As you all know Anishinaababe is a space where I share my Indigenous culture and advocate for Indigenous Peoples. Today I have the honour of not only educating all of you on the two-spirit community, but I also have the opportunity to teach my Women’s Studies class at University about it as well.
When my professor assigned us a creative assignment on exploring contemporary queer communities – I knew I had to create a blog post for all of you to enjoy. Today I will be exploring the two-spirited community in London, Ontario.
What exactly does “two-spirited” mean?
In Indigenous culture, we have recently coined the umbrella term “two-spirited” to represent individuals in the LGBTQ+ Indigenous community. Contrary to mainstream culture, our ways of knowing have traditionally honoured two-spirited individuals. We see them as having a gift – they are able to view the world through different perspectives that the average person cannot see. Therefore, in our culture, they have historically been given important roles. Such as medicine keepers and even leaders. This “two-spirited” term was made official in 1990 at the Third Annual Inter-tribal Native American Gay and Lesbian American Conference in Winnipeg. The term is a translation of the Anishinaabemowin term niizh manidoowag, which means two spirits.
This term is very important because it represents a step towards reclaiming our heritage and being proud of it. It is also a step in the right direction towards self-sovereignty.
London Ontario Two-Spirit Community
Original Instagram Post of @anansihouse: https://www.instagram.com/p/CDGJyAanJe6/
When I think of the community in London Ontario I am reminded of the Instagram post from @anansihouse which discussed the exclusion of Indigenous Peoples at the London Pride festival. This community in London Ontario deliberately removed Indigenous voices and followers from the Instagram post. Therefore, silencing Indigenous voices and feedback. In addition, they proposed a LGBTQ+ Powwow which was immediately turned down by Indigenous Peoples. Powwows are sacred and must be conducted through Indigenous communities on Indigenous land. They require a cyclical connection to ones self, the earth and our people. In addition, the entire community must be involved and consulted. A powwow is not a “band-aid” solution you should propose in order to “cover up” apparent racism.
Often times when we think of feminism or LGBTQ+ movements we forget that they are often progressing the White, heteronormative agenda. We saw this in first wave feminism where Indigenous women were deliberately excluded from these movements. While White women in Canada could vote in 1918, Indigenous women could not vote until 1960. Likewise, when LGBTQ+ movements originated Indigenous Peoples were removed from the conversation. For example, when Pride Toronto failed to give a proper land acknowledgment in 2019. Or when the Vancouver Winter Olympics failed to include two-spirit individuals in their Pride Houses – and further failed to acknowledge that the Olympics were taking place on Stolen Land during obvious Indigenous protesting. Therefore, we can now see how Indigenous Peoples are struggling to be recognized and taken seriously in these communities.
Addressing The 2016 Black Lives Matter Protest at Toronto Pride
Although this blog post is discussing two-spirit individuals I also wanted to bring in our brothers and sisters. The Black community is another group that also faces discrimination from the LGBTQ+ community.
In our class we discussed how LGBTQ+ individuals of colour are critiqued by outsiders in the community. Often times you will hear people say “They already have a LGBTQ+ movement why are they taking away from it with Black Lives Matter?” “Why does everyone get so offended these days?” “Do we really need another movement?”
I am here to make you uncomfortable and to unsettle your White heteronormative views on the LGBTQ+ community. As previously mentioned people of colour are fighting a different fight. We cannot be grouped into one category, especially one that seeks to only lift the White LGBTQ+ agenda. Therefore, Black Lives Matter felt that it was necessary to “disrupt” Pride. They needed to bring attention to the fact that they are not included in Pride. They are used as tokenism, to make Pride appear inclusive. When in reality Pride was not recognizing, supporting or including this community at all.
What Really Happened at Pride 2016
According to the reading “Queer inclusion precludes (Black) queer disruption: media analysis of the Black lives matter Toronto sit-in during Toronto Pride 2016” by Ali Greey – the truth was not portrayed accurately by the media. In fact media outlets only proved their point further – by accusing BLM-TO of being “aggressive, bullies, and intimidating”.
