Two-spirit respect is alive and well in Vancouver

Within North American Indigenous cultures, two-spirit people, those who carry both the male and the female spirit (which is the “2” in “LGBTQ2”) have held roles of honor within their communities for centuries.

In Vancouver, where Indigenous populations have called the stunning landscape home for millennia, there are many ways to explore the history and significance of two-spirit people and learn how these ancient cultures treated homosexuality and gender expression while enjoying one the world’s great cities.

Here are five of our favorites:

Stanley Park

Aerial view of the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Photo by Albert Normandin

Stanley Park in Vancouver consists of 1000 acres of Pacific rainforest, located on a peninsula surrounded by Burrard Inlet and English Bay. It’s been a designated green space for over 130 years, but for thousands of years before, Indigenous communities such as the Squamish and Musqueam made their homes here. Take a scenic walk through one of the many well-maintained trails, breath in the evergreen air and ocean mist, and marvel at Brockton Point’s nine totem poles, the most visited site in all of British Columbia.

Indigenous Food

Salmon n’ Bannock Burger: Photo by Matt Law, Tourism Vancouver

Vancouver is home to a fusion of international cuisine made with home-grown local ingredients, but the most historically traditional cuisine you can find is at places like Salmon n’ Bannock Bistro. (Bannock is the traditional Indigenous unleavened flatbread.) Flavors and ingredients are pulled into innovations such as their triple-sage-smoked salmon burger; game sausage; bison pot roast; and of course, rounds of toasty bannock itself, served with cedar jelly or safe-infused blueberry preserves.

Local Language & Dance

Tyler Jacobs: Photo by Belle Ancel, Tourism Vancouver

Tyler Jacobs is an Indigenous two-spirit performer and fashion designer from Squamish Nation in Vancouver. In this video he shares his native language, shows how he incorporates Indigenous elements into his modern fashion design and performs his traditional dances in both male and female regalia in accordance with his two-spirit status.

Indigenous Arts

Museum of Anthropology: Photo by Tanya Goehring, Tourism Vancouver

Coast Salish artists of the Vancouver area create dramatic visuals. Look up into the eyes of expressive masks, trace the curves of carved spindle wheels, follow the cedar lines of woven baskets and learn how these traditions have continued throughout the centuries. The Museum of Anthropology and the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art are good places to start.

Two-Spirit-Friendly Spas and More

Orene Askew (aka DJ O Show) is a two-spirit person with Indigenous and African-American heritage. In this video, she and drag artist Carl McDonald (aka Carlotta Gurl) take you on a tour through Vancouver’s natural wonders, trans-and-nonbinary-friendly spas, and the hot spots where both perform.

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