As Indigenous people, we have a rich history of queerness. Indigenous people who are queer, trans, gender nonconforming, gay, lesbian, non-binary, and fluid have always existed. And our queer Indigenous ancestors were loved, valued, and respected members of their communities.
We honor our queer Indigenous ancestors every day by being who we are and taking care of ourselves to the best of our abilities.
Some ideas to help us support our mental health as queer Indigenous people include:
- Connecting with Our Queer Ancestors
For a long time, colonists have attempted to bury queer Indigenous history by ignoring our ancestors’ diverse identities and trying to make them ‘fit’ into the gender binary (the idea that a person can only be male or female). However, many Indigenous societies didn’t think about gender as binary. Instead, they viewed gender and sexuality as a spectrum full of possibilities and choices.
Learning about queer Indigenous history that has been suppressed by colonialism can help us in so many ways. It can bring us closer to our ancestors, help us imagine new ways to exist and move in the world, make us more comfortable and confident in our identities, and allow us to create a deeper connection between our gender, sexuality, and culture. Plus, having examples of our queer Indigenous ancestors can be affirming to us as we explore our identity and care for ourselves. Some good places to start your journey into queer Indigenous history are the University of British Columbia’s Indigenous & 2-Spirit resource page and the Two-Spirit Archives.
- Building Community
It’s important that, like our queer ancestors, we feel appreciated and cherished by those around us. Having people that we can rely on to keep us feeling safe and cared for can have a big impact on our mental health and wellbeing.
Some people might not need to look far to find support and understanding. For many of us, it can take longer to find and connect with people who we want to be in community with. I’ve realized that a good way to connect with queer kin is to look for inclusive, diverse events. 2SLGBTQ+ community centers in your city or school can provide resources, host events, and hold space for queer people. There are also virtual options, such as book clubs, talking circles, and communal spaces that are made by and for queer people to access online. Try using the CenterLink LGBT Community Center Directory to locate 2SLGBTQ+ community centers near you.
- Cultivating Self-Love Practices
Support, intimacy, and care (in all its forms) starts with the relationship you have with yourself. This means that it is crucial to develop self-love practices that strengthen the relationship you have with yourself. For me, this looks like giving myself time to be creative through writing and scrapbooking, allowing myself to rest without guilt or expectations, attending virtual therapy sessions with an awesome Indigenous therapist, and using self-affirmations. Some of the self-affirmations that I use include:
- I treat myself with the tenderness and compassion I deserve, especially when I’m not feeling great mentally or physically.
- I am strong enough to ask for help from my loved ones and community when I need it.
- I am not ashamed of my boundaries. They are there to protect me, and I do my best to respect and honor them.
For more ideas on how you can incorporate self-love practices into your life, check out this article published by them, this primer on the significance of self-love, and this video on building self-compassion.
Resources to Know About
It’s important to know that there are resources available to support your mental health that are tailored to the queer community. A few include:
- The Trevor Project – A crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people under the age of 25, available 24/7 via phone, text, or chat.
- Trans Lifeline – Ran by and for trans people, they provide trans peer support, valuable resources, and are divested from the police.
- WVU’s List of Resources for Queer & Trans BIPOC – Documents 20 important resources specifically for BIPOC queer and trans folks.
- The Paths Remembered Project – Centers the Two Spirit and LGBTQ+ community –its strengths, resiliencies, and histories— in our movement toward health equity.
- The Native Youth Sexual Health Network – An organization by and for Indigenous youth that works across issues of sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice.
Author: Gillian Joseph (they/them) is a queer 2-Spirit Ihaŋktoŋwaŋ and Mdewakaŋtoŋ Dakota storyteller who grew up as a guest on Waxhaw and Catawba lands. Alongside writing, they work in the mental health field with a focus on Indigenous health sovereignty.
Published: Aug. 4th, 2023