This June, the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center (NIWRC), StrongHearts Native Helpline (StrongHearts) and the Alaska Native Women's Resource Center (AKNWRC) acknowledge, support and lift the voices of Native Two-Spirit, non-binary, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning survivors of violence for Pride Month. As Indigenous nonprofit organizations, we strongly support the need to facilitate inclusive conversations about the identities intersecting across the Indigenous and 2S+/LGBTQ+ spectrum.
When NIWRC, StrongHearts, and ANWRC raise awareness on gender-based violence issues, we also recognize that our 2S+/LGBTQ+ relatives experience domestic violence and sexual violence at exceptionally high rates. Violence and abuse can happen to anyone. Across Indigenous cultures and communities, our traditional teachings uphold respect for all identities and celebrate diversity. As relatives, we must stand firmly against dangerous attitudes toward our 2S+/LGBTQ+ relatives and instead, use our Indigenous values and sacred teachings of love, respect and compassion to advocate for them. We see you. We support you. We honor your spirit.
For generations, Western culture has disparaged Indigenous religions and teachings about gender and sexuality, including the pre-existing traditional understanding that Two-Spirit individuals, embodying male and female spirits, are blessed by Creator. Colonialism and Western patriarchy threaten our relatives on the 2S+/LGBTQ+ spectrum with policy, violence and oppression across the United States. Within the 2S+/LGBTQ+ community, intimate partner violence occurs at a rate equal to or higher than that of the cis-heterosexual community. American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians in 2S+/LGBTQ+ communities face systemic discrimination, violence, and harassment at disproportional rates. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS), of all the respondents who experienced sexual assault, 65% were American Indian/Alaskan Natives. Also, 73% of Native respondents experienced intimate partner violence, including physical violence, compared to 54% of the overall USTS respondents. 2S+/LGBTQ+ relatives also experience other forms of domestic violence and additional barriers to seeking help due to fear of discrimination or bias.
These statistics do not include the intergenerational and individual trauma our Indigenous relatives experience. There is a need for intergenerational efforts to recognize, reclaim and dismantle oppressive and systemic injustices toward 2S+/LGBTQ+ survivors.
Although there are incredible resources available for LGBTQ+ survivors, there is an urgent need for more culturally-tailored, inclusive programs and resources that offer support services for Indigenous 2S+/LGBTQ+ survivors. As family members and communities, we must collectively advocate for more inviting, safe, accessible and inclusive spaces for our 2S+/LGBTQ+ relatives. All members of our families, communities, and nations should feel safe, protected and supported to live free of violence and discrimination.
Tips for Family and Friends
• Show up: Family members and friends of 2S+/LGBTQ+ relatives can create safe spaces simply by showing up, listening and acknowledging their relative's experiences. Keeping "open minds and hearts" can positively impact Indigenous 2S+/LGBTQ+ survivors.
• Believe survivors: Validate the feelings of 2S+/LGBTQ+ relatives, assuring them that the violence they experienced is not their fault and they are not alone. Offering support when a loved one is hurting, even in seemingly small ways, encourages connection and protects against isolation.
• Celebrate sacred teachings: Learning more about Indigenous 2S+/LGBTQ+ communities–including their history of trauma and teachings about love, compassion, courage, and support–can help reverse the shame tied to Western norms about gender and sexual orientation. Return to traditional teachings that honor all identities and sexualities.
• Toolkit: How Families and Friends Can Reconnect with Native Teachings and Create Healing Spaces with and for Native 2S+/LGBTQ Victim-Survivors of Domestic Violence
• Summary: How Families and Friends Can Reconnect with Native Teachings and Create Healing Spaces with and for Native 2S+/LGBTQ Victim-Survivors of Domestic Violence
• Restoration Magazine: Reconnecting with Indigenous Teachings to Create Healing Spaces with and for Native 2SLGBTQ Survivors of Violence
• Two-Spirit Identity from StrongHearts Native Helpline
• LGBTQ2S (Two-Spirit) Resources by the Southwest Indigenous Women's Coalition
• Two-Spirit People from the National Congress of American Indians
• Two Spirits, One Heart, Five Genders from Indian Country Today
• A Spotlight on Native LGBT from the National Congress of American Indians
• Virtual Conversations With the Field 1 of 4 How Family and Friends Can Reconnect with Native Teachings & Create Healing Spaces With & For Native LGBTQ2S Relatives
• Virtual Conversations With the Field 2 of 4 How Family and Friends Can Reconnect with Native Teachings & Create Healing Spaces With & For Native LGBTQ2S Relatives
• Webinar: Mending the Rainbow: Working with the Native LGBT/Two-Spirit Community
• Webinar: Understanding the Dynamics and Tactics of Intimate Partner Violence through the Lens of Indigenous Survivors
• Native Youth Sexual Health Network
• It Gets Better Project
• Indigenizing Love: A Toolkit for Native Youth to Build Inclusion PDF
• A Guide to Being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Youth by The Trevor Project
• How Can I Make My Center An Affirming Place For People Who Identify As LGBTQ? by NRCDV
• Setting The Stage: Strategies For Supporting LGBTIQ Survivors by Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault
• StrongHearts Native Helpline call/text 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483), or chat: strongheartshelpline.org. StrongHearts Native Helpline is a 24/7 domestic violence, dating and sexual violence helpline for American Indians and Alaska Natives, offering culturally appropriate support.
• The Trevor Project call 1-866-488-7386, text 678678, or chat thetrevorproject.org/get-help. The Trevor Project has trained crisis counselors who understand the challenges LGBTQ young people face, available 24/7.
About StrongHearts Native Helpline
StrongHearts Native Helpline was created by and built to serve Indigenous communities across the United States. It is a culturally-appropriate, anonymous, confidential and free service dedicated to serving Native American and Alaska Native survivors and concerned family members and friends affected by domestic, dating and sexual violence. Advocates are available 24/7 by texting or calling 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483) or via online chat at strongheartshelpline.org. Connect with knowledgeable advocates who can provide lifesaving tools and immediate support to enable survivors to find safety and live lives free of abuse. StrongHearts Native Helpline is a proud partner of the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
About the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center
The National Indigenous Women's Resource Center, Inc. (NIWRC) is a Native-led nonprofit organization dedicated to ending violence against Native women and children. NIWRC provides national leadership in ending gender-based violence in Tribal communities by lifting the collective voices of grassroots advocates and offering culturally grounded resources, technical assistance and training, and policy development to strengthen Tribal sovereignty. niwrc.org
About the Alaska Native Women's Resource Center
Organized in 2015, the Alaska Native Women's Resource Center (AKNWRC) is a tribal nonprofit organization dedicated to ending violence against women with Alaska's 229 tribes and allied organizations. AKNWRC board members and staff are Alaska Native women raised in Alaska Native Villages and have over 250 years of combined experience in tribal governments, nonprofit management, domestic violence, and sexual assault advocacy (both individual crisis and systems and grassroots social change advocacy at the local, statewide, regional, national and international levels), and other social services experience. AKNWRC's philosophy is that violence against women is rooted in the colonization of indigenous nations and thus dedicated to strengthening local, tribal government's responses through community organizing efforts advocating for the safety of women and children in their communities and homes against domestic and sexual abuse and violence. aknwrc.org