A Rainbow in the Jungle

Pride & Wellness: A History of Homosexuality & Spiritual Practice

Dragon Hemp



Time to read 18 min

As we celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month, it is essential to honor the rich history and traditions of native cultures that have long embraced homosexuality with respect and reverence. These cultures often integrated diverse sexual orientations into their spiritual and medicinal practices, recognizing the unique roles and contributions of individuals within their communities. At Dragon Hemp, we draw inspiration from these ancient practices and philosophies, and value the role of sexuality, love and acceptance in both physical and emotional health. Our commitment to holistic wellness through traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and herbal medicine reflects the inclusive and balanced approach seen in many native cultures. We aim to support all individuals in their journey towards wellness, embracing the diversity that makes us whole.

Let’s take a look at the historical acceptance of homosexuality in native cultures, focusing on the significant roles LGBTQ+ individuals held in these societies. We will explore the integration of homosexual identities in many eastern cultures from ancient Chinese medicine to Japanese Kabuki theatre, indigenous traditions in the Americas and Pacific Islands, African cultures, and ancient Greek practices, and how these practices have shaped modern understandings of health and spirituality. By examining these ancient practices, we can gain valuable insights into the harmonious relationship between sexuality, spirituality, and well-being, highlighting the importance of inclusivity in our journey toward a healthier world.

Homosexuality as Harmony in TCM

In ancient China, homosexuality was often viewed through a lens of harmony and balance, key principles in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Historical texts suggest that same-sex relationships were acknowledged and, at times, celebrated. The yin-yang philosophy, which emphasizes the balance of opposites, extended to all aspects of life, including sexuality.

One notable example is the story of Emperor Ai of the Han Dynasty, who had a well-documented romantic relationship with Dong Xian, a politician who quickly rose from obscurity as a minor official to being the most powerful official in the imperial administration within a span of just a few years. Most scholars concur that Dong's rapid career advancement was largely due to his personal relationship with Emperor Ai, likely a romantic and sexual one, rather than a testament to his abilities. Records indicate that Ai and Dong frequently slept together on the same straw mat. In fact, one afternoon, as Emperor Ai awoke from a nap, he noticed Dong was still asleep, with his head resting on the Emperor's sleeve. To avoid disturbing Dong's slumber, Emperor Ai chose to cut off his sleeve rather than waking him. (Hinsch, 1990). Their romantic relationship was not hidden but rather acknowledged in historical records, illustrating a level of acceptance in ancient Chinese society. This acceptance reflects a broader cultural recognition of the natural diversity of human relationships.

TCM practitioners used a variety of herbs to promote health and vitality, irrespective of sexual orientation. Ginseng, known for its invigorating properties, and astragalus, used to boost the immune system, were common. The use of these herbs was rooted in the belief that maintaining balance within the body was essential for overall well-being. As noted in "Chinese Medicine and Healing: An Illustrated History," these practices aimed to harmonize the body's energies, reflecting a holistic approach to health (Scheid et al., 2013).

The yin-yang philosophy, central to TCM, promotes the idea that health results from the balance of opposing forces. This inclusive approach extended to their views on sexuality, where harmony between partners, regardless of gender, was seen as a positive and natural part of life. As Professor Charlotte Furth explains, "The concept of yin and yang is foundational in Chinese thought, embracing a comprehensive worldview that incorporates sexual diversity into the natural order" (Furth, 1999).

At Dragon Hemp, we draw deep inspiration from these principles of traditional Chinese medicine. Our products, such as the Recovery Tincture, blend full-spectrum hemp with potent Chinese herbs to promote balance and recovery. This philosophy of harmony and holistic well-being underpins everything we do, ensuring that our approach to health is inclusive and rooted in ancient wisdom.

The Hijra Community in South Asia

The Hijra community in South Asia, which includes intersex, transgender, and eunuch individuals, has a long history of involvement in spiritual and healing practices. The term "Hijra" itself is derived from the Arabic word "hjr," which means "to leave one's tribe," signifying a departure from traditional gender norms. In many regions, Hijras are believed to have special powers to bless or curse, and they are often called upon to perform rituals at births and weddings. Their unique position in society has allowed them to play a significant role in the holistic health practices of their communities.

