Two-Spirit Program working to reclaim the sacredness in sex

A man stands with a cowboy hat in his hands while out in a desert-like landscape.

By Odette Auger, Windspeaker Buffalo Spirit Reporter

Two-spirit and LGBTQ+ people were celebrated March 19 when the Spring Equinox brought the balance of night and day.

The celebration was marked by events across the country and is an initiative of the Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC), a non-profit charitable organization that promotes the health of people of diverse sexualities and genders through research, networking, knowledge exchanges and leadership development.

The theme for Two-Spirit Day this year was “Bringing sexuality back into our Medicine Wheel.”

Lane Bonertz is Blackfoot of the Piikani Nation. He’s the team lead of the Two-Spirit Program at CBRC, which “is part of a resurgence of two-spirit people across Turtle Island,” he said.

Bonertz’s role focuses on education and resource development, creating accessible tools and opportunities to learn about sexual health in ways that centre Indigenous identities, cultures and realities.

Sexual health is a part of our physical health, Bonertz explained. They are not separate from one another.

What does that mean within the broader understanding of the Medicine Wheel?

“Knowing our bodies, communicating our needs, and being aware of what’s available to protect and care for our sexual health is part of maintaining that balance we all strive for,” he said.

One of the Two-Spirit Program’s current campaigns is to help move sacredness back into sex with the aim of reducing stigma around sexuality, HIV and sexual health.

“Pleasure, relationships, consent, choice, all of these things contribute to the emotional, mental, and spiritual. It’s all connected,” said Bonertz.

He said the impact of colonization and Christianity has limited dialogue around these topics within Indigenous communities, preventing the sharing of information that could improve uptake of testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, treatment, and prevention.

“Our intention is to start the conversation many are nervous to have in the hopes of improving the health of our Nations and communities.”

The truth within differences

Two-spirit is a distinction, said Bonertz. “A way of expressing that, as Indigenous people, we have had our own understandings of gender and sexuality long before any influence or movement.”

It’s also a gathering term. It can refer to sexual orientation, gender identity, neither, or both, he explained.

“It is the recognition of the multitude of identities, teachings, and ways of living that are true to us, our ancestors, and cultures as Indigenous people since time immemorial.”

“Two-spirit people held very important—often sacred—roles serving their communities.”

Bonertz said two-spirit people were respected for their abilities to see multiple perspectives, assume the responsibilities of bodies unlike their own, mediate conflict, and more.

“Being able to connect over the truth within differences of who we are as two-spirit people is a return to culture and a way of healing this part of who we are that colonialism tried to erase.”


The Two-Spirit Team at CBRC has developed a Medicine Bundle Program, which has provided sexual health supplies and Indigenous medicines to thousands of Indigenous two-spirited people.

The CBRC website explains the medicine bundle concept and how it is applied to their sexual health kits. Medicine bundle contents hold personal significance. Each is sacred to the carrier.

 “It contains items that support you in your personal journey and development,” the CBRC website reads.

The CBRC medicine bundle includes sage, sweetgrass, tobacco, cedar, and Labrador tea. Weaving in western medicine, the bundle also includes an HIV self-test kit and sexual health supplies and information.

“The purpose of this bundle is to bring the sacredness back into sex and give you access to a holistic approach to your sexual health needs,” the website reads. (See the Medicine Bundle Program link above to order.)

“It was important to hold our traditional ways of healing and care as equally beneficial in responding to the totality of our needs,” said Bonertz.

“Accessing healthcare has not always felt safe for Indigenous people, and the emphasis on physical health alone can feel cold and isolating. We are often only addressing the symptoms and not the other external factors that cause those symptoms to begin with.”

CBRC creates resources that include traditional medicines that nurture the mental, emotional, and spiritual parts of our overall wellbeing, Bonertz said.

“The types of sex people have are vast and varied,” as are the teachings and uses of traditional medicines across Turtle Island, he explained.

Valued and affirmed

“Joining the Two-Spirit Program was the first time my Indigeneity, my sexuality, my learned and lived experience were valued and affirmed,” said Bonertz.

As he grew to understand and define who he was, the need to give back grew.

“I knew that I wanted to dedicate my efforts to improving the lives of the 2SLGBTQ+ community,” Bonertz said.

“I understand two-spirit from the outside in; what role do I fulfill in my community and what responsibilities do I have to the collective? Who am I to my mother, my family, my friends? I am a caregiver, an educator, and someone who strives for balance and tries to live my life in a very gentle way,” he said. Bonertz set a path by asking himself, “In what ways are my differences valued, uplifted, and positively contribute to the lives of those around me?”

“Two-spirit encapsulates so much more than how I see myself or who I may be attracted to. It speaks to the unique place in which myself and many two-spirit people find themselves in relation to others.”

Welcoming two-spirit people back into our circles

Windspeaker asked Bonertz about two-spirit people sometimes being excluded from ceremonial spaces and some powwows.

"The ongoing exclusion,” explained Bonertz, has left many “feeling removed or isolated from their Nations or communities."

“Loving and welcoming two-spirit people back into our circles is a part of undoing the impact of colonialism as we become closer to the lives of our ancestors,” he said.

“If we encourage and give two-spirit people the freedom to be who they are meant to be, they will naturally grow into the roles they were born to fulfill. As a group, we become whole.”

Bonertz has seen attitudes changing in his home community. He has “witnessed two-spirit people dancing in the regalia and in styles that speak to their spirit, not the body they were born into.”

“These moments of celebration are a homecoming. It’s where we find one another so we will never feel alone again.”

He encourages people to “see the 2SLGBTQ+ folks in their life with warmth, acceptance, and a willingness to let them discover and determine who they are. I have hope that things are getting better, but we still have a long way to go.”

Until then, Two-Spirit Celebration and Awareness Day, as well as powwows and ceremonies led by two-spirit people, welcome all “in the same way we hope to be welcomed back into spaces where we may have felt we don’t belong,” said Bonertz.

Top photo: Lane Bonertz is the team lead of the Two-Spirit Program with the Community-Based Research Centre.