Cultural Appropriation

I’ve had this post by genderbitch open for a while now, with the intention of writing something about it.  In her post, she briefly touches on cultural appropriation and the use of “Two Spirit” in some trans circles. Two Spirit, a concept originally from certain Native North American traditions has been appropriated by some queer/ trans folks to describe their identity. In her post, genderbitch makes a clear case about the cultural appropriation aspect of this identity/ label.

In any case, her post got me thinking about cultural appropriation. Some cases (i.e. hipsters wearing headdress in supposedly “fashion” photo shoots) are clear cut and nobody would dare argue their offensive nature (except, maybe, the hipsters in question who see nothing wrong in their actions). However, in cases like Two Spirit as a label, is it really cultural appropriation of the same level as a person misrepresenting (and disrespecting) a Native culture by wearing a headdress? Does cultural appropriation ever become acceptable, particularly in those cases when a term from another culture better defines something than any of the terms in the mainstream/ dominant culture? Is the Two Spirit label more descriptive/ better suited to define certain identities than anything that exists in dominant culture? If that is the case, is it then acceptable to borrow the term? Is the incorporation of such label an acknowledgment from the dominant culture that it lacks on an appropriate term to describe something and instead, it needs to look somewhere else to find a more suitable definition? Or is simply another form of colonialism and absorption of a minority group?

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