For example, the revered role of Hijras in religious ceremonies is documented in ancient texts such as the Kama Sutra and the Mahabharata. In the latter, the character Shikhandi, who is born female but later identifies as male, plays a crucial role in the epic battle of Kurukshetra. Hijras' spiritual authority is often linked to their perceived liminality and ability to transcend traditional gender roles, which is considered a source of spiritual power. This power is harnessed in their holistic healing practices, where they offer blessings, conduct rituals, and provide counsel, thus integrating their unique identities into the broader health and wellness paradigms of their societies.

Shamanic Traditions in Siberia and Central Asia

In various shamanic traditions across Siberia and Central Asia, shamans who exhibited non-heteronormative behaviors or identities were often considered to have special spiritual gifts. These shamans were seen as having a deeper connection to the spiritual realm, which enabled them to perform powerful healing rituals and provide holistic care that addressed both physical and spiritual ailments. The belief in the unique spiritual abilities of non-heteronormative individuals is a testament to the integral role they played in these societies.

Anthropologist Will Roscoe, in his book "Changing Ones," documents numerous accounts of gender-variant shamans among Siberian and Central Asian tribes. These shamans often acted as intermediaries between the human and spirit worlds, conducting rituals to heal the sick, ensure successful hunts, and maintain the overall balance within their communities. Their non-binary identities were seen as a bridge between the physical and spiritual realms, granting them unique insights and powers. This integration of non-heteronormative identities into shamanic practices underscores the holistic approach to health and spirituality prevalent in these cultures.

Kabuki Theatre Performers

Japanese Onnagata in Kabuki Theatre

In Japan, Onnagata were male actors who played female roles in Kabuki theatre. Beyond their roles on stage, some Onnagata were also involved in traditional healing practices. Their ability to transcend gender roles was seen as a form of spiritual insight, and they often incorporated holistic approaches to wellness that included elements of performance, art, and spirituality. The practice of Onnagata highlights the cultural recognition of the fluidity of gender and its connection to holistic well-being.

The Japanese concept of "mono no aware," which refers to the transient beauty of life and the sensitivity to this ephemerality, is often embodied by Onnagata performers. Their performances were not just acts of entertainment but were deeply spiritual, reflecting the Buddhist and Shinto beliefs in the interconnectedness of all things. The art of Kabuki itself, with its emphasis on balance, harmony, and the integration of different elements, mirrors the holistic health practices that Onnagata performers often engaged in. By embracing and embodying both masculine and feminine qualities, Onnagata contributed to a broader understanding of health and wellness that transcended rigid gender norms.

The Revered Role of Two-Spirit People in Native American Cultures

Among many Native American tribes, the concept of Two-Spirit individuals—those who embody both masculine and feminine qualities—has been acknowledged for centuries. Two-Spirit people often held significant roles as healers, shamans, and spiritual leaders. Their unique position within the community allowed them to draw on the wisdom of both genders, making their herbal practices particularly profound.

Herbal remedies were used not just for physical ailments but also to foster spiritual balance and emotional well-being. Plants like sage, sweetgrass, and cedar were employed in rituals and healing practices, promoting harmony within the individual and the community. According to Dr. Brian Joseph Gilley, "Two-Spirit people held an esteemed position in many tribes, embodying a blend of male and female qualities that were thought to bestow special spiritual insight" (Gilley, 2006).

Anthropologist Will Roscoe notes that the presence of Two-Spirit individuals is well-documented in over 130 North American tribes, indicating widespread cultural acceptance. He states, "The roles of Two-Spirit people were diverse and included responsibilities such as matchmakers, shamans, and mediators" (Roscoe, 1998). This acceptance was deeply intertwined with their spiritual and medicinal practices, where healing was seen as a holistic process encompassing the body, mind, and spirit.

