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A2Z – Native & First Nations Individuals in the LGBTT2QIA Community

Blogging our way from A to Z on sexual and gender identity - Native and First Nations Individuals in the LGBTT2AIA Community

 

The 2 in LGBTT2QIA comes from my Native and First Nations brothers and sisters.  It stands for Two-Spirited.  There has been quite a bit of confusion lately on what two-spirited actually means, and I hope I can help clear the water vs further muddying it.

I know quite a few Native and First Nations individuals who identify somewhere on the sexual minority, gender variant spectrum, but that does not make them all two-spirited.  However, all two-spirited individuals, are by nature of the word itself, Native and First Nations.  Not all birds are Eagles, but all Eagles are birds.  Clear so far?

Even within some of our local First Nations communities, the idea of an individual being of two spirits has become muddied.  It has been used by so many as a blanket term for all First Nations individuals who identify as being part of the acronym community that it is losing some of it’s power and intent.

When asked to share his personal thoughts on the term, Ryan Jimmy (a wonderful individual I am blessed to know) said this:

I understand how the term is a way for indigenous queers to reclaim their sexual spaces rather then have other non indigenous folks create identities for them. What I struggle with is that there still seems to be a lot of romanticism around the term meaning that people tend to believe the term is a simple male\female spirit and that we poses some super neat powers. I feel the term is very complex and I personally just haven’t found my place with …it.

Amongst all those I know who identify as both First Nations (or Indigenous) and a member of the acronym community, I only know one individual who identifies as two-spirited.  And that’s an important thing to note.  As Ryan mentioned, there is this romanticized view of two-spirited individuals which has found it’s way into modern culture.  And while the idea of one person with two spirits (each of a different gender inhabiting the same body) does have aspects which lend itself easily to those types of ideals and fantasies, those notions ignore the hard struggles that have faced our Native and First Nations community members. While there may have been a time when two-spirited people were revered in some First Nations cultures, that vanished along with so many facets of their culture with the unfortunate Christianization of their world.

Clearly, this is far too large a topic to really get into in any real way in a blog post.  But, if nothing else, I hope this brief look at what “two-spirited” means encourages you to dig a little deeper yourself.  It’s an absolutely amazing area for study, and filled with a wealth of enlightenment.  In a search to understand ourselves, it is one area that should not be overlooked.

One last, rather unique tid-bit I’ll share:  Have you ever looked at your hands, at the length of your fingers in particular?  Well, there have been numerous studies over the last couple hundred years that reflect a hormone correlation which suggests Women have a longer index finger, and Men have a longer ring finger.  The one individual I know who identifies as two-spirited?  Has a longer index finger on one hand, and a longer ring finger on the other.  Just one of their many intriguing qualities.  😉

 

“Aggravated Homosexuality” may be punishable by death in Uganda.

amnesty international rainbow

 

I’m still out sick, officially, but this couldn’t wait:

The Ugandan Parliament is currently looking at a bill that would allow the death penalty for something called “aggravated homosexuality”.  Sexual Minority and Gender Variant people in Uganda already face a dangerous rode, as Uganda is one of the few nations where homosexuality is illegal.  Please take a minute to write to the Prime Minister, urging him to NOT pass this bill during their upcoming session.

Action must be taken immediately, with a deadline of April 2nd.  So please, please take a moment to write a brief email or to send (with guaranteed delivery prior to the second) a letter to the Hon. Amama Mbabzi.

Facing judicial punishment for simply BEING is a human rights travesty, but the idea that an individual could be put to death for love?  There are no words that are adequate.

 

Rt. Hon. Amama Mbabazi

Office of the Prime Minister

P.O. Box 341, Kampala, Uganda

E-mail: opm@imul.com

For more information on this bill, and other human rights issues, please visit Amnesty International at http://www.amnesty.org/ and http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AFR59/001/2012/en/fa2f38d6-dc7e-44cc-b295-5016f57154c5/afr590012012en.html

Generally Dissatisfied

I’m feeling generally dissatisfied tonight.  Just too much going on that I’m really not all that happy with, and no time to sort it all out just now.  …and this isn’t due to my January blah’s.  It’s not a blah feeling, and it’s not January.  😉  This is me, wishing I could just shake the snot out of people and tell them to wake up – but I’m too tired to put that kind of effort out.  So for now?  I’ll just gripe briefly and feel dissatisfied.  It’ll pass, one or two things will get worked out, and I’ll be back to my chipper self.  Right now though?  I’d be quite happy to take a paid vacation somewhere…  most anywhere…  anyone wanna send me some place?  Please?  No?  Well, ya can’t blame a grrrl for trying.

