Ideas surrounding gender identity and expression vary across cultures and through time. In Unangax̂ culture, for example, as elder Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff explains, “Being a man means being patient, a keen observer, considerate of people and wildlife, cooperative, not macho or aggressive, soft spoken, always in relationship to everything and being present in the moment. Western society calls these qualities ‘feminine’ and somehow that is negative, but in the Unangax̂ worldview, these qualities are necessary to be a true man.”
Historically, Indigenous cultures also recognized two-spirits, people who identify as having both a male and female essence or spirit. Colonization introduced a patriarchal social organization, and the idea of a rigid gender binary with two opposing genders.
Today, we see increased visibility of two-spirit, nonbinary, transgender, and gender-neutral identities, among others. Here, artists explore how gender roles are learned, enforced, subverted, and transformed.