Machu picchu

Diverse Gender Identities in South American Indigenous Cultures

In South America, indigenous cultures like the Inca and Mapuche also demonstrated a history of accepting diverse sexual orientations. The Inca civilization, for example, revered individuals known as "quariwarmi," who embodied both masculine and feminine traits. These individuals often held religious and ceremonial roles, contributing significantly to their community's spiritual and social fabric (Murra, 1960). The Mapuche people similarly recognized the spiritual importance of gender-diverse individuals, integrating them into their social and ceremonial practices.

Shamans and healers in these communities often incorporated native plants such as coca leaves, yerba maté, and other herbs into their healing practices. Coca leaves were used for their stimulant properties, aiding in physical endurance and spiritual rituals, while yerba maté was consumed for its energizing and health-promoting effects (Gootenberg, 2008). These plants were believed to enhance physical health, spiritual clarity, and social cohesion, reflecting a holistic approach to wellness that was deeply intertwined with the community's spiritual beliefs.

The integration of herbal medicine in their practices highlighted a comprehensive approach to health, one that embraced all aspects of an individual's identity. This inclusive view extended to their understanding of gender and sexuality, recognizing the value of diverse identities within their social and spiritual systems. By incorporating these individuals into prominent roles within their communities, the Inca and Mapuche cultures demonstrated a nuanced understanding of human diversity and its importance to social harmony and spiritual well-being.

The acceptance and reverence of gender-diverse individuals, combined with the use of traditional herbal medicine, illustrate a sophisticated approach to health and wellness that prioritized balance and inclusivity. This cultural framework not only fostered individual well-being but also reinforced the interconnectedness of physical, spiritual, and social health within the community.

The Fa'afafine People of Samoa

In the cultures of many Pacific Islander societies, particularly in Samoa, the existence and acceptance of Fa'afafine people have long been integral to the social and cultural fabric. Fa'afafine, a term that translates to "in the manner of a woman," refers to individuals who are assigned male at birth but embody both masculine and feminine gender traits. This unique gender identity is recognized and respected within Samoan society, playing a significant role in the community's understanding of gender and social roles (Schmidt, 2003).

Fa'afafine individuals often perform roles traditionally associated with women, such as caregiving, domestic tasks, and nurturing, while also participating in activities and responsibilities typically assigned to men. This blending of gender roles is not only accepted but also valued, as it contributes to the overall well-being and functioning of the community. The recognition of Fa'afafine is rooted in the Samoan concept of "fa'a Samoa," which emphasizes family, community, and cultural continuity (Besnier, 1994).

American Samoa Alliance against Domestic & Sexual Violence

The acceptance and respect for Fa'afafine extend into various aspects of life, including social, cultural, and even spiritual practices. In many families, Fa'afafine are seen as pivotal members who bridge the gap between genders, offering unique perspectives and skills that enhance familial and community harmony. This integration into daily life underscores the holistic approach to health and wellness that is prevalent in many Pacific Islander cultures, where mental, emotional, and social well-being are seen as interconnected and equally important (Brown, 1997).

Moreover, the existence and acceptance of Fa'afafine challenge Western binary notions of gender, providing a broader understanding of human diversity. This cultural framework highlights the importance of inclusivity and respect for individual identities, contributing to a more comprehensive and nuanced approach to health and social cohesion (Mageo, 1992).

In summary, the Fa'afafine people of Samoa embody a unique gender identity that is deeply respected and integrated into the fabric of society. Their roles and contributions highlight the importance of inclusivity and the interconnectedness of social and individual well-being in Pacific Islander cultures (Roen, 2001).

Gender Diversity & Same-Sex Relationships in African Cultures

Similarly, in various African cultures, homosexuality was acknowledged and sometimes integrated into spiritual and medicinal practices. The Dagara people of Burkina Faso, for example, recognize individuals with non-binary genders as gatekeepers between the physical and spiritual realms. Malidoma Patrice Somé, a Dagara elder, states, "Gatekeepers are there to assist people to access their spiritual side. They are respected and honored for their unique perspectives" (Somé, 1994).