I don’t know.  People can’t move forward as a group when there’s dissension.  Discord and argument for their own sake?  I’ll never understand it.  Work together, compromise, make change happen.  Create progress.  In a small grassroots group this should be easy.  It has always been easy in the past.  Even when we’ve disagreed we do so peaceably knowing we need to work together for the common good.  Two or three people causing strife for what seems like the fun of it.  It doesn’t benefit anyone, and I just don’t get it.  Give the wrong individual the illusion of power and see the friction they can create.  And that’s what’s happened here.  One person voted into a position in the interim…  temporarily.  And it’s a role with no power, a figure head, someone to present to the public who can put voice to the decisions the executive has made…  and suddenly there is no end to the conflict.  It’s a comedy of errors that has resulted in near-atrocities, that thankfully for the long standing reputation of another board member was able to be smoothed over.  Ugh.  So many of us have considered just walking away, but the idea of leaving all our hard work to bring things this far in the hands of individuals who would run things into the ground?  Not something we’re willing to do.

There you go.  That’s my gripe.  Volunteering is sooo not worth this type of headache, but there are some things we do for the good of the collective, things that most people will never have any idea we’ve done…  things that need to be done.  It falls to us.  Often because there is no one else willing to pick up the torch.  So it’s onward, and we truly hope upward.

flame

If I try to pass the torch, will you be there to pick it up and run with it?

Breaking the Silence

The last several months I’ve served on (and last month and this month have chaired) the board for Breaking the Silence.  It’s the fifteenth year for this annual conference that focuses on breaking down walls and barriers in education for Sexual Minorities and Gender Queer individuals here in Saskatchewan.

When Don Cochrane (the founder and force behind Breaking the Silence) asked me to join the board this year I couldn’t say no.  The youth of our province deserve the very best we can give them, and helping to bring this conference together is just one way I can help provide that.  And not only am I working behind the scenes, I’ll actually be presenting at the conference as well.  I’ll be leading a session I’ve nicknamed “Gender, Sex, and How the Heck I Fit into it All.”

There will be several “streams” of information presented at Breaking the Silence this year.  My session can be found in the youth stream, but there are also sessions on health, education, and research.  We’ve also got Ivan Coyote presenting the keynote the night leading into the conference.  If you’ve never heard her, I’d say it’s time you did.  She is absolutely fantastic, and has created a new performance piece specifically for this years conference entitled “As Good as We Can Make it:  On bullying, collective responsibility, and actually making it better.”  It should be amazing.

So yeah!  Check it out!  You can find all the details at:  http://www.usask.ca/education/breaking-the-silence/index.htm  And this year there is even online registration (with different price schedules to fit most any budget – including students and the under-employed).  Want to know more?  Feel free to ask.  Otherwise, I’ll plan to see you there!

Breaking the Silence Poster 2012-1

breaking the silence logo

Government sanctioned discrimination, way to go Canada!

So, it appears Canada is again on the chopping block thanks to Harper.  Our flags once waved proud, but now are just as often full of disgrace.  This newest measure allows discrimination based on gender, going so far as to allow airport security the right to allow or deny access to individuals based on their gender.

Under section 5.2(1)(c) of the Aeronautics Act:

“An air carrier shall not transport a passenger if:  the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents.”

Why is this an issue?  Because for many Trans individuals the sex on their passport may not coincide with their gender.  There are very strict rules in place for changing the sex on your international identification that only a very small segment of the populace qualifies for.  These rules make it impossible for non-operative Trans people to have the M or F on their documents changed to reflect their actual gender.  A better solution, if this wording is to remain in place would be to allow for an “Other” designation.  Gender is, after all, a social construct that has nothing to do with an individuals sex (which, lets be honest, also has more than two possibilities).  Alas, we are stuck in a society that appears to enjoy this incorrect, yet entrenched, gender binary.

This goes even farther though.  The instant we allow those with limited power the ability to select who qualifies as female and who as male – based on how they present, we are opening ourselves up for all sorts of abuses.  Gender is a social construct that changes with time.  It used to be that we dressed our long haired little boys in pink dresses, while the girls wore blue.

What happens when the thirteen year old girl, with short cropped hair, wearing low rise baggy pants and a jersey is denied access to a plane to fly home to her parents after spending part of the Summer with her grandparents?  This policy gives airports the right to determine who is female enough, or male enough to board their planes.  The potential abuses this brings forward are downright scary.  Don’t think for a second that because you are not a genderqueer, or trans individual, or because you don’t have a gender creative child that it won’t affect you.  This is something that has the potential to harm us all.  Will we all have to don a dress and kerchief in order to be female enough to avoid speculation?  It’s a scary idea.  Men, don’t even think about wearing that salmon coloured shirt, you too may be pulled for questioning regarding your gender presentation.  Is this really a slope we even want to start on?

There is a petition here:  http://www.petitiononlinecanada.com/petition/tell-harper-to-allow-trans-people-to-fly-on-airplanes/758  Add your name, and let Harper and his yes men know that you are saying NO to this government sanctioned discrimination.  And for more information and ideas on what you can do to combat this, check out what Chris Milloy has to say here:  http://chrismilloy.ca/2012/01/transgender-people-are-completely-banned-from-boarding-airplanes-in-canada/

female enough to fly?In 1930 Amy Johnson finished a record-winning solo flight from England to Australia.  Would she be “female enough” to be allowed on a plane in Canada in 2012?  I wonder.

One of those fabulous “yay me!” parenting moments.

