Holder's "A Peculiar Sexual Perversion", 1899

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An article by a physician, Dr. A. B. Holder of Memphis, Tennessee, titled "The Bote. Description of A Peculiar Sexual Perversion Found Among North American Indians," appeared in the New York Medical Journal in 1889.

The word bote I have chosen as being the most familiar to me and not likely to convey a wrong impression, since I shall be the first, perhaps, to translate into English and define it. It is the word used by the Absaroke Indians of Montana, and literally means "not man, not woman." ...

The practice of the bote among civilized races is not unknown to specialists, but no name suited to ears polite, even though professional, has been given it. The practice is to produce the sexual orgasm by taking the male organ of the active party in the lips of the bote, the bote probably experiencing the orgasm at the same time. Of the latter supposition I have not been able to satisfy myself, but I can in no other way account for the infatuation of the act.

Of all the many varieties of sexual perversion, this, it seems to me, is the most debased that could be conceived of. In the Crow or Absaroke tribe, of which I have had medical charge for two years, there are at present five bote, ... and about this number has flourished for years past.

While in reports of physicians and others concerning various Indian tribes I find no mention of this class, and while in personal replies from physicians in charge of more than twenty agencies I have been able to get little positive evidence concerning them, yet I feel assured that the bote is to be found in nearly all tribes of Indians, of the Northwest at least. ...

One of the bote accredited to the Absaroke tribe is a Sioux, and I can assert, on perfectly reliable testimony, that among the Lower Gras Ventres there is a larger number of them than in the Absaroke tribe. A bote, a description of whom will be introduced presently, told me that the tribes of his acquaintance living in the Northwest had bote as follows: Flatheads, four; Nez Perces, two; Gras Ventres, six. Sioux; five; Shoshonis, one. There seems a species of fellowship among them, and I have no reason to doubt the correctness of his statement.

The bote wears the "squaw" dress and leggings, parts the hair in the middle and braids it like a woman's, possesses or affects the voice and manner of a woman, and constantly associates with that sex as being of it. The voice, features, and form, however, never so far lose masculine qualities as to make it at all difficult to distinguish the bote from a woman. One of them does "squaw" work, such as sweeping, scouring, dish-washing, etc., with such skill and good nature that he frequently finds employment among the white residents.

Usually the feminine dress and manner are assumed in childhood, but the art to which they subsequently devote themselves does not generally become a practice till toward. puberty. One little fellow while in the Agency Boarding School was found frequently surreptitiously wearing female attire. He was punished, but finally escaped from school and became a bote, which vocation he has since followed....

In the manner of making the mujerado [allegedly a physically effeminized male homosexual] and his importance in the traditional rites of the people among whom he is found, Dr. Hammond gives him a position of greater dignity than I can assign the bote, whose making I adjudge the work of his own perverted lust, and whose tolerance I attribute not to any respect in which he is held, but to the debased standard of the people among whom he lives.

There is, moreover, a difference in the method of the practice of their vocation. Pederasty is by no means unknown among the tribes of Indians where the bote is found, but the bote is less than any other a pederast. With him it is the oral and not the rectal cavity into which he admits the male organ ....

That the bote is a study of practical as well as scientific value to the surgeon is evident to one whose practice has brought him in contact with examples in the white race, not only of the mujerado but of his more disgusting cousin, the bote. With the former every specialist is familiar....

Of the latter, a striking example was the case of an officer in the United States army, who was recently caught in flagrante delicto, the other party being an enlisted man, and allowed to resign from a Western post. He confessed the practice of the habit for years, showing that there is no bottom to the pit into which the sexual passion, perverted and debased, may sink a creature once he has become its slave. [1]


Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. (NY: Crowell, 1976) pg. 312-313.

  1. A. B. Holder, "The Bote. Description of a Peculiar Sexual Perversion Found among North American Indians," New York Medical Journal, vol. 50, no. 23 (Dec. 7, 1889), 623-25. Also see parts omitted. James Owen Dorsey's "Study of Siouan Cults," published in 1889-90, includes material on "Berdaches" among the Omaha, Dakota, Kansa, Teton, and Hidatsa tribes (Eleventh Annual Report, 1889-90, U.S. Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution [Washington, D.C.: U.S. Govt. Ptg. Otc. 1894], p. 378-79, 467.