The other day, I came across a post on social media that attacks the LGBTQ2S community. I found it unsettling. In passing, people can rub it off and say it was a joke. I find it comparable to jokes that are made against Indigenous people. Offensive, hurtful and ignorant. When you are heterosexual (straight) it’s so easy to scroll by, maybe even giggle and not think much of it. However, we don’t know how it affects two-spirit youth that may be concealing their sexual identity for fear of backlash. In more recent times, youth are more fearless about who they are. Still, some hide because fear and hate still exists in our communities. I thought what if people knew about what two-spirit youth go through? Would they willfully spread ignorance and hatred? I dug in and quickly found some facts about two-spirit youth or the LGBTQ2S community go through:
1) Hate crimes and bullying in schools against LGBTQ2S are higher than for people who are considered straight (heterosexual). This rate rises if you are First Nations and female.
2) Suicide rates for our First Nation LGBTQ2S is higher. This rate becomes higher for those who are NOT supported by family.
3) Colonization and religious dogma has affected our beliefs. Traditionally, two-spirited people were accepted as part of the community.
4) LGBTQ2S is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, and 2-Spirit. Some estimates put the number at 40% of homeless youth identifying as LGBTQ2S. Homeless youth are transitioning into adulthood without family support.
As a mother of a two-spirited (2S), now adult, daughter. My first instinct has always been to protect and love my child. Her sexual identity has never been an issue for me, in fact, I believe it is none of my business. As an adult, she told me about how she was attacked by a group of kids in elementary school and bullied in another for who she was. My heart ached at the thought that I didn’t know and that I wasn’t there to protect her from those attacks. Fortunately, Sky has always been tough, although I am sure that the experiences have left invisible scars.
In our First Nation communities, religion has played a large role in the rejection of our young two-spirit people. We, as parents and families, go against our instincts to protect and love in order to belong to a religious community that denies the humanity of our babies.
The inherent desire of all children is to feel accepted, supported, celebrated and loved. Instead, they can be met with shame and hatred which drives our young two-spirit people to believe that they are not worthy of love, respect and belonging. I believe that this when we begin to fail our young two-spirit people as a community. When we would rather cling to beliefs of LGBTQ2S as sinners to be shunned rather than to loved and protected as part of our families, communities and Nations.
People, if, you can’t accept them then at the very least, don’t be part of the group that hurts them. If you are family, remember your responsibility is to your child/family member first. Find some courage and strength to stand beside them, and at times, in front of them.
As a mother, teacher and Ally I want young two-spirit people to know that they are not alone. They are loved, supported, accepted and that they are worthy of respect and belonging. I will always offer any space I hold as safe.
For more information, visit these links or do your own research.
This link takes you to a video titled “Two Spirits”. It is about a young trans youth who was murdered. https://vimeo.com/ondemand/twospirits
This link is about some Cree terms about two-spirit identity as well as the history of colonization and its impacts on our beliefs. https://apihtawikosisan.com/2012/03/language-culture-and-two-spirit-identity/
This link covers the statistics of youth suicide for LGBTQ2S youth. https://egale.ca/backgrounder-lgbtq-youth-suicide/
This is a story about a young man who was beaten so badly, he had to have reconstructive surgery on his face.https://www.vancourier.com/news/two-spirits-one-struggle-the-front-lines-of-being-first-nations-and-gay-1.1269015
This link takes you to a guide on how you can be a LGBTQ2S ally. https://ruor.uottawa.ca/bitstream/10393/30544/1/Suicide_Prevention_2Spirited_People_Guide_2012.pdf