Happy Pride Month, from First Nations!
“Gay pride was not born of a need to celebrate being gay, but our right to exist without persecution. So instead of wondering why there isn’t a straight pride parade, be thankful you don’t need one.” – Dr. Ron Holt
June is Pride Month and it is always exciting to see those first rainbows. It reminds us of the beauty and love celebrated this month. However, at First Nations, we know that all is not sparkly and colorful, and there is much history behind the Pride movement.
We also know that by supporting the LGBTQIA+ community and two-spirit family and friends, we are creating a space of acceptance and appreciation, and not perpetuating the hate and violence that has plagued these communities for too many years.
What is the two-spirit community?
According to Smithsonian Magazine, the term “two-spirit” derives from niizh manidoowag in the Anishinaabe language. In 1990, at the third annual Native American/First Nations gay and lesbian conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, the term was adopted as part of the modern pan-Indian vocabulary and “refers to individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender, transsexual, or gender-fluid.”
Different Indigenous peoples and communities have held a safe space for our two-spirit and queer families. Many tribes celebrate and accept who our two-spirit relatives are and have specific words to refer to differing gender identities.
We also have special roles for our two-spirit and queer brothers and sisters and acknowledge them as holy people, matchmakers, peacemakers, and medicine people. These are sacred people who represent both feminine and masculine, and the balance brought by their energy.
History of violence against this community
The United States has a long history of violence against LGBTQIA+ communities. While the Stonewall riots gave vigor to the LGBTQIA+ movement in the late 1960s, marginalizing groups has been a favorite pastime since the time of our colonizers, whether it has been through blatant racism, genocide, discrimination, or violence.
Through the years, people have been targeted for the color of their skin, for their religious beliefs, and for their gender identity. Here we are in 2022 and the same nonsense is still happening.
Colonization and Christian beliefs led to the persecution of our two-spirit and queer family members — from cutting their hair, to incarceration, and in some cases, murder. According to a study published on the website of the National Congress of American Indians, Catholic missionaries fed two-spirit and queer people to their dogs. Many tribes asked tribal members who identified as two-spirit or queer to go underground to protect sacred family members.
Why does sexual preference or identity matter so much that people are willing to persecute and even kill other people over it? Why do we dehumanize people who we do not share our beliefs and identity?
Some state governments are still working hard to strip the rights of our queer communities once again and take trans children away from their families. How do we reconcile our treatment of the queer community and the kidnapping of children who are just being who they are?
With the Indian Child Welfare Act once again in the sights of a hyper-partisan Supreme Court, we are reminded of a legacy of the U.S. government in the separation of children from their parents and culture. This sickness runs deep and has been engrained into our value systems.
It requires little effort to find politicians who claim that this is not the case and that we do not need codified protections of civil rights for all peoples.
The ultimate goal? True acceptance of fellow human beings
First Nations will continue to celebrate LGBTQIA+ and two-spirit communities, while ensuring they have a place at the table and their rights are not diminished.
We must continue to protect our sacred family members and keep up the good fight. If you have people near and dear to you who identify as queer and transgender, surround them with love and empower them to be who they truly are.
First Nations Development Officer