Far-right commentator Candace Owens was highly criticized for making racist and anti-trans remarks in response to a question about Two-Spirit people at a speaking engagement.
The incident occurred when an audience member asked Owens about her views on transgender identities and their portrayal in the media, referencing the long history of Two-Spirit Native Americans.
Two-Spirit serves as a broad term within Native American communities, encompassing individuals whose gender identity doesn't align with their assigned sex at birth and is thought to encompass both male and female spirits.
Traditionally, Two-Spirit people held roles as healers and spiritual leaders, but colonization played a part in their exclusion from these positions. Today, efforts are being made in several communities to reinstate their revered roles.
Owens acknowledged her lack of awareness regarding Two-Spirit individuals and responded by making disparaging remarks about Native Americans.
You can hear what Owens said in the video below.
Owens inquired whether Two-Spirit individuals were linked to Native American groups associated with substance use and spiritual practices. Additionally, Owens made inaccurate assertions about Native Americans, including an unfounded claim of cannibalism.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about with Two-Spirit people. Is this like a Native American tribe, like high smoking and talking about your spirit?"
"I’m asking you seriously, because when I think of Native American tribes talking about their spirits, I know that they used to smoke a lot, they used to do drugs, they also were cannibals who used to eat people, so I don’t know if we should be taking our cues from cannibals.”
In response, the audience member educated Owens about Two-Spirit people and the presence of diverse terms across Native American tribes to describe individuals whose gender identity aligns with what is now considered transgender. She also noted that these designations have existed for "thousands of years."
Owens then challenged the historical understanding of transgender Native Americans:
"Well, what you're saying is that some Native American tribes had people who would be considered trans today [which is] something we can't fact-check because they're dead." ...
"It's historical knowledgee that there were trans Native Americans? I really don't think that's historical knowledge but here's what I'll answer: I don’t think that there were trans native Americans."
The audience member fired back with the following response:
"Well, I'm telling you that there were. If you could educate yourself a little more, you would know that."
Owens was swiftly criticized for her remarks.
Owens has a long history of making transphobic statements.
In 2017, Owens stated she was in favor of banning transgender individuals who are undergoing sex reassignment surgery from serving in the United States military, but said that she did not oppose fully transitioned transgender individuals serving in the military.
Last year, she falsely promoted the conspiracy theory that a mass shooter at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas could be transgender and baselessly said that he was "cross-dressing." Owens claimed this could be evidence the shooter "was mentally disturbed."
Around the same time, she claimed a series of shootings in Memphis were spurred by the fight for transgender equality and "celebrating mental illness" by encouraging others to "mutilate their bodies."
Owens has only doubled down on her views, at one point saying she would beat her hypothetical grandkids with a cane if they came out to her as transgender.