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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.

[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-; see welə- in Indo-European roots.]

ber·dach′ism n.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


a Native American transvestite
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014



(in some American Indian tribes) a man who adopts the dress and social roles traditionally assigned to women.
[1800–10; < North American French; French bardache boy prostitute < South Italian bardascia < Arabic bardaj slave < Persian bardag]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Forgey, "The Institution of Berdache Among the North American Plains Indians," Journal of Sex Research 11(1975): 5.
For example in American Indian tradition, the berdache or the heyoehkah who gave spiritual leadership to the tribe were usually drawn from among the gay members of the tribe.
Perhaps my answer to the David Halperin question that you ask ["Does the 'paederast,' the classical Greek adult, married male who periodically enjoys sexually penetrating a male adolescent, share the same sexuality with the 'berdache' ...?"] will make my point more clear: Yes, I do think that all the people he lists are homosexuals: the Greek "paederast," the Native American "berdache," the New Guinea tribesman and warrior, etc., etc.
Her discussion of the Plains Indian berdache, a man who dressed as a woman and performed women's tasks, brought attention to considering all categories of gender rather than assuming a simple heterosexual female/male division.
Native American tribes such as the Cheyenne readily allowed Berdache or Two-Spirit men to marry masculine men.
Hay cofounded not one but two historic arenas for gay existence and expression--the leftist, political Mattachine Society (one of the first gay fights groups in America) and the spiritually based Radical Faeries (inspired by the Native American berdache tradition).
Her persuasive explanation of why the word "berdache" should be rejected as a description of men who adopted a female role (based on a discussion at a 1993 conference) should certainly lead to at least minor editorial changes in any number of works.
Although the anthropological study of the "berdache" in traditional Native cultures abounds, critical insight into gender variance from Native perspectives has yet to be articulated in an academic setting.(19) Moreover, there is a tendency in the literature to conflate traditional third or fourth gender categories with contemporary gay or lesbian Native Identities.
That intriguing character was a berdache, a figure recognized and respected by many Indian tribes.
To Kramer's complaint, "I do not understand why historians and academics, including gay ones, especially gay ones, refuse to believe that homosexuality has been pretty much the same since the beginning of human history," Halperin insists on the non-universality of homosexuality: Does the "paederast," the classical Greek adult, married male who periodically enjoys sexually penetrating a male adolescent, share the same sexuality with the "berdache," the Native American (Indian) adult male who from childhood has taken on many aspects of a woman and is regularly penetrated by the adult male to whom he has bee married in a public and socially sanctioned ceremony?
In her 1994 book Gender Outlaw (5) Kate Bornstein called for the same sort of recognition in our society that some pre-Industrial societies have maintained for people who do not fit neatly into either of the more common gender categories [e.g; French appellation for transgendered/gay men in Native American society, berdache; Navajo nadle].