Native PFLAG hosts first Two Spirit, LGBTI powwow at an Arizona community college

Native PFLAG's first ever Two Spirit LGBTI Powwow in Arizona

The Native chapter of PFLAG, America’s largest organization for families and allies of the LGBTI community, is breaking boundaries.

Two Spirit Powwow

Traditional Native Powwows typically divide male and female dancers. But at yesterday’s (9 March) first-ever LGBTI powwow, these conventions were changed.

‘I know how heteronormative it is,’ Sheila Lopez, founder of the Native PFLAG chapter, told AZ Central of traditional Powwows.

The Native chapter of PFLAG hosted their Two Spirit Powwow at Phoenix’s South Mountain Community College. At the event, the male and female categories were taken out and dancers were welcome to dance in whatever categories they wanted. This Powwow was designed to be a safe space for the Native LGBTI community.

‘You won’t be discriminated or harassed based on your identity,’ Lopez said. ‘You can be who you want to be, dress however you want to dress, and dance in whatever group you want to dance in.’

Lopez stated that both the rainbow Pride flag and the transgender flag were used in the grand entry of the Powwow, and individuals of those communities held the flags.

The event featured powwow dancers from across the country, free HIV testing, non-profit booths, and vendors selling traditional Native jewelry and food. The 2009 documentary Two Spirits played in the amphitheater.

Native PFLAG

The Native PFLAG chapter was founded in 2011. It is the only PFLAG chapter in the country to focus exclusively on Native Americans.

Two Spirit is a commonly used umbrella term for the Native LGBTI community. However, it does not define anyone’s sexual orientation and Native LGBTI people may not always identify with the label.

The Native PFLAG’s Powwow was modeled after ones hosted in San Francisco’s Bay Area by the Bay Area American Indian Two Spirits (BAAITS) organization. BAAITS hosts the largest Two Spirit Powwow in the country.

‘Traditionally, Native American two spirit people were male, female, and sometimes intersexed individuals who combined activities of both men and women with traits unique to their status as two spirit people,’ the Indian Health Service website states. ‘In most tribes, they were considered neither men nor women; they occupied a distinct, alternative gender status.’

‘Part of why we’re doing this is to celebrate LGBTQ people and create a space where we can heal,’ Lopez said. ‘Hopefully, they know that Native PFLAG is here to help [and] support them.’

According to Lopez, one of Native PFLAG’s goals is to bring back ‘positive traditional teaching of what it meant to be two spirit because we have lost that.’

Lopez hopes this event makes a positive impact on both Native and non-Native residents across the state of Arizona.

Two Spirit Dancer

26-year-old Jordan Waquiu was one of the event’s head dancers. She identifies as Two Spirit, and this was her first time dancing at a large LGBTI-focused event.

‘I want to show that even though we may be two spirit we also take pride in our traditional doings,’ she told AZ Central. ‘We’re still true to our roots. We just want to be accepted and not just tolerated.’

‘[Powwow] dancing is in all of us Natives. It’s something to be proud of,’ Waquiu stated.

For Waquiu, it is important to be a representative for the Two Spirit community. She hopes her participation will inspire other LGBTI Natives.

‘Hopefully, I can send a positive message to anyone still living on the reservation and show them that anything is possible,’ she said. ‘Help them understand that it’s all going to be ok in the end.’

For Lopez, Native PFLAG is a lot more than just fun events. She works with Native PFLAG to educate Native communities about the LGBTI community.

‘There are a lot of people in the Native community, unfortunately, don’t even know some of the terms,’ she said. ‘Our mission is to educate, advocate and support the community.’

See Also:

A brief history of identities beyond the binary

This Two-Spirited Cherokee is bringing awareness to Indigenous women’s #MeToos

Sharice Davids is the first LGBTI Native American member of Congress in the US

Author: Rafaella Gunz

The post Native PFLAG hosts first Two Spirit, LGBTI powwow at an Arizona community college appeared first on Gay Star News.

Former Obama-era LGBTI liaison announced as new PFLAG chief

Brian Bond

The former LGBTI liaison to the US government is to become the new executive director of the LGBTI equality network PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) National.

Brian Bond, who was the first White House LGBTI liaison under US President Barak Obama, will begin the role on 1 February.

‘I know what it is to be the scared kid growing up in a rural community feeling different and alone, struggling with accepting who I was and living in fear because I knew I was different,’ Bond said in a statement.

‘As the Executive Director of PFLAG National—arm in arm with the hundreds of thousands of exceptional people who are the backbone of PFLAG—it is my goal to intensify all our efforts serving our diverse families and communities.’

‘For communities of color, we can make this stronger through continued cultural inclusion work and expanded outreach, listening, and tools. We can build on PFLAG’s long and noteworthy trans-inclusive history to expand our programs for transgender and gender-expansive youth and their families,’ Bond added.

‘There is no question we also will find the best way forward for faith-based and more conservative families torn between loving their kids and loving their faith.’

‘I know Brian is the leader PFLAG needs’

PFLAG is a network which unites LGBTI people with their families, friends, and allies.

PFLAG National provides support for more than 200,000 members of the organization, spread across 400 charters in the US.

Kathy Goodwin, the board president of PFLAG, expressed her delight at Bond’s appointment.

‘He has a proven record of success unifying people across communities, building strong alliances and partnerships and working in challenging environments and moments to effect change,’ Godwin said.

‘His personal story — as a young gay man raised in rural America — will resonate with so many people, including our supporters and members. I know Brian is the leader PFLAG needs to continue our work, and greatly expand our reach.’

Valerie Jarrette, a former senior advisor to President Obama, also praised Bond and his appointment.

‘Brian’s skill set, collaborative leadership style, creative thought process, and ability to build bridges across diverse communities and life experiences will serve PFLAG well,’ she said.

A lifetime of service to the LGBTI community

Bond has been involved in politics and LGBTI activism for much of his adult life.

A native of rural Missouri, Bond is a former executive director of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, and has also worked as an advocate for HIV education after learning he was HIV-positive in his early-thirties.

As deputy director of the White House Office of Public Liaison, Bond consulted on LGBTI issues from 2009 to 2011.

This was followed by stints in both the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic National Convention.

PFLAG has gone nearly a year without an executive director. The previous executive director, Jaime Grant, left the position in March 2018 after only six months on the job.

Grant’s departure puzzled many LGBTI rights activists, as no official reason was given for his sudden resignation.

Author: Calum Stuart

The post Former Obama-era LGBTI liaison announced as new PFLAG chief appeared first on Gay Star News.