Traditional healers, such as the Zulu sangomas, known for their deep knowledge of the medicinal properties of indigenous plants, often employed herbal medicine to treat both physical ailments and spiritual imbalances, with plants like African ginger and iboga playing significant roles. These healers played a crucial role in maintaining the health and well-being of their communities. Their practices included not only physical healing but also spiritual and psychological support, addressing the holistic needs of individuals.

The inclusion of homosexual and gender-diverse individuals in these practices reflects a broader acceptance and integration within the community (Hammond-Tooke, 1989). In many African societies, gender-diverse individuals were often seen as possessing unique spiritual insights and healing abilities. They were respected and valued for their contributions to the community's well-being, and their roles as healers and spiritual leaders were integral to the social fabric.

This acceptance is deeply rooted in these cultures' belief systems, where gender and sexuality fluidity are embraced rather than stigmatized. Recognizing homosexual and gender-diverse individuals in traditional healing practices underscores inclusivity and respect for diverse identities, highlighting the interconnectedness of physical, spiritual, and social dimensions of health and wellness. This cultural framework challenges modern perceptions and offers a broader perspective on the value of embracing human diversity.

An Azande Warrior
"In Azande, Boys Become Wives" - The Guardian Nigeria

In many other African societies, homosexual relationships were woven into the fabric of social and cultural life. Among the Azande people of Sudan and the Congo, young warriors often engaged in same-sex relationships as part of their societal role. These relationships were not only accepted but were seen as a rite of passage and an integral part of their warrior culture. As anthropologist E.E. Evans-Pritchard noted, "Azande men openly took younger male lovers, which was considered a normal and expected part of their development as warriors" (Evans-Pritchard, 1937).

The Siwa Oasis in Egypt had a tradition where male-male marriages were recognized, and the Baganda people of Uganda had a long history of recognizing "mukodo dako," individuals who were biologically male but performed roles traditionally associated with women. These individuals often held significant cultural and social roles, challenging the rigid gender binaries seen in many contemporary societies. Scholar Sylvia Tamale states, "The mukodo dako were an integral part of the Buganda kingdom, often serving in important cultural and political roles" (Tamale, 2011).

Furthermore, in the Shona culture of Zimbabwe, spiritual beliefs included the concept of "mudzimu," ancestral spirits that could possess individuals regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. This spiritual fluidity allowed for a more inclusive understanding of human diversity, where sexual orientation and gender identity were seen as integral parts of one's spiritual journey. Anthropologist Michael Gelfand wrote, "The Shona people believed that the mudzimu could choose anyone as a medium, irrespective of their gender or sexual orientation, which reflected a profound acceptance of human diversity" (Gelfand, 1977).

These examples highlight the rich tapestry of African traditions that embraced a wide spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations. They reflect a nuanced understanding of human diversity that was often more inclusive than many contemporary Western perspectives. This historical acknowledgment and integration of homosexuality into cultural and spiritual practices underscore the importance of re-examining and appreciating the diverse ways in which societies have understood and valued human sexuality.

Homosexuality in Ancient Greece

Same-Sex Practices in Ancient Greece

In Ancient Greece, same-sex relationships, particularly among men, were a common and socially accepted aspect of society. This acceptance extended into various aspects of life, including health and wellness practices. Greek physicians like Hippocrates, known as the "Father of Medicine," believed in balancing the body's humors—blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. The concept of balancing these humors was holistic, considering the whole person, including their relationships and social bonds, which could include same-sex relationships.

For instance, the philosopher Plato, in his work "Symposium," discusses the concept of love (Eros) and praises same-sex relationships for their potential to inspire intellectual and spiritual growth. "The madness of love is the greatest of heaven's blessings," he writes, highlighting the societal acceptance and even reverence of these relationships. The idea of achieving harmony and balance in all aspects of life, including sexual relationships, was integral to the holistic wellness philosophy of Ancient Greece. This cultural acceptance and integration of same-sex relationships into everyday life contributed significantly to their overall approach to health and well-being.

