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Working It Out Together: Two-Spirited Gifts

Series host Waneek Horn-Miller opens this episode with the statement: “Love is a special kind of magic that people have between them, and everyone is allowed to have that magic.” This is the theme that is repeated throughout as we explore what it means to be two-spirited, both in traditional communities and in today’s society.

Waneek continues: “Sexuality should be something that acts as a strength rather than a fear as we grow and mature.”

Prior to colonization, Two-spiritedness—one body containing both the male and the female spirit—was held in high esteem. Gina Metallic, Social Worker, explains that two-spirited people were medicine people, pipe carriers, marriage counsellors and teachers. “They especially made good social workers and counselors because they were able to see both the male and female sides equally.”

Traditionally, Indigenous people saw sexuality and gender  as something that constantly evolves during the lifetime. However,  at the time of colonization, the settlers sought to destroy this practice, using the influence  of the Jesuits. Christian indoctrination removed the influence of the two-spirited advisors within the community, effectively breaking down the social structures. This  attitude was perpetuated for generations within the Residential School System; children who exhibited non-normative behaviours grew up ostracized.

Ms. Metallic also discusses how today, those who are two-spirited continue to feel  like an outsider in their home communities due to homo and trans phobias and oftentimes gravitate to larger urban areas in order to find acceptance. However, many times those who do seek refuge and find anonymity in larger centres then encounter racism. As a result, two-spirited people often turn to sex work to survive and “have the highest rate of suicide of any population.”

Robbie Masden shares his journey as he comes to accept and learn to celebrate his two-spirited self.  Growing up, Robbie was subjected to “gay bashing” and turned to alcohol and drug abuse as a means to escape himself. It was not until Robbie returned to his home community and explored the history of two-spiritedness that he began to understand and recognize the gifts he had been given, and began to heal himself.

This episode also features Pasha Partridge. Pasha shares her experiences as a bisexual, and is currently in a serious relationship with a woman. Pasha and her girlfriend left their remote northern community and now reside in her father’s community,  Kanahwa:ke, QC in order to avoid social persecution.

Carolyn Potts
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Carolyn Potts

Teacher. Writer. Mom. Masters' Candidate, Faculty of Education, Western University. Studying Pop Culture Media as a Decolonizer of Education Policy and Practice. I also volunteer as a Girl Guide leader in my spare time.
Carolyn Potts
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