When communities aren’t actively, intentionally, and deliberately including marginalized groups within themselves, they are unintentionally excluding them. Proper inclusion recognizes and respects the differences between people and does not try to absorb or assimilate one group into another. The first step in building an inclusive and diverse space is to open it up and make it somewhere where folks feel welcome and represented. This is definitely a good and important first step to building an inclusive space, but inclusion is about a lot more than simply inviting people into a space. Thinking of inclusion in that way presents it as a dominant group giving marginalized people something they already should have every right to. To create sustainable inclusive spaces, there must be a sharing of ownership and decision-making that doesn’t just focus on the needs of the majority, but that focuses on the needs of everyone.
When talking about Two Spirit people, they can often experience exclusion from both LGBTQ+ movements and their own communities due to the internalization of homophobia and transphobia as a result of colonialism. The exclusion of Two Spirit people and their teachings is the perpetuation of colonialism today and creates the feeling of needing to choose between being LGBTQ or Indigenous. This disconnect from community and culture, as well as experiencing homophobia, transphobia, and racism means that many Two Spirit people — youth especially — are at a higher risk of becoming homeless, experiencing issues with food security, and have a greater vulnerability to sexual exploitation, suicide, disease, and other health and mental health related problems. Due to this systematic exclusion of Two Spirit people, there are no statistics specific to Two Spirit people on these issues, as most Two Spirit people are either only categorized based on their race and the binary gender they were assigned at birth.
Therefore, actively creating spaces where Two Spirit people are valued, accepted and respected are really important to negate the negative and internalized feelings that many Two Spirits feel. How we create and navigate spaces can greatly impact those around us, and taking the time to consciously make an effort to include and respect Two Spirit people can go a long way into ensuring their safety. Below, Nicky shares their experience of finally having their identities validated and what this means for them.