On July 3rd, 2016 at the Toronto Pride Parade, BLM-TO held a non-violent sit-in which delayed the festivities of the festival for 30 minutes. Activist Alexandria Williams spoke to the crowd stating that racism is still present in Canada today especially in the queer community. They finally moved once their list of demands was signed.
The list of demands included:
More diversity in staffing, a commitment to hiring a greater number of Black ASL interpreters, increased funding and autonomy for community spaces such as Black Queer Youth, and most controversially, the exclusion of police floats and uniformed police officers in future parades.
Similar to the blockades at the Pipeline protests, Indigenous Peoples made clear that a disruptance needs to occur in order for our rights to be recognized. When you make the oppressor feel as uncomfortable as you do – that is when progress is made. Therefore, yes this was necessary.
Six Nations Pride Community
Now that we can better understand why people of colour need their own movements and community we can continue to discuss the communities present in London Ontario. One of which is the Six Nations Pride community.
The Six Nations pride community shares information, events, and resources that build the Two-Spirit, LGBTQ community. It is a place for support and resources to lift the Two-Spirited community. They provide information about events, organizations, and services that pertain to the Indigenous LGBTQ2S community.
Six Nations pride incorporates Indigenous culture, pride and community through amplifying voices. They host events such as drum making circles, Six Nations Pride, Youth Education Nights, and Paint nights.
They aim to meet up at least once a month. Six Nations Pride was formed because they noticed the need for the inclusion of LGBTQ+ Indigenous youth in their community. They wanted their youth to feel included, heard, and empowered.
The annual pride event that is hosted incorporates traditional singing, dancing, and feasts. Corn soup, bannock, and fry bread are a few of the many items on the menu which celebrate Indigenous heritage.
You can find them on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/Six-Nations-Pride-592638627566414/photos/1048353848661554
Before I conclude by discussing the ways in which we can lift and empower this community – I wanted to add to my creative project by incorporating an Indigenous art piece I created. I wanted to include this piece because I believe it summarizes and wraps together everything I have been evaluating throughout this article.
About This Piece: Migizi
The photo that is illustrated above shows me with my sister Victoria. When this photo was taken we were visiting our reservation in Swan Lake Manitoba. This photo meant a lot to me because it not only reflected the love and Indigenous pride we have for our family and our culture – but it also shows how love is cyclical in our culture. The Eagle in Ojibway culture is very powerful because it is known to heal the sick and bring our prayers to the Creator. I envision the two-spirited community to represent the Eagle. Because while in the mainstream culture they are prayed for – the two-spirit community prays for us. They pray that as we navigate the White world and the Indigenous world that we are looked over by the two-spirit world they can so beautifully see. The sun in this photo has 3 lines which are represented as follows; the black line represents our Ojibway culture. We are all united and reciprocate a cyclical relationship with ourselves, the earth, and the spiritual plane in which we inhabit. The purple represents our pride in our culture. The pride we have for everyone. For our family, friends, our two-spirit community, and our community on the reservation as a whole. Last, the light purple represents love. In our culture, we embrace love regardless of your gender, sexual orientation, and preference. We acknowledge and empower the two-spirit community. And we honour them.
Moving Forward: Ways to Include The Two-Spirit Community
When supporting and donating to the LGBTQ+ community I encourage you to think critically about who you are supporting. When was the last time you supported an Indigenous or Black group? Are you donating to fund local groups or are you donating to major corporations that keep a majority of the profits?
A great article to read if you are looking to learn more about “rainbow capitalism” is the reading “How Rainbow Capitalism Harms the Origins of What Pride is About.” The majority of companies will put a pride flag on their products solely to drive more sales. They don’t actually support the LGBTQ+ community. Look at their social media, advertisements, and who runs the company. Do they have a commitment to diversity in their business? Are they hiring LGBTQ+ employees? Do they show up to local events?
Therefore, I encourage you to research, share, educate and follow two-spirit advocates and leaders. Below I have included resources to help get you started.
Miigwetch, Thank you for reading.
Land Acknowledgements: Dont make the same mistake Pride in 2016 made. Here is a Guide to Indigenous Land Acknowledgement