for delayed reaction to another dialogue that got me triggered…..

let’s call this story “on traditional values”…..

let’s say it’s happening on a listserv I’m on…..

let’s say I ask/ed a question….

let’s say I’m stillwaiting for the answer…..

you tell me what you think.


do you have the answerS?

i’ll tell you what I think in a few days, right now I got bigger re/search to do….



Question: mine

Answers: as follows

Yes there are sources we can refer to on homoerotic and gender variant traditions among North America Indian tribes.  But we cannot generalize from specific localized information (which is all we have).  We can cite the specific examples.  The same is true for parts of Africa.


Doug Sanders

Douglas Elliot


I hate to even partially disagree with my esteemed friend, “the other Doug”, but I would take issue with his passing comment about North America.

 It is true that there was great diversity among the original inhabitants of North America in many respects. However, I believe it is fair to say that the predominant view was the acceptance of sexual minorities prior to European contact among what we in Canada now refer to as First Nations. A common view was that some people were “two spirited”, having a male and female spirit. Male chiefs, such as  Sitting Bull, often had a male “wife” who could accompany them in circumstances where women were not permitted, such as on war parties. 

An accessible resource for an overview on this is The Spirit and the Flesh.

What is unquestionable, as this book documents, is that religious proscriptions on “sodomites” and cross-dressing were introduced and enforced by Europeans backed by the power of their churches and governments. This sate and social enforcement all rested on traditional Christian European norms about monogamous heterosexual marriage as the only legitimate setting for the only legitimate type of sexual activity, vaginal intercourse for the purposes of procreation.


It was for this reason that when opponents of same sex marriage argued that monogamous heterosexual marriage was “traditional” in Canada, I asked, “traditional for whom?” It was traditional for the European settlers who came here, but not for the First Nations who had already been here for centuries. Many of them traditionally practiced polygamy, divorce at will and same sex marriage, to the horror of Europeans arriving here.


I do agree with Doug that we need to have our facts lined up and our arguments at the ready to meet this rising tide. We should never allow our opponents to claim the authority of history, as they will falsify it to advance their own ends.  We must “speak truth to power.”


People like us can be found everywhere in the world, and throughout human history.


R. Douglas Elliott




I have to agree with Doug Elliott on this.  In the few articles that I have published on this issue, I have extensive examples of same-sex relationships being recognized throughout the world and throughout history with the obvious caveats that:

(1) this work is obviously derivative from the extensive research done by sociologists and historians (I just compiled it); and

(2) as Doug Sanders mentioned, although not in these exact words, each society constructed gender relations in such a way that we would not necessarily recognize those relationships as “gay” relationships in today’s society – but whatever they were, they weren’t “straight” and they usually involved two individuals who had the same genitalia, however their gender was actually constructed.

 An early piece I did (there are obviously better ones out there now) was Wilets, International Human Rights Law and Sexual Orientation, 18 Hastings Int’l & Comp. L. Rev. 1 (fall, 1994)

 It’s just to give you an idea that there are a lot of resources out there to make the argument very compelling.


Professor of Law &

Chair Inter-American Center for Human Rights

James D. Wilets





On showing sexual and gender diversity in various “traditions”.


Our knowledge on this is partial.  We have excellent historical material on an acceptance of homoeroticism and gender variance in China, Japan and Korea – the best documented for any countries.  In contrast historical material for Thailand does not turn up such information.  Transgender kathoey, and “toms and dees”, the leading writers say, emerge in the period after the second World War (though it has been common here in Thailand to assume that kathoey are an old part of Thai society). 


Ruth Vanita has done the best work on India – very detailed.  She finds some positive and some negative parts in the traditions.  What she does say very clearly is that she does not find the modern patterns of homophobia in the traditions.  That, she says, can be traced to 19th century colonialism.  19th century “sexology” also spreads to Japan from Europe, resulting in the ending of the homoerotic traditions.


