Winkte (also spelled wíŋtke) is the contraction of an old Lakota word, Winyanktehca, meaning "wants to be like a woman." Winkte are a social category in Lakota culture, of male assigned at birth people who adopt the clothing, work, and mannerisms that Lakota culture usually consider feminine. Usually winkte are homosexual, though 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.
While historical accounts of their status vary, most accounts see the winkte as regular members of the community, and not in any way marginalized for their status. Other accounts hold the winkte as sacred, occupying a liminal, third gender role in the culture and born to fulfill ceremonial roles that can not be filled by either men or women. In contemporary Lakota communities, attitudes towards 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). "Directions in Gender Research in American Indian Societies: Two Spirits and Other Categories by Beatrice Medicine". Online Readings in Psychology and Culture (Unit 3, Chapter 2). W. J. Lonner, D. L. Dinnel, S. A. Hayes, & D. N. Sattler (Eds.). Center for Cross-Cultural Research, Western Washington University. Archived from the original on 2003-03-30. Retrieved 2015-07-07.