Winkte (also spelled wíŋtke) is the contraction of an old Lakota word, winyanktehca, meaning '[wants] to be like a woman'. Historically, the winkte have been considered a social category of male-bodied individuals who adopt the clothing, work, and mannerisms that Lakota culture usually considers feminine. In contemporary Lakota culture, winkte is usually used to refer to a homosexual man, whether or not that man is in other ways gender non-conforming. They may or may not consider themselves part of the more mainstream gay or transgender communities. Many modern winkte participate in the pan-Indian two-spirit community; sometimes the direction to adopt this social and spiritual role comes in a series of dreams.
While historical accounts of their status vary, most accounts treated the winkte as regular members of the community, and not in any way marginalized for their status. Other accounts held the winkte as sacred, occupying a liminal, third-gender role in the culture, and born to fulfill ceremonial roles that could not be filled by either men or women. In contemporary Lakota communities, attitudes toward the winkte vary.
Beatrice Medicine writes:
In my childhood, we were aware of this social category, which was referred to as winkte. Linguistic analysis of this Lakota word is:
- win - "woman"
- kte - "to be like"
- kte - "to kill" (a deeper structural form)
- "The common vernacular usage was winkte "wants to be like a woman."
- We, as children, were instructed, "There are these individuals - in all cases males (wicasa). They are different. They are winkte. Don't make fun of them. They are also Lakota," said our parents and grandparents.
- Medicine, Beatrice (2002). Lonner, W. J.; Dinnel, D. L.; Hayes, S. A.; Sattler, D. N. (eds.). "Directions in Gender Research in American Indian Societies: Two Spirits and Other Categories". Online Readings in Psychology and Culture. Center for Cross-Cultural Research, Western Washington University. Unit 3, Chapter 2. Archived from the original on March 20, 2003. Retrieved July 7, 2015.