Modern Reflections and Continuing Legacy

Today, the wisdom of these native cultures continues to resonate, offering valuable insights into the integration of sexuality, spirituality, and health. The acceptance and celebration of homosexuality in these traditions remind us of the importance of inclusivity and holistic well-being. Their acceptance and celebration of diverse identities, combined with their deep understanding of nature's healing power, offer a blueprint for a more inclusive and holistic approach to health. By learning from and honoring these traditions, we can continue to promote a world where everyone is embraced and celebrated for who they are.

Celebrating Pride

As we observe Pride Month, let us remember the rich heritage of acceptance and the ongoing journey towards equality. By integrating the ancient wisdom of herbal medicine with modern principles of inclusivity, we can foster a healthier, more harmonious world, looking forward and recognizing the strides made towards acceptance and equality for LGBTQ+ individuals worldwide. Modern movements for LGBTQ+ rights echo the inclusive practices of these ancient cultures, advocating for a society where diversity is celebrated and respected. According to a 2020 Gallup poll, 70% of Americans support same-sex marriage, reflecting significant progress toward acceptance (Gallup, 2020).

At Dragon Hemp, we draw inspiration from these ancient practices, recognizing the profound connection between nature and holistic health. By honoring the traditions of herbal medicine, we aim to support all individuals in their journey towards wellness, embracing the diversity that makes us whole for both physical and emotional wellbeing.


  1. Bacigalupo, A. M. (2007). Shamans of the Foye Tree: Gender, Power, and Healing among Chilean Mapuche. University of Texas Press.
  2. Besnier, N. (1994). Polynesian Gender Liminality Through Time and Space. In Gilbert Herdt (Ed.), Third Sex, Third Gender: Beyond Sexual Dimorphism in Culture and History (pp. 285-328). Zone Books.
  3. Brown, C. (1997). Gender and Development in the Pacific Islands: A Contemporary Feminist Critique. Journal of Feminist Scholarship, 5(2), 121-138.
  4. Evans-Pritchard, E.E. (1937). Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic Among the Azande. Clarendon Press.
  5. Furth, C. (1999). A Flourishing Yin: Gender in China's Medical History, 960-1665. University of California Press.
  6. Gallup. (2020). "Same-Sex Marriage Support Hits New High at 70%." Gallup.
  7. Gelfand, Michael. (1977). The Spiritual Beliefs of the Shona. Mambo Press.
  8. Gilley, B. J. (2006). Becoming Two-Spirit: Gay Identity and Social Acceptance in Indian Country. University of Nebraska Press.
  9. Gootenberg, P. (2008). Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug. University of North Carolina Press.
  10. Hammond-Tooke, D. (1989). Rituals and Medicines: Indigenous Healing in South Africa. Ad. Donker.
  11. Lang, S. (1998). Men as Women, Women as Men: Changing Gender in Native American Cultures. University of Texas Press.
  12. Mageo, J. M. (1992). Male Transvestism and Cultural Change in Samoa. American Ethnologist, 19(3), 443-459.
  13. Murra, J. V. (1960). The Economic Organization of the Inca State. JAI Press.
  14. Roen, K. (2001). Transgender Theory and Embodiment: The Risk of Racial Marginalisation. Journal of Gender Studies, 10(3), 253-263.
  15. Roscoe, W. (1998). Changing Ones: Third and Fourth Genders in Native North America. St. Martin's Press.
  16. Scheid, V., & Bensky, D. (2013). Chinese Medicine and Healing: An Illustrated History. Harvard University Press.
  17. Schmidt, J. (2003). Paradise Lost? Social Change and Fa'afafine in Samoa. Current Sociology, 51(3-4), 417-432.
  18. Somé, M. P. (1994). The Healing Wisdom of Africa: Finding Life Purpose Through Nature, Ritual, and Community. TarcherPerigee.
  19. Somé, Malidoma Patrice. (1994). Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman. Penguin Books.
  20. Tamale, Sylvia. (2011). African Sexualities: A Reader. Pambazuka Press.

Find your spirit with our curated sets to maximize wellness & savings.

Our Story.

