1st Edition

Urban Indigenous Youth Reframing Two-Spirit

By Marie Laing Copyright 2021
    212 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    212 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book offers insights from young trans, queer, and two-spirit Indigenous people in Toronto who examine the breadth and depth of meanings that two-spirit holds. Tracing the refusals and desires of these youth and their communities, Urban Indigenous Youth Reframing Two-Spirit expands critical conversations on queerness, Indigeneity, and community and simultaneously troubles the idea that articulating a definition of two-spirit is a worthwhile undertaking. Beyond the expansion of these conversations, this book also seeks to empower community members, educators, and young people — both Indigenous and non-Indigenous — to better support the self-determination of trans, queer, and two-spirit Indigenous youth. By including a research zine and community discussion guidelines, Laing demonstrates the possibility of powerful change that comes from Indigenous people creating spaces to share knowledge with one another.

    Artist Statement on the Cover Artwork by Kaya Joan


    Chapter 1 Introduction

    Chapter 2 The Emergence of Two-Spirit

    Chapter 3 Refusing the Question "What Does Two-Spirit Mean?"

    Chapter 4 Two-Spirit as a Hashtag and a Container

    Chapter 5 Roots of the Literal Definition

    Chapter 6 Needs & Desires

    Chapter 7 Conclusion

    Two-Spirit Zine

    Community Discussion Guide


    Marie Laing is a Youth Leader with the Native Youth Sexual Health Network in Toronto, Canada.

    Certain to be essential reading in the study of Indigenous gender and sexuality and community-centred scholarship, Urban Indigenous Youth Reframing Two-Spirit is an impressively researched and compellingly argued consideration of how trans, queer, and two-spirit Indigenous people make meaning of terms like two-spirit in making and imagining community. Laing brings readers into a community conversation that is at once profound, multidimensional, and provocative; she considers not just the histories of representation but also lived experiences as well as transformative visions of otherwise futures. This is a generous and generative study firmly rooted in honourable relations and ethical praxis; it stands as a model of what respectful and robust scholarship can be, and takes seriously the call to specificity in time, place, and relations. We have needed this book for a very long time.

    —Daniel Heath Justice, Professor of Indigenous Literature and Expressive Culture, First Nations and Indigenous Studies/English, University of British Columbia, Canada.

    In Urban Indigenous Youth Reframing Two-Spirit, Marie Laing invites Two Spirit, Trans and Queer young people to take up space–intellectually, politically, and otherwise–and to center themselves, their communities, and their own experiences and desires. To do this, Laing carefully traces Two Spirit histories and language, and the ways that Indigenous young people in the city of Toronto are reimagining Two Spirit futures. By refusing the anthropological impulse to define, confine, and fold Indigenous Two Spirit, Trans, and Queer life into white neoliberal identity politics and indeed the state, Laing’s work with Indigenous young people offers a convening of collaboration and care which resists colonial logics and practice. Laing asks readers to listen deeply to the critical and transformative conversations that Two Spirit, Trans and Queer young people want to have, and often are already having, and in so doing, reiterates the brilliance and complexity of young peoples’ theorizing and activism. This life affirming and justice doing book should be essential reading across Indigenous, Feminist, Queer, Youth, and Community Studies. It offers a compelling account of Two Spirit young people’s reckoning with structural violence, and how they are creating vibrant futures for themselves and their communities which will long outlive colonialism. To be honest, I wish I had this book as a young person. Reading it as an adult gave me the hope and sense of place that I so longed for then. I have no doubt this book will save lives, but perhaps more urgently, it helps us to imagine the type of decolonial futures that Two Spirit, Trans and Queer folx want to live here and now–a life abundant in community, cultural connection, ceremony, and radical love.

    —Jeffrey P. Ansloos, Assistant Professor of Indigenous Mental Health and Education, University of Toronto–Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Canada