This June We Stand Together in PRIDE
The resiliency, beauty, and strength of our LGBTQIA2S+ family and friends resonate through a powerful message of love and self. When I see rainbow or trans flag flying, I am always reminded that it is love and acceptance that ripple in the air.
This June, as we begin our journey through PRIDE month, we at First Nations pause to acknowledge all the beautiful souls who have experienced shame and prejudice, simply by loving someone. We support and acknowledge members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community and help continue the movement for equal rights. And we share ways to ensure that everyone, everywhere, is loved and seen.
The PRIDE tradition began with the Stonewall Uprising in 1969 after police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village in New York City. The raid ignited a riot among residents and people who frequented the establishment, leading to multi-day protests that ended with violence. A year later in commemoration of the uprising, PRIDE marches were held in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. In 1999 under a proclamation of President Clinton, PRIDE Month became official.
Like many equal rights movements, gay liberation continues to this day, and has evolved in honor of the full LGTBQIA2S+ community — Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Two-Spirit, and the countless affirmative ways in which people choose to self-identify.
Honoring our Indigenous Relatives and Cultures
The specialness and sacredness of those who identify as LGTBQIA2S+ is not new to Native communities.
Since time immemorial Indigenous peoples have had two-spirit relatives, with many communities revering these relatives and acknowledging their unique and important roles as healers, medicine people, and visionaries. Indigenous people understood this gift and appreciate the connection to both masculine and feminine energies.
In 1990, during the Third Annual Intertribal Native American, First Nations, Gay and Lesbian American Conference held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Elder Myra Laramee put forth the term Two-Spirit. The term is a translation of the Anishnaabemowin word, niizh manidoowag, meaning “two spirits.” 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.”
At First Nations, we also revere and raise awareness of notable Indigenous LGBTQIA2S+ community members. For example:
- Sharice Davids – A member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, Sharice became the first LGBTQ Native American elected to congress and one of the first Native American women to serve in congress after winning her race for Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District in 2018.
- Sydney Freeland – A member of the Navajo Nation and a transgender woman, Sydney is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, director, and writer. She has worked on shows like Reservation Dogs and Sovereign.
- Kawennáhere “Devery” Jacobs – This award-winning Indigenous actor and filmmaker was born and raised in Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, in Quebec, Canada, and is well known for her role as Elora in the series Reservation Dogs.
- We’wha – From Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico, We’wha is a Lhamana (Zuni Two Spirit), known in Zuni culture for being a person who is biologically male but who takes on the social and ceremonial roles that were typically divided by gender roles.
- Lozen – A Chiricahua Apache woman warrior, Lozen was the sister of Geronimo’s second in command. She was known as one of the fiercest Apache warriors and was a revered medicine woman.
One Month, Year-Round Importance
Another reason, we speak out this month is that legislation that marginalizes our LGBTQIA2S+ family and friends is more popular than ever, with campaigns like “Don’t say gay” and anti-trans bills being introduced in almost every state.
According to Human Rights Campaign, there has been a steady increase in anti-LGBTQ+ bills across state houses, going from 115 bills introduced in 2015, to over 500 introduced in 2023. This legislation has a direct effect on people’s access to medical care, comprehensive and inclusive education, and activities, spaces, and facilities.
Because our country is riding on a wave of paradoxical beliefs when it comes to queer communities, it is more important than ever to continue to celebrate and uplift our LGBTQIA2SS+ family and friends. We must show policymakers that we cannot have true equality without the protection of our queer people. We must work every day to benefit the greater good and ensure we are not allowing lawmakers or anyone to diminish the rights of our LGBTQIA2S+ relatives.
Join Us in Support
As members, relatives, friends and allies of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, we at First Nations believe in providing a platform to highlight, honor, and commend the work being done to protect and advance LGBTQIA2S+ issues.
We know that colonization has created an imbalance in our communities, but we continue to restore the culture and traditions that commemorate and lift up our LGBTQIA2S+ family and friends.
“There will not be a magic day when we wake up and it’s now okay to express ourselves publicly. We make that day by doing things publicly until it’s simply the way things are.” – Tammy Baldwin
We invite readers to join us as an ally, which can be as simple as creating space for love and acceptance, and doing things publicly to send a strong message of support. Here are a few ways to make a difference:
Remember pronouns are important! Use correct pronouns and correct names of LGBTQIA2S+ people. Do not be dismissive, and if you are unsure, it is important just to ask. Using correct terms not only creates a space safe, it also signifies that you accept who they are.
Be informed. Learn from resources like Human Rights Campaign, which has compiled information on issues affecting the LGBTQIA2S+, along with news about local events and ways to get involved to promote equality and inclusion.
Be respectful. Recognize that homophobia and transphobia is rampant. Respect our LGBTQIA2S+ family and friends as human beings and honor their choice to be who they are.
Recognize someone’s same-gender partner using affirming language based on the words they themselves use, such as girlfriend, wife, boyfriend, husband, spouse, partner, etc. Avoid dismissive terms such as friend or companion that belittle their relationship. And, if you are safe to do so, challenge homophobia and transphobia when you see it. Even if you don’t change any minds, this action makes you a safe person to an LGBTQIA2S+ relative.
“LGBTQ folks make sure our communities are whole. Everyone deserves to be loved and to be seen, we are told to mute ourselves to protect the fragility of others – that is a mistake.” – Tyson (Quinault Tribe)
First Nations Development Officer