Scout Director, Network for LGBT Health Equity Report from Creating Change 2011 Minneapolis MN
Some plenaries are inspiring, some are difficult, some are sobering and challenge us to really grow, and some are all. With a gathering of her fellow Native Americans, Chrystos took the stage for the latest Creating Change plenary. She tells us how this is surprisingly the first Native American plenary speech ever at this conference. She tells us of her history in San Francisco with the Daughters of Bilitis. Of the beatings, the police harassment, the concessions gender variant people would make to keep eating. She reminds us how many of us aren’t white, we are really Indo-European immigrants. She tells us how she jokes with her Native American brethren that their problem is really a lax immigration policy. She reminds us that this country is built on two fundamental tenets, the exploitation of Native Americans for land, and of Africans for labor. She talks about how she still doesn’t feel safe except among her small Gay Native American group, a group that has only 4 of the 80 founding members still living. She reminds us how the Native American communities recognize the two-spirit people, a lens that separates sexuality and gender, then adds acceptance, in a way that my indo-european mind marvels at. She tells us that Identity Politics is too small a place to stand.
I can’t really convey how funny she was, an amazing reality considering the stories she was telling.
She asks us to think critically. Reminds us that the win on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell allows us to die for a country that doesn’t give us civil rights.
Through her stories she shows us how the Native American people are still being looted by us colonizers. And she asks us to take our hands out of that bag.
And she gives us homework, to read real books. Specifically these four: The Turqoise Ledge; Conquest; Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot; Journal of an Ordinary Grief.
Chrystos leaves us with a wish, “May you find your way to the greatest of all wisdoms, as the Talmud says, kindness.”