sexual identity variations recognized in our own society. The iqeas and models implied by the terms homosexual, transvestite, and transsexual are not easily applied cross culturally. The processes of acquisition of sexual identity in Plains Indian societies were probably different enough from those in our own society (which are still poorly understood) to render analysis of them unrewarding at this time.

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