May 17th is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. This year’s theme is “breaking the silence”.
“On this day we honour 2SLGBTQQIA+ (Two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual) individuals in our nations, communities, and families, and commit to equality, freedom, and healing from the negative impact that colonialism had on the place of gender diverse people within our communities. Now, each of us have a role to play in the battle to reverse the growing trend of persecution and violence targeting groups of people," said Regional Chief Terry Teegee.
In many First Nations cultures, gender diverse individuals were recognized as having unique gifts, and as visionaries and healers. Many nations have words to describe this in their language. Two-spirit is an English term that some First Nations people use to recognize the multiple and diverse gender, sexual, and spiritual identities they have within them. However, the value of these identities was disrupted by colonialism, which resulted in gender diverse individuals experiencing violence and discrimination in society and in their own communities. The intergenerational trauma of colonialism has had profound impacts.
BCAFN Resolution 11/2020 Support for Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People Declaration and Strategy acknowledges that:
2SLGBTQQIA+ individuals encounter unique challenges, including meeting needs for identity and belonging, accessing culture and ceremony, health services, security, economic opportunities, education, and justice. While many 2SLGBTQQIA+ people are reclaiming their identities and roles in community, and are supported by community, they continue to face distinct barriers. 2SLGBTQQIA+ truths are also often excluded from advocacy and discourse around missing and murdered Indigenous women and gender-based violence, despite the high rates of violence this community faces.
Today we commit ourselves to listen to the voices, stories, and lived experiences of gender diverse individuals. We honour the resilience, strength, and inherent value of these members of our communities. We commit ourselves to stand against violence and discrimination, and to work for positive change.
To help celebrate this day, we suggest listening to the stories of 2SLGBTQQIA+ individuals. This can be with someone you know, by participating in a May 17 event while physically distancing, or through writing, art, or film.
For more information about the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, visit the May 17 webpage (https://may17.org/about/).