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