Two-Spirit, non-binary, gender identity, identity, social pressure, Two-Spirit elders, learning, racism, LGBTQ community, refugees, community support, advice, advocacy, gay-straight alliance, labels, developmental disabilities
Tara: When you worked with the two-spirit kids –the two-spirit kids- did any particular issues come up or because of how you identify was there a particular work you could do with them that seemed important?
Alec: A lot of them were just learning about the two-spirit identity too, right?
Alec: ‘Cause it wasn’t something that was on people’s radar.
Alec: There was trans women, trans girls, but genderqueer, non-binary, two-spirit was so not on the radar in a lot of people’s minds that, um, yah, just um, just the pressure. There’s a subtle pressure when you come out as trans or you’re gonna go and travel to another gender.
Alec: Right, but some of them didn’t feel that way. They didn’t want to change their gender, they didn’t want to do surgery, they just wanted to be who they were. Which is another interesting aspect that they were kind of even at odds with the trans community sometimes. And yah. I tried to provide some- what I knew, the research I’d done for the past twenty years about two-spirit, trying to share what I knew with them and yah, so that’s what I tried to do, just share what I knew and introduced them to older two-spirit people in the community. Yah, so yah it was a learning experience for all of us I guess. Me learning about their issues. Mostly it was I think based on racism too.
Alec: Experiencing racism in the community too and some of that coming up.
Tara: In the trans community?
Alec: Yup, or in the gay community.
Tara: In the gay community.
Alec: Yah, I know one of the young –young performers, um, oh, they were also refugees. One of them came from another –came from Africa.
Alec: Somalia. They were from Somalia, came here at a young age. So they had that to deal with too. The expectations of their family to be –assimilate in the Canadian culture.
Alec: And be straight and get married and all that was coming up for them too.
Alec: So yah, so I think they bonded with each other too. Which was really great to see and formed a little community there amongst themselves so that was kind of cool.
Tara: It sounds like the kind of –exactly the kind of community and guidance that a school could have provided. Your youth had to find outside the school, within the community. If there were things that teachers or other school folk could do, what would they be if, so that those kids could find what they needed at school?
Alec: Understanding teachers, who knew about two-spirit or knew about gender queer or any trans issues would have helped. Um, peers they could go to, like a Gay-Straight Alliance.
Alec: Uh, peer support, teacher support, institutional support from the school would have helped.
Tara: Right. To deal with the bullying, you mean?
Alec: Yah, the bullying, the –also the labelling of them as slow and stuff like that. I thought that was –that was really disturbing to me when I heard that. Also because it’s personal to me because I had the same experience in school. I was considered slow and retarded in school ‘cause I was quiet and shy and I knew I was different, you know, from a young age, so I really felt for them going through that. And, yah, a lot of them were going through family stuff too, their brothers and sisters not understanding, but ten years later I think they’re all on pretty good terms with their family now. Reconnected with their families for the most part, so yah. So they got through it.
Tara: It’s a happy story. It’s a happy story.