Walter L. Williams's excellent research has produced one of the most extensive studies of the berdache culture among Native Americans. Unlike the larger American society, Native Americans historically have respected, and in many tribal nations venerated, homosexuals. Williams explains the berdache as a custom, its social roles, and the berdache history, including its introduction to the European concept of sin and intolerance of sexual diversity. The word berdache
applies almost exclusively to males, mainly because historical records only relate dealings with aboriginal males, but Williams also includes a chapter on female sexual diversity, using the word amazon
to describe these often warriorlike women.
From Publishers Weekly
Williams, an ethnohistorian at the University of Southern California, presents a fascinating and thorough study of American Indian acceptance of sexual diversity. Drawing on interviews with Native Americans, anthropologists and historians, Williams documents how tribal cultures revered the "berdache"any man who "does not fill a society's standard man's role, who has a nonmasculine character." Many American Indian communities believed that some members belonged to an "alternative gender" neither male nor female, their identities determined by spiritual inclination, not sex. Berdaches were treated as sacred and held ceremonial roles as psychic healers, "medicine men" and prophets. Williams also illustrates how European settlers in North and South America sought to repress the berdache tradition and how it went underground, reemerging after the rebirth of Native American culture and the rise of gay liberation. The only flaws in this enlightening book are the author's tendency to generalize about Western homophobia and his too brief treatment of female counterparts of berdaches.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an alternate