"I’m not fully this either": Lily Gladstone discusses pronoun inclusivity

The "Killers of the Flower Moon" star's comments reveal how Indidgenous people's views on gender can be more fluid

By Nardos Haile

Staff Writer

Published January 9, 2024 9:30AM (EST)

Lily Gladstone wins the Golden Globe for actress in a drama motion picture "Killers of the Flower Moon"  (Sonja Flemming/CBS )
Lily Gladstone wins the Golden Globe for actress in a drama motion picture "Killers of the Flower Moon" (Sonja Flemming/CBS )

"Killers of the Flower Moon" star Lily Gladstone is breaking boundaries and industry standards not only by becoming the first Indigenous person to win best actress at the Golden Globes, but also by challenging the gender binary.

In an interview with the New York Times, the actor said she has always felt like she has existed in-between because of her mixed-race heritage, which is comprised of Blackfeet and Nez Perce and white. But there's another aspect where they felt in the middle, too — her gender identity.

“It’s kind of being middle-gendered, I guess,” said Gladstone, who uses both “she/they" pronouns. “I’ve always known I’m comfortable claiming being a woman, but I never feel more than when I’m in a group of all women that I’m not fully this either.”

From Gladstone's personal experience growing up on a Blackfeet reservation in Montana for most of her adolescent life, gender fluidity was normalized and honored. Outside of the community, Gladstone's "boy cousins were misgendered because they wore their hair long . . . It happens to a lot of kids, I think, especially Native boys leaving a community where long hair is celebrated [and then] just kind of getting teased for it,” they told People magazine.

But, most importantly, the reason why gender neutrality is accepted in some Indigenous communities is because “in most Native languages, most Indigenous languages, Blackfeet included, there are no gendered pronouns. There is no he/she, there's only they,” Gladstone said.

Interestingly enough, Gladstone said when other Indigenous people from different tribes have spoken to her in English, they have accidentally misgendered her. "And then they'll get embarrassed about it, but it's because they've learned English later,” they said.

In Blackfeet, Gladstone said the language doesn't have gendered pronouns, but "our gender is implied in our name. But even that's not binary” because men can be given names typically considered female and vice versa, depending on the type of role they fulfill in society. In addition, according to Indian Health Services, traditionally, for Native Americans, there's an identity known as two-spirit. Two-spirit people are neither men nor women, but rather separate genders. The person potentially inhabits both masculine and feminine spirits, while also being gender nonconforming.

For Gladstone, “my pronoun use is partly a way of decolonizing gender for myself,” they said. 

While there are very few high-profile gender-neutral or nonconforming actors in Hollywood, Gladstone shared a moment with a young actor on the rise, Bella Ramsey. At Elle’s Women in Hollywood event, Jodie Foster told the nonbinary “The Last of Us” actor that the room was full of supportive siblings.

“That’s wonderful and that’s true,” Gladstone said. Afterward, Gladstone introduced herself to Ramsey to "let them know, 'You also have siblings here, too.'"

By Nardos Haile

Nardos Haile is a staff writer at Salon covering culture. She’s previously covered all things entertainment, music, fashion and celebrity culture at The Associated Press. She resides in Brooklyn, NY.

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