Fighting For Equality Means Equality for ALL

I used to think that it was axiomatic that striving for equality meant equality for everyone. Lately I’ve been shown how wrong I was in my thinking.

• ITEM: The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has just endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. The frightening thing about this is that the Human Rights Campaign has never represented all LGBT people, but instead has concentrated on the rights of its majority faction; namely, rich white gay men. At the same time, Ms. Clinton is a (very) late-comer to LGBT rights, but she has always been a strong supporter of Wall Street. The HRC’s endorsement means that she will continue to side with corporate America over the general population.

• ITEM: I don’t make a big deal about one particular aspect of my racial heritage: that is the fact that I am part Mi’kmaq (also Micmac, L’nu and Mi’kmaw), a Canadian First Nations band. The reason I don’t make a big deal about it is two-fold: 1) I only recently discoverd this fact, and 2) while I may be racially connected, I am not culturally connected. That is, I know next to nothing about the reality of being Mi’kmaq, nor have I had the experience of growing up within that culture.

That being said, I do post and share many articles on Facebook dealing with Native Americans/Indians (NA/I) and First Nations (FN) issues. ANd while many of my Facebook friends share or comment positively about LGBT and racial issues when they concern African-Americans, I have yet to see one of them show any interest in my NA/I or FN posts.

This, despite some of them claiming “my great-grandmother was a Cherokee princess.” To those people, I suggest you read the excellent article, Why Your Great-Grandmother Wasn’t a Cherokee Princess.” And for those who are too lazy to read, I’ll sum up the article for you: There is no such thing!

I think the reason so many people remain uninterested in these issues might be collective white guilt. After all, the biggest act of genocide in recorded history took place on North American soil. For more on this subject, go here.

Another reason might be the fact that the plight of the NA/I and FN haven’t really improved that much from the way they were in the 1800s. Most still live in abject poverty, wards of the State which still treats them like animals.

And a final reason is that we Americans (especially) and Canadians don’t like solutions to complex problems. We don’t like hard work unless it directly benefits us. After all, what does it matter to me that Leonard Peltier was sent to prison for life on the testimony of an “eyewitness” who admittedly never saw him? Or that he is slowly dying because he’s being denied access to medical care?

Amnesty International considers Leonard Peltier to be a political prisoner… Amnesty International believes that Leonard Peltier should be immediately and unconditionally released.

Yes, I know: this doesn’t directly affect you. It doesn’t even indirectly affect you. But the way the government of the United States is behaving these days, you would do well to reflect on Martin Niemöller’s famous words:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Sleep well tonight—your government is watching.

Robyn Jane

On Being Gender-Fluid

I have always been intrigued by the Native American concept of Two-Spirit. “The two-spirited person is a native tradition that researchers have identified in some of the earliest discoveries of Native artifacts. Much evidence indicates that Native people, prior to colonization, believed in the existence of cross-gender roles, the male-female, the female-male, what we now call the two-spirited person.”[1]

But as a transgender American of European descent, I felt uncomfortable calling myself by that term. Too much guilt, I suppose, over co-opting yet another Native American concept by the white man. So while I continued to try to understand the concept, I decided there was no legitimate way I could apply the term to myself.

But recent genealogical research turned up an interesting fact: when my ancestors emigrated to Newfoundland, at some point they intermarried with the Mi’kmaq (a Canadian First Nations Algonquian tribe).

This was a game-changing discovery. And while I still don’t know which branch of the family it was (the ones from Liverpool or the ones from Belfast), the fact is that I now feel entitled to call myself Two-Spirit.

So what does this mean in terms of my gender identity? For one thing, it merely supports what I have maintained for years, and what the latest sociological research bears out: gender is a spectrum. In my case, I identify as both male and female. To paraphrase an old advertising jingle, sometimes I feel like I’ve got nuts, sometimes I don’t.

For another–and more crucial thing–I no longer think I’m crazy when there are times when I identify as male, times when I am female, times when I am neither, and times when I am both.

“Our Elders tell us of people who were gifted among all beings because they carried two spirits, that of male and female. It is told that women engaged in tribal warfare and married other women, as there were men who married other men. These individuals were looked upon as a third and fourth gender in many cases and in almost all cultures they were honoured and revered. Two-spirit people were often the visionaries, the healers, the medicine people, the nannies of orphans, the care givers [2]. They were respected as fundamental components of our ancient culture and societies. This is our guiding force as well as our source of strength.” (Laframboise and Alhorn).

To make a long story short (if it isn’t too late), as a Two-Spirit I am a wanderer between worlds. As a man, as a woman, as neither and yet both, I have a unique insight on what Joni Mitchell one sang: “I’ve looked at life from both sides now.” Two-Spirits see life from both sides. As such it is time to reclaim our rightful place in society, as healers, dreamers, and peacemakers.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Who are the Native American Two Spirits?

Two-Spirit on (Gender Wiki)

Two-Spirit (Wikipedia)

SOURCES

[1] Laframboise, Sandra, and Michael Anhorn. “The Way of the Two Spirited People.” Dancing to Eagle Spirit Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Feb. 2015.

[2] Roscoe, Will. Living the Spirit: A Gay American Indian Anthology. New York: St. Martin’s, 1988. Print.