As we gather with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, let us also celebrate and honor our country’s rich indigenous history and experience as part of Native American Heritage Month.
While we have made some progress in decolonizing Thanksgiving and at least acknowledging the decimation of native people by early Europeans, LGBTQ+ Native Americans are too often sidelined and invisible in the narrative of queer culture. Just as LGBTQ+ History Month is an opportunity to celebrate all facets of our shared experience, including its intersections with Native culture, Native American Heritage Month lets us do the same from an LGBTQ+ perspective.
Our LGBTQ+ experience simply would not be the same without the contributions and impact of so many LGBTQ+ Native Americans. Here are some very diverse examples.
While Pete Puttigieg made headlines and history in his trailblazing presidential primary, LGBTQ+ Native Americans have quietly been making historic strides of their own in the political arena. In 2018, for example, Chelsey Branham became the first openly-LGBTQ+ member of the Chickasaw Nation to be elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and in 2020, Stephanie Byers’s election to the Kansas House of Representatives made her the first transgender Native American person elected to office in the United States.
Some of you may have heard of a certain drag queen superstar named Yvie Oddly. The colorful entertainer, who was crowned winner of season 11 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, identifies as part Native American, and has been an outspoken advocate for the contributions of people of color to drag culture.
In many ways, gender and sexual fluidity are an integral facet of Native culture. The Two-Spirit experience is predicated on rejecting the traditional gender binary. Native American Two-Spirit people are considered neither male nor female; they occupy a distinct status and are often referred to by language that denotes a third (and sometimes fourth) gender. They distinguish themselves with specific styles of dress and social roles, and are commonly known to form sexual and emotional relationships with non-Two-Spirit members of their own sex.
In other words, the rest of us could learn a lot from them.
This November, we invite you to join us at the Leonard Litz LGBTQ+ Foundation in giving thanks for the historic and ongoing contributions of LGBTQ+ Native Americans on our shared culture.