Written by By Nellie Andreeva, CNN
The number of women who identify as two-spirited has doubled in the last decade. In 2017, 48.6% of women said they were two-spirited, compared to 21.7% in 2006, according to the Pew Research Center . Similar rates are being reported across gender and race, with the growth perhaps being driven by young women.
Laura Branigan, founder of the support group Two-Spirited Woman Foundation , told CNN that the stories of two-spirited women — and the importance of including them in the cultural lexicon — is a multi-layered story that is both personal and transcendent.
Sarah Tice Johnson Pomeranz, author of ” Two-spirited Woman: The Untold Story of a White Girl Raised as a Boy,” was the only child of divorced parents. When the identity she was born with went unnoticed and unrecognized, she simply “wasn’t one of them.”
“When I went to my parents’ wedding in 1962, I would’ve been as much as eight months or nine months old,” she told CNN in 2016. “I felt like an outcast. I didn’t get invited to family gatherings, and if my parents were traveling out of town, they did a lot of traveling with the family.”
Susan Fogarty-Lee first noticed that something was amiss when she was in seventh grade in the 1970s, when she was taking family photographs. Fogarty-Lee is Jewish, like her mother, a fashion model, and she herself was a fashion model in her early twenties. Yet, when taking the photos of her young, non-Jewish family, she discovered that the photos came out differently from the ones that her mother’s relatives were used to.
“There was more deflection of women’s faces, and their placement was not correct, too.”
In the picture’s caption, she saw that the four men were all positioned together. “When I was 16, I decided I didn’t want to identify as a girl anymore, and I decided to start calling myself a lesbian.”
Her father, who remembers a happy marriage and home with his gay daughter, was not thrilled. When she attended a Grateful Dead concert in 1974, Fogarty-Lee realized that she had fallen in love with another woman for the first time. Despite her father’s disapproval, she felt the connection in her soul and married his muse, a woman named Bernadette Price, the following year.
Fogarty-Lee lost her partner, Bernadette Price, in 2007, but her family is supportive of her identity. Fogarty-Lee thinks her mother, who died of a stroke in 2009, might be embarrassed by the term “two-spirited.”
“As long as I take care of myself, things will be fine.” Fogarty-Lee added that she hopes to inspire other daughters and sons to embrace their identity.