by Ashley Joe, American Indian College Fund Student Ambassador
People in marginalized communities face many struggles, and Indigenous people are no exception. Indigenous people who identify as LGBTQ are at the intersection of those struggles.
LGBTQ Natives have additional challenges layered onto their lives. Not only is being a queer Native a self-identity battle, it is a struggle for acceptance within Native communities. Being gay or trans in a Native community is often a hush-hush topic. We don’t talk about our aunts, uncles, or cousins who bring home a same-sex partner. We do not talk about the suicide rates among our Native LGBTQ family. We do not talk about the sexual and physical violence targeting our trans-queer cousins.
If we do not talk about it, it does not exist right? NO.
I was 18 when I came out to my family, and I still remember that day so vividly. My mom embraced me with the tightest hug and a soft “I love you.” However, most LGBTQ Natives do not have this luxury. This is one of my reasons for choosing a career in education.
I want to give the younger generations after me something I never had growing up—a trusted Indigenous LGBTQ ally. Someone who will advocate for the proper use and identification of pronouns. Someone who will create a safe space for Native students who are not accepted at home. Someone who will include LGBTQ issues in conversations regarding student success and student growth.
Pride month is more than rainbow flags and “love is love” slogans. Pride month is about the visibility of our LGBTQ community and the struggles people in it face from being their true selves. It took me seven years to confidently say in my professional and personal life, “I am a gay Navajo woman.” If I had had more trusted Indigenous allies growing up, maybe it would not have taken that long.
Representation matters. Visibility matters.