I’m a 19 year old Two-Spirit who identifies as male. For me to feel comfortable I cut my hair because growing up even on my Rez girls had long hair and unless you have “Native hair” boys have short hair. I want to grow my hair but I don’t want my tribes people to start calling me female names/pronouns. Any tips?

Greetings! First off, congratulations on reaching such clarity in your gender identity. It can take people years, well into adulthood, to understand our genders given how little gender diversity we tend to be taught about at a young age.

For me, I have found that the way people perceive my gender, and the genders of those around me, to be as perplexing and varied as gender itself.

You may have long hair and still be misgendered or perceived in ways that do not align with your gender identity. What I have been learning over the last several years is that nobody gives me permission to embody my true gender. Not family, not friends, not people I bump into at Starbucks.

While I will always fight for a world where we can share our genders with one another and always have it be believed and respected, I have decided that part of exercising my own inherent sovereign rights as an Indigenous person is representing myself in ways that feel good to me.

When you close your eyes at night, if you see yourself having long hair, grow it out.

While I know that some people in our society may never be good at recognizing and respecting others, I have decided that any extra energy that I spend will be spent cultivating relationships with people who see me as I truly am.

The same can be said for our Indigeneity. Those who believe that our supposed “degree of Indian blood” should determine how worthy we are of accessing our own history, our people, or our traditions will always exist. So, too, will be those who will be overjoyed to teach you what they know.

When someone responds to any of my identities by implying that I am not enough, I pray for them and remind myself that I am valid. That I deserve to be here precisely because I am the manifestation of thousands of years of prayers by my people who wanted us to survive. That mindset helped me to hold compassion for the humanity of others, regardless of their actions, but to hold that compassion alongside a love for myself and a knowing that I am enough. That I am worthy.

We can never predict when, but when we continue to set the intention to have teachers who share our identities, tribal, gender, and beyond, they usually come when we least expect it.

Hang in there. We are proud of you!

Your “Relative”, Itai

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