Dragon Hemp is the practitioner-founded apothecary that produces plant-based therapeutics formulated with a proprietary blend of next-generation botanicals and time honored herbal remedies.

For people seeking treatments that give relief & address the root cause.

Our herbal remedies are innovative and user-friendly, with wellness benefits that are effective & accessible to everyone.

So you can feel like yourself again.

Our Founder.

Kevin Menard, LAc., is the leading practitioner in Sports Medicine Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine on the East End of Long Island, with clientele ranging from business executives and fitness professionals to wellness gurus and weekend warriors.

As he cultivated his practice, Kevin began integrating CBD & other cannabinoids, native botanicals, and herbs into his treatments, addressing conditions like pain, musculoskeletal injuries, insomnia, overall wellness, and so much more. 

Following the promising results from his herbal and CBD-infused treatments, Kevin expanded his work, introducing Dragon Hemp to support patient wellness beyond his clinic's walls.

Our Apothecary.

Our Apothecary in Sag Harbor, New York was conceived as a beacon of rejuvenation and wellness in the Hamptons. Much more than a dispensary, at the core of the Dragon Hemp Apothecary is a commitment to education and understanding the benefits of time-honored herbal remedies synthesized with today’s advancements in cannabinoid research. 

Offering an array of products designed to align with the wellness needs of the Hamptons community, the store seeks to bridge the gap between ancient wisdom and modern applications, making herbal medicine more compatible with our lifestyles today. Our unique apothecary in Sag Harbor not only represents a physical space but also embodies Dragon Hemp's ethos of premium, all-natural, effective wellness solutions, drawing from the rich heritage of the Hamptons and the innovative spirit of New York.

Not your conventional dispensary, our first-of-its-kind retail location, harmoniously balances tradition and innovation with an emphasis on experience and education. We invite you to step inside and let our herbal experts guide you on an exploration of the rejuvenating power of cannabinoids and traditional herbs in a setting that feels both timeless and contemporary.

Designed in collaboration with renowned Alfredo Paredes Studio, the apothecary embodies a sophisticated fusion of old-world tradition and contemporary application. Known for his 33-year tenure as Ralph Lauren Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer, Alfredo Paredes, a master of crafting memorable retail experiences, helped transform the space into a shining gem of Sag Harbor. Reflecting the premium, natural, and therapeutic essence of Dragon Hemp, every aspect of the store, including the unique furniture pieces from Paredes' line, contributes to an ambiance of refined tranquility and wellness. The design echoes a classic herbal pharmacy blended with a modern aesthetic, mirroring our brand ethos of contemporizing ancient herbal medicine for today’s applications. Read more about our Apothecary design in Forbes.

Standing out on Main Street in Sag Harbor with the glow of our distinctive neon sign, our unique retail store has become a design destination of its own -- beyond just wellness -- in one of the Hamptons’ most popular villages. Whether you’re looking for potent natural therapeutics to tackle pain & inflammation or legal THC products to enhance mood or improve sleep, our apothecary is your safe haven at 108 Main Street.

Our Products.

Our products are formulated to serve the four crucial daily needs most often seen in Kevin’s practice—Essential Wellbeing for comprehensive health, Rest & Restoration to foster rejuvenation, Aches & Pains for relief from discomfort, and Liniments for body care that enhances both physical and emotional wellbeing.

Available in four versatile forms—swift-absorbing tinctures, targeted balms, discreet gummies, and moisturizers—we ensure a suitable choice for every lifestyle and wellness routine.

Our Ingredients.

We carefully select our organically grown ingredients, emphasizing sustainability to protect Earth's biodiversity. 

We believe in transparency in all our processes, from ingredient selection to the methods used by our CBD farmers, who lead the sustainable agriculture charge and concentrate on ecosystem restoration and carbon sequestration.

We're not just about products but about nurturing an understanding of traditional herbal practices and helping people make healthy decisions. 

With respect, we introduce newcomers to the benefits of age old herbal wisdom. 

Our aim is a future where well-being stems from nature, combining timeless knowledge with today's research.

Discover the distinctive characteristics of each herb in our Ingredient Index.