Reading in Kinship: Carrie House

“The Holy People gave me a female body and a male embodiment: as mother earth and father sky” –Carrie House1 

Carrie House is a filmmaker, poet, and essayist.  And they self-identify as a fourth-gendered Diné person, like me.  House’s life as a non-cis man showed me that we do exist in the world, in context and contemporaneously to each other, with both relatable and unrelatable lived experiences.   

They don’t know it, but I view them very much as part of my queer Diné family. I can claim them in these ways as both a clan relation but kin in other ways, too.  I remember reading their essay “Navajo Warrior Women: An Ancient Tradition in a Modern World ” and feeling like I had just met a very cool older long lost sibling-type person, something more than a mentor.  Someone who could teach me how to be…me.  And someone I can dream/build futures with.  

I’ve thought on them and their work for several years, I tried to find everything I could about them.  I watched their film I Am (I re-watch this on a regular basis, it’s phenomenal) and tried to read all of their creative writing.  We are related by clans, they are my nalí2, my elder and my guidepost.    

In many ways I can trace my understanding of third/fourth gendered Diné people’s roles in community to House’s embodiment as a fourth-gendered person.  House takes on certain tasks in ceremony, but also in the “everyday” of life on Dinétah.  I’m grateful to them for sharing their experiences via their own creative writing, their films, and their essays.  They have shaped my understandings and many of my questions about myself.  And they challenge me.  In their essay “Blessed by the Holy People ” House discusses their gender and sexual  identity and the problems of having a one-size-fits-all terminology or using Western-centric terminology to explain Indigenous or Diné gender and sexuality.  Even so, House points out that we still use that very terminology to wade through the complexities and possibilities of Diné gender and sexuality in non-Diné contexts.  Still the language, as House puts it “do[es] not capture exactly how I see myself, and who I am in Diné culture.”   Making/building language to fit and explain our lived experiences as present-day dilbaa is important as we all know that world-building starts with words.  House has started the ball rolling, challenging us to build language to talk about ourselves (and our future communities).  This is my jam, I accept the challenge and invite you, too!  

I have questions, of course, so many questions as I write: what does that mean for world-building/dreaming and nádleeh/dilbaa? Does House think of Diné gender/sexuality as much as I do!?  What stories does Carrie have to share now about their lived experience?  How does he see Diné people moving forward?  How can we dream together, in-community so that their lived-experience as an embodied Diné man serves as a guide and a platform for dreaming into the future?   

The stories House shares in their writing carve out a place for me, and others like us in the constellation of Diné gender expression and sexuality.  And they give us a way to reclaim our roles.  Guideposts like House, Klah and others help me map myself onto the present/past/future Diné world. In keeping with this, and contextualizing as we go, my next post will be about me(!) and my understanding of my gender expression and how I am a Diné fourth-gendered person living in this time and space.  

Ahé’héé for reading fam!  

Learn More about Carrie House 

Driskill, Qwo-Li, Daniel Heath Justice, Deborah Miranda, and Lisa Tatonetti. Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature. University of Arizona Press, 2011. 

Estrada, Gabriel. “Ojibwe Lesbian Visual AIDS: On the Red Road with Carole LaFavor, Her Giveaway (1988), and Native LGBTQ2 Film History.” Journal of Lesbian Studies 20, no. 3–4 (October 1, 2016): 388–407.

House, Carrie. “Blessed by the Holy People.” Journal of Lesbian Studies 20, no. 3–4 (October 1, 2016): 324–41.

Jacobs, Sue-Ellen, Wesley Thomas, and Sabine Lang. Two-Spirit People: Native American Gender Identity, Sexuality, and Spirituality. University of Illinois Press, 1997. 

McGeough, Michelle. “The Indigenous Sovereign Body: Gender, Sexuality and Performance.” Art & Art History ETDs, December 15, 2017.

Podbay. “Carrie House in Dinétah from Fintan Lives with | Podcast Episode on Podbay.” Accessed March 29, 2023.

Tatonetti, Lisa. Written by the Body: Gender Expansiveness and Indigenous Non-Cis Masculinities. U of Minnesota Press, 2021. 

Vimeo. “Carrie House.”

Zepeda, Ofelia. Where Clouds Are Formed: Poems. University of Arizona Press, 2008. 

Leave a Reply

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: