Two Spirit / Transgender
Yá’át’ééh shik’is dóó shik’é dóó shidine’é. Yuè Begay yinishyé. Naakai Dine’é nishłį́. Kinyaa’áanii bááshishchíín. Dibéłzhiní da’shicheii. Tábąąhá da’shinálí. Ákót’éego t’áá diné asdzáán nishłį́. Ákót’éego t’áá nádleehí nishłį́ ’ałdó’.
Hello my friends, my family, and my people. My name is Yue Begay. I am of the Nomadic People Clan and born for the Towering House Clan. My maternal grandfather is of the Black Sheep Clan and my paternal grandfather is of the Water’s Edge Clan. This is how I identify as a Two Spirit transgender Navajo woman.
I was born in Flagstaff, AZ near our western sacred mountain, Dook'o'oosłííd, which means “Never Clear of Snow.” I I spent the first 18 years of my life on the Navajo Nation where I was immersed in the culture and language of my people on a daily basis. As such, I’m one of the fortunate few indigenous people who knows how to speak their language and also knowledgeable about our creation narratives. I view this as a blessing, one which I am sharing with the Diné (Navajo) people who live out here in Tovaangar or what is commonly known as Los Angeles, CA.
Like many trans and Two Spirit people, I didn’t fully understand my true identity until later in life. Looking back on my life, I’ve always knew I was transgender even though I didn’t have the words for it. For me, I was always a girl; however, because of family and even social pressures, I chose to severely limit my natural expressions and decided to pretend to be a boy. So I guess you could say I was performing gender at a very young age. It wasn’t until I started going through puberty that I could not limit or restrain my natural, creative, and feminine essence.
There was something about puberty that flipped an irreversible switch in my mind to not only act on my sexual desires but also in a way, faded away those shackles I had around my voice, my expressive hands, my hair length, my honey dipped strut, and even my smile. That was my first coming out to myself. I would also like to point out that my gender journey wasn’t rooted in gender dysphoria like my other trans relatives. No, my gender journey was actually navigated by how my cis male peers interacted with me, from children playing house and to teenagers in middle school. For some reason, many cis male friends interacted with me as if I was a cis girl. Sure I was bullied and called the usual negative names but on any rez, any queer child begins to develop a thick skin and normalize it. For me, it wasn’t that I didn’t felt like I was a girl in the wrong body. It actually was when my cis male peers would call me a girl, girlfriend, she, her, etc. I now know that this is referred to gender euphoria, when the right pronouns and gender is in reference to you and you just feel happy, right, aligned, and whole.
I hadn’t officially come out until 2009 when I was a sophomore in high school. I came out to my mom via a written letter because I couldn’t bear to speak to her. I felt like I was on death row (any child who potentially could lose their parents, their world, and even their creator knows this feeling). Even though she was shocked and scared, she hugged me in the end and said I was her child no matter what. To this day, my mom call me she, her, and my chosen name.
I came to know that I was Two Spirit as a young adult. Remember when I said I grew up on the Navajo Nation with my culture? My shimásání, or maternal grandmother, would teach me and my extended maternal siblings about our culture. I remember learning about the nádleehí or the“changing ones”. At the time, that name sounded like another deity so, as a young arrogant child, I paid it no dust (paid no attention). It wasn’t until I got into high school shortly after coming out as transgender that I started researching into Navajo transgender (thank you internet). I found many links and sources to the word “Two Spirit.” After watching numerous videos and reading many articles, I stumbled upon nádleehí again. I recognized it right away and listened to how it was used in the context of Two Spirit. When I found out that nádleehí were people like me, that I was nádleehí, it was medicine. Medicine in the sense that my identity was always here, at home, within my people, within my language, and within me all the time.
One might be confused as to why I use the labels of transgender woman and Two Spirit and why they aren’t the same. Trans woman is basically how I navigate the Euro-Western/American world while nádleehí is how I navigate the Navajo world. Two Spirit is that bridge, although not perfect, that semi-connects these identities on certain levels. I hope you read up more and watch QEDU’s video (or any video) on Two Spirit to learn more about these identities.
Ahéhee’ (Thank you),
Tovaangar (Los Angeles, CA)