Check It Out – New Resource: “Meet the Methods Series: ‘What and Who is Two-Spirit’ in Health Research”

A new resource from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), developed by Harlan Pruden (who is nēhiyo/First Nations Cree and works as an Educator with the Chee Mamuk Program at BCCDC) and Travis Salway (who is an Assistant Professor of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University), provides an introduction to Two-Spirit. This resource is part of CIHR’s “Meet the Methods series”, which aims to help researchers in “integrating sex, gender and other identity factors into various fields of health research” (CIHR, 2020).

This two-page resource shares where the term Two-Spirit was coined, what Two-Spirit may mean for Two-Spirit individuals and how researchers can include Two-Spirit in their research – both in recruiting Two-Spirit persons for participation in research and asking questions about Two-Spirit in their surveys. It provides clear, practical advice for researchers, including an example of how to ask about Two-Spirit in a survey question.

Harlan explains,

“As a Two-Spirit community organizer, I often see “LGBTQI/2S+”. With the inclusion of ‘2S’ is gestures and signals towards “Two-Spirit” identities and analysis, yet what often happens is Two-Spirit is collapsed into a sexual orientation and/or gender categories, where Indigenous person(s) and seen or classified as either lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender or some other western framework or notion, thereby erasing important distinctions tied to living openly and proudly as Two-Spirit. While many Two-Spirit people also identify as LGBTQI+, the term “Two-Spirit” has vibrant and diverse local and regional meanings tied to a plurality of possible gender and sexual expressions within different Indigenous communities. This “Meet the Methods: ‘What and who is Two-Spirit?’” provides a pathway to collecting Two-Spirit data that then opens the possibility of a sex and gender based analysis that is honouring and inclusive of Two-Spirit people(s), ways and stories told through numbers.”

Travis notes,

“For far too long, Two-Spirit has been tacked onto lesbian/gay/bisexual/queer surveys, as an earnest but superficial attempt to make the survey inclusive of Indigenous people. We developed this guide to encourage researchers to dig deeper in their methods, while ensuring that Two-Spirit data are meaningful and that they specifically honour the purpose and traditions of Two-Spirit notions of sexualities and genders. And we humbly share it, to open more conversations about how we can support Two-Spirit focused strength and resilience.”

This resource is important in helping us collect Two-Spirit data “in a culturally safe and affirming way” (Pruden and Salway, 2020) and expand how we do health research in a way that increases our depth of understanding and makes research more relevant to our communities. We encourage you to check this resource out and learn more!


Questions? Comments? Please contact Madeline Gallard, Community-Based Research Coordinator at [email protected].