Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Usage Problem Among certain Native American peoples, a person, usually a male, who assumes the gender identity and is granted the social status of the opposite sex.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Among Native Americans, a person who identifies with any of a variety of gender identities which are not exclusively those of their biological sex; a transgender person.

Etymologies

North American French, from French bardache, catamite, from Italian dialectal bardascia, from Arabic bardaj, slave, from Persian bardah, prisoner, from Middle Persian vartak, from Old Iranian *varta-.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French bardache, from Italian bardascia, perhaps from Arabic بردج (bardaj, "slave"). Compare bardash. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • So, Annie says 'No, berdache is not transgender, either.'

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  • Until recently I would have used the generic anthropological term berdache - but I recently found out that it is considered disrespectful by most Native Americans - and I am truly sorry for my use of this word in the past.

    Thomas Paine's Corner

  • Two-spirited ones (formerly known as berdache) were commonly found in many Amerindian cultures.

    Christopher Ryan: The Prehistory of Prop 8

  • Explained to the idjit about how offensive the word berdache was, about how it didn't mean lesbian or gay.

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  • Most Native American tribes formally recognize -- and honor -- human homosexuality and transgender in the role of the 'two-spirit' person (sometimes formerly known as berdache).

    THE MEDICAL NEWS

  • A male warrior could marry a berdache, which is a male that takes on the roles and positions of a female.

    Conservapedia - Recent changes [en]

  • The tribe watched what he took with him as he ran out, and if it was the basketry materials they reconciled themselves to his being a 'berdache'.

    Two Spirits

  • The Native Americans call these homosexuals or hermaphrodites "berdache".

    American Chronicle

  • The term "berdache" is considered by most in the culture to be insulting.

    The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

  • The Crow people, for example, recognized a third gender, or berdache, understood by natives as "two spirit" people possessed of both maleness and femaleness and, in many tribes, permitted to marry partners of the same sex.

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Comments

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  • "Okay, in some cultures we're considered freaks," she went on. "But in others it's just the opposite. The Navajo have a category of person they call a berdache. What a berdache is, basically, is someone who adopts a gender other than their biological one....The berdaches are the shamans of the tribe. They're the healers, the great weavers, the artists."
    —Jeffrey Eugenides, 2002, Middlesex, p. 489

    August 17, 2008