Re-Open the Circle- November 21, 2018
We are now ending the first half of our time here in traditional Noongar territory in what’s currently called Western Australia. It is an honour to be greeted and welcomed so warmly by the care takers of this land. Just in the short time I have been here I have seen and experienced so many cultural parallels between the Noongar and my people the Anishinaabe.
I would like to acknowledge that on November 30 it is International Transgender Day of Remembrance. A day in which we honour and remember members of the Trans community including our Indigenous family who have lost their lives to transphobia.
One of the important streams in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’s Conference on Suicide Prevention is LGBTIQ+ Sistergirls and Brotherboys. Hosting conversations about LGBTIQ+ issues is critical because the intersectionality of being Indigenous, being LGBTIQ+, and being a young person can put young people who are not accepted in their community in vulnerable and dangerous situations. This is happening in our own Indigenous communities, on our First Nations, and in our homes.
The work being done here in Australia towards equality and acceptance of LGBTIQ+ within the Indigenous community is inspiring but it is a long journey. There is no consistent data of Indigenous young people who are LGBTIQ+ in Australia but Indigenous youth are over represented when it comes to the conversation of suicide and suicidality. How many of these young people are taking their lives because they are not accepted for who they are?
This is a parallel journey which we in Turtle Island must also begin to walk. For so long we have left behind our LGBTIQ+ and Two Spirited family from our discussions. We have forgotten many of our teachings on healthy sexuality and our diverse teachings on gender and replaced them with colonial perspectives based in religion and binaries which are not inclusive.
Young LGBTQI+ 2S people in our First Nations have left their homes to find safety and acceptance in cities. Some have turned to substances to cope with the exclusion and many have taken their own lives. This is a failure on our communities and on each of us who hold views of exclusion and hatred.
This story is not uncommon for many Indigenous communities surviving colonization. We are not born with hatred of one another but we have learned colonial behaviors. We have learned homophobia and transphobia; we have learned patriarchy which prioritizes masculinity when many of our traditional ways of living were matriarchal; and we have learned religion.
It’s time we unlearn these things and relearn our true teachings as Anishinaabe. We must relearn our stories and our roles in the community and live them. We all have a place in the circle and we are all responsible to ensure others do too.
My time here in Australia has filled my heart. While we have a lot of work to do, we also have a lot to celebrate. The strength of young Indigenous people and especially the Indigenous LGBTIQ+ 2S community would make our ancestors proud. If you would like to no more about what LGBTIQ+ stands for check out this resource.