In celebration of June being both Pride Month and Indigenous History Month, it is fitting that our first blog post ties in nicely to both of these significant events!
As a HelpSeeker systems mapping specialist, I consolidate social services available in a region and input them into the Helpseeker app to make them more accessible to anyone who needs them. Part of that is tagging resources with the population for which they are designed. My team found a post from the University of Winnipeg about their switch from using the initialism LGBTQIA2S+ to using 2SLGBTQIA+ to “acknowledge that Two-Spirit Indigenous people were the first sexual and gender minority people in North America, and also to demonstrate solidarity with them in this period of truth and reconciliation in Canada”.
Here’s a small bit of history behind the term Two-Spirit:
“Two-Spirit means different things to different people and different communities. One of the most commonly cited understandings of the term is a person who possesses both masculine and feminine spirits.”– Rainbow Health Ontario
Two-Spirit was coined in the year 1990 to replace an offensive term used by white anthropologists to refer to Indigenous people who dressed as the “opposite gender,” further enforcing the European gender binary that Christianization and the residential school system sought to impose. So not only was that term inaccurate, but it was also incredibly offensive.
As a queer woman, I thought this change sounded like a great idea but I’m a white settler so I reached out to an Indigenous coworker of mine, Taylor Sparklingeyes, to ask for her thoughts. I feared that this change might be seen as pandering, doing the bare minimum, or being disrespectful in another way that I wouldn’t be aware of. Taylor was a huge help and reached out to a contact at the Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth in Calgary who put us in touch with a Two-Spirit person named Chaz. Chaz let us know that he is in full support of this idea.
The systems mapping team discussed this in our weekly stand-up meeting. One concern brought up was that we would be deviating from the industry standard making it harder for folks searching for 2SLGBTQIA+ resources to find them. The solution is that our smart search will be taught to interpret any variation of the initialism to make sure those looking for them will find them. After all, that is our main goal.
To find local, provincial and national resources tailored to 2SLGBTQIA+ persons, visit HelpSeeker.org
Any small change an individual or company can make that would have a positive impact is always worth considering. After consulting with Taylor, Chaz, and my team, I brought this up to the company for any feedback and everyone was on board so the change was made in April. Given the recent unearthing of the mass child grave at the Kamloops residential school, that change seems so small, but it’s critical to take every step we can.
At HelpSeeker, one of our core values is a commitment to Intentional Action on Reconciliation, Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Sovereignty. To combat discrimination and decolonize entrenched systems of power linked to the social safety net, we work to intentionally embed Truth and Reconciliation in our work as we operate on Indigenous lands. We want our work to be a vehicle for action on Reconciliation, inclusion, diversity, equity, and sovereignty, with a lens on Indigenous, Black, and racialized people, LGBTQ2S+ people, women, and others who have been marginalized.
I know a lot of non-Indigenous folx are asking what they can do and I would encourage them to read the Calls to Action published by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and search for local events on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30.