Here are a poem and a drawing by two contributors to
Living the Spirit: A Gay American Indian Anthology,
edited by Will Roscoe (New York: St. Martin's, 1988).
The following drawing, commentary, and poem are from a chapbook
compiled by Mark Housley Dutcher for his Clown Project,
part of Seeing Voices: Art & The Spoken Word: Storytelling, A Collaborative Group Exhibition
in Long Beach, California, September 1997. Each writer was asked to contribute a "clown poem"
and to illustrate the poem with a drawing of his or her own.
That accounts for the primitive quality of my drawing!
"Mudheads" originally appeared in The
Age of the Mother,
Copyright © 1992 Clifton Snider.
The "berdache" I refer to in "Mudheads" is the anthropological term
for a third or fourth gender person in many native tribes across the American continents.
They were often honored and assumed scared roles in their tribes.
When the Europeans arrived, many persecuted these people.
The conquistador Vasco Núñez de Balboa, for example,
upon discovering some berdaches in what is now Panama,
threw them to the dogs, which ate them alive.
Today, many native gays and lesbians prefer
the term "two-spirit" to describe both the historical
third or fourth gender person and themselves.
See Will Roscoe's Changing Ones: Third and
Fourth Genders in Native North America
(Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, England:
Macmillan, 1998) and
Walter L. Williams's The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity
in American Indian Culture, Boston: Beacon, 1986.
Here is a recent rendering called "Berdache," by Joe Lawrence,
reproduced in Will Roscoe's The Zuni Man-Woman (Albuquerque:
University of New Mexico Press, 1991).
For more art and poetry on the Zuni Pueblo of New Mexico, click on Shalako.
Will Roscoe is the authority on the berdache in Native Americans. To read more
about him and his books on this and related subjects, click on Will Roscoe.
For a good search engine on this and related topics, see PrideLinks.
See also QueerTheory.com.
My book, The Alchemy
of Opposites, contains many poems dealing
with Native American themes.