My birth mother had the most beautiful hair. It was long and flowy and came all the way down to her knees. When I was little – maybe four or five – we would lie on the futon we shared with my older brother and watch TV. I would take her hair, pull it over mine, braid it and play with it and pretend it was my own. I draped her long sundresses over me. And I loved wearing her shoes.
My aunt came over one day when I was wearing those shoes, and she asked me to dance. We pushed aside the chairs in the kitchen and I spun around being silly until one of my brothers started making fun of me. My aunt said, “Don’t laugh at him. He’s Two Spirit.” It was the first time I ever heard those words. When I asked her what they meant, she said, “You have the spirit of man and woman inside you.”
I didn’t like that answer. I didn’t ask to be called that. I didn’t want to be different. I didn’t understand. But so many things happened in the years that followed – being apprehended and taken from my Indigenous family, losing my birth mother and living in difficult situations – that I never really had the chance to get the Two Spirit teachings and building blocks I needed to navigate my sexuality, my identity, my spirit.
I tried to find my way on my own. But the more I tried to fit myself into the world, the less I felt like I belonged anywhere. I was lost.
Years later, after trying to come to terms with the end of my first relationship, I came out to my older cousin. We were sitting in the parking lot of the group home I was living in at the time and I told him I was gay. He said, “No, you’re Two Spirit.” When I asked what was the difference, he said that I needed to do some learning. So I went into ceremony, I got teachings. I practiced what I learned. And gradually things started to click.
Reclaiming the role and responsibilities of a Two Spirit person within my community lit a fire within me. I could embrace being an educator, a counsellor and an advocate for youth.
I’m still learning, but now I know that I’m not one spirit, but two. I’m fire and ice. And I use both of those energies to push through the adversity that comes with being an Indigenous person and a sexual minority in today’s world.
To me, being Two Spirit isn't as simple as an identity marker or a lifestyle. It's who I am, and I am at home in my Two Spirit body.
– Kairyn, Chair of Education and Outreach with the Edmonton 2 Spirit Society and participant in MacEwan University’s Pride Week Human Library
Where books are people and reading is a conversation
Human Library encourages open and direct conversations about resiliency as part of Pride Week.
“Before contact, two-spirit people were revered. They contributed so vastly, but colonialism eradicated that. Now we’re trying to bring it back. To give these members of our community their rightful place of honour.”
We acknowledge that the land on which we gather in Treaty Six Territory is the traditional gathering place for many Indigenous people. We honour and respect the history, languages, ceremonies and culture of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit who call this territory home.