As a parent, I can say we all deserve these types of moments from time to time.  Parenting is NOT easy, and so much of what we do is taken for granted.  However, the minute WE take our role for granted we stand to cause all sorts of damage.  It’s exhausting to be ever mindful of the things you do and say, but every so often a moment occurs that makes it so worth while.

A couple of days ago I had one of those fabulous “YAY ME!” parenting moments.  One of those moments where you know you got it right, in spite of it all (or, occasionally in spite of yourself).  And you can’t help but pat yourself on the back, mentally anyway.

I was watching the most recent episode of Glee with my husband while kid-kid was playing near by.  Hearing them begin a song she rushed over (she loves to dance and sing along – when it’s one she knows).  Afterwards she asked who Mercedes was singing about.  I replied “Sam”.  It was a love song after all, and the girl just had to have more info.  Not a fan of the show herself (she just enjoys the music) she, not knowing who that was, didn’t skip a beat asking me “Is that a boy or a girl?”.  All I could think was YAY!

Honestly, the fact that Lily-Ann didn’t automatically assume that since Mercedes is a girl that her love interest would be a boy just made my heart sing.  Yep.  It was definitely a proud “yay me!” type moment.  There is definitely hope for this generation.  The fact that it’s a complete non-issue for the kid is such an amazing thing to me.  Even though she is inundated with societies vision of a “normal” couple, a boy girl pairing, she knows that other couplings are equally normal and natural.  It’s a good thing.

love is love

Raised to be censored.

I logged in today specifically to write more about Women and the fight to challenge societies notions of what and who we are to be.  So it was seemingly appropriate to discover the following when I clicked on WordPress in my toolbar:

wordpress has been censored

Of course, WordPress isn’t protesting on behalf of gender issues, it’s doing so to help prevent the potential screening and censoring of content on the web.  Another important issue that could affect us all.  But in all honesty, these repeating black boxes got me thinking.  Children are essentially raised to be censored.

As a society we don’t raise our children to be radical free thinkers out to change the rules and defy convention.  We raise our children to fit in, to maintain the status quo, to work within the system, to be censored – by us, by society, by themselves.  It’s a sad state of affairs.

Colour within the lines.

Present yourselves as society deems appropriate.

Working on the Power of SHe project has been challenging if for no other reason than I am forcing myself and my models to defy convention.  There are many shots that I have set up in my mind, but finding women brave enough and strong enough to participate with me is hard.  I don’t want airbrushed, magazine ready bodies.  I want real women, PERFECT in their natural, untended, and even derelict form.  Mother’s aprons, scars, celluloid, stretch marks – part of lives well lived.  Time for them to be celebrated not censored.  Love yourself in your decrepitude.  It’s time to teach our daughters a new standard of beauty, one free of censored black boxes and filled with the rosy pink hues of love.

Get involved!  I need you!  Please.

You can drop me a line any time to volunteer for this project – photographer at tobi-dawne dot com

Let’s break free of the black boxes society insists on using to mask and muffle us.  Embrace all it is to be a Woman, and celebrate in your own flesh!

wordpress, censored black boxes

From an article on neonaticide…

From an article on the cultural relevance of neonaticide to both hunter/gatherers and modern society came this quote by Steven Pinker:

A new mother will first coolly assess the infant and her current situation and only in the next few days begin to see it as a unique and wonderful individual. Her love will gradually deepen in ensuing years, in a trajectory that tracks the increasing biological value of a child (the chance that it will live to produce grandchildren) as the child proceeds through the mine field of early development.

And I have to admit, this quote made me feel a whole lot better about how I looked at my daughter the first time I saw her.

Some of you know the details, most of you don’t…  but the day my daughter was ripped from my body was the worst day of my life.  It’s a hard thing to admit.  I love her more than life, she is my entire world, I would give anything for her happiness and security.  But that emergency c-section, after three daysof labour, was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced.  It’s a hard thing, it’s conflicting.  But there is NO conflict in how I feel about the girlie.

I had disassociated.  Things were so bad that I wandered in and out of awareness.  I remember things in vague patches.  Horrifying for the most part.  Then there was a baby next to my head, swaddled, and pronounced as mine.  And through my haze I was expected to be full of love and life altering emotion…  but all I could say was “oh”.

I have always felt horribly guilty for that “oh”.  Like there was something not right with me, that I couldn’t instantly forget everything I’d just experienced and be overjoyed and present for my new baby.  But it took some time.  And I am so grateful for my husband, who cuddled Lily-Ann and showered affection on her, when I wasn’t fully myself.  It didn’t take long, but I’ve always felt wrong for not being instantly present and instantly in love…  And this one sentence, in regards to motherhood, made me feel so much better.

My daughter really is everything to me.  She is why I push so hard for social change.  She is why I work so diligently.  She is why I love so freely.  She is why I am who I have become.  I am better for her.

So while my surgery was the worst experience of my life, what resulted from that surgery is the best thing in my life.  There is no conflict there.  I know exactly where one ends, and the other begins.

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again:  I Believe in the Power of She!  And She?  She is my daughter!

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