Scroll To Top

What Does The '2S' Or 'Two-Spirit' Mean In The LGBTQIA2S+?

What Does The '2S' Or 'Two-Spirit' Mean In The LGBTQIA2S+?

Kairyn Potts, Ilona Verley, Bobby Sanchez
TikTok; World of Wonder

Get to know the "Two-Spirit" part of our rainbow family.


In the ever-expanding world of the queer community, you may have seen ‘2S’ tacked on to either the beginning or end of the LGBTQIA. If you see it and scratch your head in wonder, no worries, keep reading and we’ll fill you in on all the deets.

Two-Spirit, or 2S, is a male, female, or sometimes intersexed individual who represents equal traits of men and women. Native American and Alaskan Native tribes that consisted of Two-Spirit individuals gave them their own separate gender.

These individuals were often thought to have unique spiritual and social roles within the community and brought about a greater understanding of how gender, sexuality, and spirituality interconnect. The Two-Spirited people, although sometimes broken up into Two Spirit female and Two Spirit male, were different from being transgendered, where your physical body doesn’t align with your gender identity.

The term “Two Spirit” was initially adopted from the Ojibwa tribe term Niizh Manidoowag in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1989, though other tribes have their own terms. The Navajo tribe referred to 2S individuals as Nádleehí, or one who is transformed. The Lakota tribe used Winkté, a term indicative of a man who wants to behave as a women, while the Cheyenne tribe used Hemaneh, or half man, half woman. As a blanket term was needed in English, “Two Spirit” became the choice.

The presence of Two-Spirit people spans back centuries, with early Jesuit and French explorers discussing Native American tribes who had “Given to sin” and “Hunting Women” with wives. The British showed up with similar accounts later on in similar reactions as those given by modern day Christians.

Within the Native American belief, though, it was thought that some people were born with both of the genders perfectly molded within them as if they carried two spirits within the same body, thus ultimately garnering the term.

If you’re looking to expand your knowledge on Two-Spirit awareness, check out Kairyn Potts (he/him), a Two-Spirit Winkté man from the Alexis Lakota Sioux Nation who posts about awareness and Two-Spirit mental health and identity on TikTok. If you’re looking for representation in music, check out Bobby Sanchez (she/they), an Indigenous Quechua Wari Two-Spirit singer, or Canada's Drag Race season 1 star Ilona Verley (they/them).

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

author avatar

Andrew J. Stillman

Contributing Writer for

Andrew J. Stillman is a freelance writer and yoga instructor exploring the world. Check him out at or follow him @andrewjstillman on all the things.

Andrew J. Stillman is a freelance writer and yoga instructor exploring the world. Check him out at or follow him @andrewjstillman on all the things.