By: Dannie Ceseña
November 20th marks the 22nd annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR). Trans and queer folx from across the world gather to remember and honor the lives that we lost to violence over the last year. TDoR also highlights the legitimate fears that we face due to anti-transgender violence. As a Two-Spirit, Trans-Masculine individual, I am not a stranger to the fight to survive and exist, but this year hits differently for me.
For far too long there has been a lack of discussion and acknowledgement regarding the Two Spirit community and the violence encountered, especially how gender-based violence and transphobia encompasses Two Spirit individuals. 78% to 85% of Indigenous Two Spirit individuals experience gender-based violence, including sexual assault and physical violence.*
Two spirit people may be more hidden about their identity as it is difficult to navigate multiple cultures and community such as family, tribe, multi-racial identity, LGBTQ/Two-Spirit groups, and the larger white-centric society. Before European contact and colonization, sexual and gender diversity was an everyday part of life among indigenous peoples and the Two Spirit community. We were once honored and respected members of our communities. In many tribes, two spirit people filled special religious roles as healers, visionaries, medicine people, and ceremonial leaders. Post-colonization we are denied and alienated from our Native identity, and as a result we are looked down upon and shamed.
For the last few months America has focused on the Gabby Petito-Brian Laundrie case. The moment Gabby was reported missing, and Brian returned to his home in Florida, the media and police services were on the case like flies to honey.
After weeks of the public actively searching for Brian Laundrie, some major media outlets started to ask the same exact question I had been asking myself: “Where is the media and police investigation when Indigenous women and Two-Spirit people are reported missing?”
There is a major issue when we, as a nation, mourn someone who fits the beauty standards of a white, cis-het woman vs a trans person of color, especially those with an Indigenous identity. This is a problem area that needs to be addressed for our Two Spirit and Indigenous Women community, and we need to focus on what can be done to help victims of domestic violence, family rejection, food insecurity, and the lack of temporary housing and shelters.
Care within media outlets must be given to ensure that all lives, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, are given equal coverage. How many times must we remind America that the Queer community exists outside of Pride Month? Every June corporations, media, Pride events, etc. remind folks of how Marsha P. Johnson and Silvia Rivera threw that first brick at the Stonewall Inn, but immediately forget this historic event once July 1st appears on the calendar. Transgender people exist 365 days a year, not just for 30 days.
So for this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance let us not only light candles for the trans lives lost, but let us remember the Two-Spirit and Indigenous Women who will never come home due to the lack of acknowledgement that their lives matter too.
*Culture, Trauma, and Wellness: A comparison of Heterosexual and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Two-Spirit Native Americans. Kimberly F. Balsam, Bu Huang, Karen C. Fieland,Jane M. Simoni, and Karino Walters. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology Copyright 2004 by the Educational Publishing Foundation, Vol 10, No. 3, 287-301.
Other resources to support Two-Spirit and Trans* community members:
- Indigenous Pride LA – https://indigenouspridela.org/
- Bay Area Indian Two Spirits – https://www.baaits.org/
- Tribal Equity Toolkit: Tribal Resolutions and Codes to Support Two Spirit & LGBT Justice in Indian Country – https://graduate.lclark.edu/live/files/12737-tribal-equity-toolkit
- SNAHC Two Spirit Talking Circle – https://www.snahc.org/snahc-event/two-spirit-talking-circle-2020-06-12-2020-07-03-2021-11-19/
- Two Spirit Journal – https://twospiritjournal.com/
- Two-Spirits Among Us: celebrating LGBTQ Native American and First Nations stories – https://www.glaad.org/blog/two-spirits-among-us-celebrating-lgbtq-native-american-and-first-nations-stories
- California Partnership to End Domestic Violence: https://www.cpedv.org/