NE2SS.org is devoted to providing information about and for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and two-spirit American Indians of New York City and the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut). According to the 2000 US Census, more than any other city in the country New York City is the home to the largest urban Indian population.
NorthEast Two-Spirit Society (NE2SS) works to increase the visibility of the two-spirit community and to provide social, traditional and recreational opportunities that are culturally appropriate to the two-spirit community of NYC and the surrounding tri-state area. At the heart of the efforts by NE2SS is community development for all our peoples.
We believe the first step toward an individual making healthy decisions comes with the development of self-esteem. We also strongly believe that community pride is an integral component in the development of self-esteem. By combating isolation and developing self-esteem, we are not only addressing the basic needs in our community, but we provide the foundation for adding a new and vibrant component to New York City’s American Indian experience.
The majority of Two Spirit individuals face many challenges that prevent us from leading quality lives. Here are some highlights from our “Just the Facts” handout:
- 65-70% AI/AN live in urban settings or do not reside on a reservation.
- Less than 1% of the total number of HIV/AIDS cases reported to the HIV/AIDS Reporting System are people who are American Indians and Alaska Natives. However, when population size is taken into account, this population in 2004 was ranked 3rd in rates of AIDS diagnoses, after African Americans and Hispanics. The rate of AIDS diagnoses for this group has been higher than that for whites since 1995.
- AI/AN life spans are on average 10 years shorter than those of the average U.S. population. This difference is related to significantly higher rates of alcoholism, tuberculosis, diabetes, pneumonia, and influenza. One-third of all AI/ANs who die before age 45 do so because of drug and alcohol abuse. Drug and alcohol abuse, in combination with high poverty rates, creates barriers to sufficient HIV care among AI/ANs.
- The suicide rate for American Indian/Alaska Natives aged 10-19 is 25 to 28 per 100,000 and is the highest teen suicide rate among all ethnic groups. In addition to the increased risk factors for ethnic groups, there is also evidence that gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens are also at a high risk for suicide. In fact, suicide is the number one cause of death for LGBT teens.
- 32% AI/AN living below the poverty line – compared to the national average of 13%. Issues related to poverty like lower levels of education and poorer access to healthcare has a direct and indirect impact on our people.
Further complicating these challenges, Two-Spirit people also face other impediments associated with racial prejudice in addition to the stigma associated with being lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender and/or intersex.
Our Long Term Vision
We work for overall health and well being of Two-Spirit individuals and the American Indian community. All of our programs and events attract and bring together members of the Two Spirit and Native American communities and work to break the sense of isolation that many of our people experience, especially in urban areas that may be far from their ancestral territories, families and communities. We believe that the first step toward a person making healthy decisions comes with the development of self-esteem. Community pride is a critical component in the development of self-esteem. By combating isolation and developing self-esteem, we are not only addressing the basic needs in our community but also providing the foundation to add a new and vibrant component to New York City’s Native American experience.
In many American Indian traditions, there were individuals who entered into same-sex relationships and were considered holy and treated with the highest respect and acceptance. They were the historians, the healers, and people of empowerment. They possessed a delicate balance of male and female “spirits” and were often honored for being unique and having a different spiritual calling. One of the important functions they provided was as mediators between the spirit world and physical world.
The mission of NorthEast Two-Spirit Society is:
- To educate the LGBT and non-LGBT communities regarding indigenous and Two-Spirit histories and traditions;
- To ensure community cohesion amongst the NorthEast Two-Spirit people through the promotion of health and spiritual well-being by sharing our traditions with one another;
- To outreach, build alliances and coalitions with other community based organizations to increase the visibility of the Two-Spirit community to ensure the Two-Spirit community’s needs and concerns are being addressed.