Our information on Indonesia and the Philippines is spotty.  We have some local transgender patterns (usually with transgender shamans or spirit mediums) but they are distant from what we would consider as patterns of normalizing acceptance of same sex desire.  There are no common patterns among North American Indian tribes (which represented so many different languages and cultures).


At this point we have no scholarly overview which places the various older traditions in some kind of context and set of descriptive categories.  What we do not have anywhere are documened patterns of acceptance or toleration of same-sex relationships (a) which are ongoing, (b) which are not age-stratified, (c) which are not gendered, and (d) which do not co-exist with heterosexual marriage by at least one of the partners.


But we have some very good information on some traditions that destabilizes any suggestion that homosexuality is new and western.  Incidentally, I think that in South and Southeast Asia no political representatives would argue that transgender groupings (hijra, aravani, metis, kathoey, waria) are not long standing parts of society.


If the workshop is held we have some work to do to put together our “traditional” claims.

Doug Sanders



Apparently several pro-countries voted form their own “traditional values”. Like BOlivia for which country indigenous values are traditional values and they still tend to take a non-Western stance (anti-US). Without regard tO their constitution that gives women and LGBT people equal rights to the rest. And I would have hoped that Cuba would have been wiser than to support these reactionary values. Apparently LGBT nor women’s rights have enough focus form the diplomats or the government there. I wonder what Mariela Castro has tried to do (if anything).




I was thinking along the same lines, Scott…let’s start thinking about ways to not let “them” define traditional values…how about longer than three-decade traditions, but rather centuries old traditions….the fa’afafine community of Samoa, the two-spirited communities of the Canada, hijra, etc., etc. If there is to be a workshop and we have lost this battle, let’s at least try to reframe the thinking, post-resolution. Let’s utilize the HRW report to show that these relatively “new” traditions, brought forward by colonialism, affect the traditional values of many countries.

I also wonder whether anyone knows if there is intention to carry this resolution or battle across the waters to the GA in New York….does anyone know? A HR Council majority decision was disastrous enough, a GA resolution or even a statement support by a majority of the GA would be terrible!

Cheers, Kim



THE DEBATE I QUESTIONED (INTO) had been about Russia before……

before I asked my question, the hot off the UN peer reviews,

 was Russia’s UPR  report, en subsequent responses, at the UN, 

HRD’s were lobbying to contest the state’s stance on continued discrimination against LGBTTIQQ based on “traditional values”


Here’s part of the thread just before my question,

 Scott Long,

An absolute majority even with abstentions! Between this, the dumbing-down of the discrimination against women resolution, the stifling of the Goldstone report, and Sri Lanka, one begins to long for the old “discredited Commission on Human Rights.”

Aluta continua; but one gets so tired of saying that.

Since OHCHR is now burdened with the responsibility of setting up a momentous workshop on traditional values, can we talk about packing it with representatives of the three-decade communal traditions of the Folsom Street Fair?



The Traditional Values resolution was just adopted 26 in favour, 15 against, 6 abstentions. I am sure John will provide all the details. Despite this disappointing result, there were some very good statements made by States, no doubt helped by ngos’ advocacy work.


Have a restful weekend everyone,




And so then I asked,


This ongoing debate at the U.N, about Russia’s position on traditional values, has triggered me to shore up my own queer/afrikan position on traditional culture(s) and mores.

I’m currently in the process of writing essays on the reconstruction of gender and sexuality for school and work, and, I’m looking for relevant readings to guide me in the process of reclaiming indigenous afrikan identities.

I figure this is a relevant listserv to ask for help on suggested readings, other than the usual suspects’ of course…..

Yes. I have read Boy Wives and Female Husbands, and I wish I could get my hands on Sylvia Tamale’s publications….

for a womyn loving womyn/afrikan activist who’s starting out on her ‘lesbian-like’  feminist research…what would you recommend for me to study, on traditional (pan) Afrikan values?


in solidarity,




Which, finally, brings me (back) to the point of this post.

Do you have the answer/s to my question/s?

I’ll give you my delayed reaction, if you tell me yours.