Transgender Identity Isn’t a Trend, It’s Indigenous History

Transgender Identity Isn’t a Trend, It’s Indigenous History

By Chief Mixtli


It’s Trans Day of Visibility today and we at Black Hammer continue to honor the trans, queer, and Two-spirit Colonized people, who are told to stay silent about our genocides simply because white power decided to put caitlyn jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair. 

This century, colonizers are patting themselves on the back for slowly embracing the idea that people who aren’t cisgender deserve to live, but our ancestors didn’t need words like cisgender to respect each other’s humanity! We know better than to applaud our oppressors for giving out more crumbs from their table or to even want a seat at that table built with OUR labor, OUR resources, and on OUR land; that spot at the table, where colonizers gather, and sellouts beg like dogs, to decide what happens to the lives of Colonized people.

We must decide whether we’re satisfied with seeing Colonized trans people represented as servants of the empire, or if we want to serve the Colonized Trans, queer and Two-Spirit people across the globe that these colonizers and sellouts need to oppress to stay fed.

colonizer sarah mcbride patting herself on the back, running for state senate

Acceptance of all creatures under the Sun was and is foundational in most of our Turtle Island ancestral cultures, and not just something that we dip our toe in *IF* it serves the interests of maintaining a greedy ruling class. Cause *newsflash* Transphobia ain’t native to Turtle Island.

Yep. Alongside chickenpox, pigs (in every sense), syphilis, a taste for Egyptian mummies, and genocide, colonizers also brought their transphobia and other dehumanizing identity politics over to our lands. Before their pasty asses decided that burning under our sun was worth it for the stolen resources, at least Two-thirds of 200 Indigenous languages spoken on Turtle Island described people who were neither men nor women. Most of these Indigenous terms can’t be properly translated to colonizer languages because our ancestors understood gender and sexuality as inseparable from our spiritual and cultural roles in relation to the land and each other.

When christian european colonizers came to these shores, their jealousy of Indigenous brilliance led them to frame indigenous ‘sexuality’ and ‘gender’ as uncivilized and inferior. In fact, these savage cave beasts knew that they couldn’t continue their exploitation, slavery, and genocide over Colonized people to create what we know as capitalism, a symptom of colonialism, without having Indigenous people reproduce. They have even sowed the seeds of hatred within our own Colonized communities for this reason. Because of this, Two-Spirit people were often the first targeted, being fed to dogs to set an example to other Colonized people what happens when they refuse to comply with white, cisgender (people who identify with the ‘gender’ they were assigned at birth), heterosexual norms. With that, they framed themselves as superior, spreading this narrative across colonizer nations to further justify their vicious rape, theft and pillaging of our lands and our people. All of this led to the reinforcement and idea of the “picture perfect” family we know today; the nuclear family, another byproduct of colonialism.

colonizers committing genocide on Indigenous people, their bread & butter

That foundation of genocidal violence has not gone anywhere in the present day, it has simply gotten more organized, more institutionalized.

This colonial destruction of Indigenous trans and nonbinary ‘gender’ identities continued on in different ways. In the 1800s in KKKanada, Indigenous people were forced to follow a cisheteropatriarchal (power given to straight cisgender men) model of marriage to qualify for rights and ‘Indian’ status. Under this system, their indigeneity wasn’t counted if the lineage was through the mother’s family, and all Indigenous people were registered as either ‘men’ or ‘women’.

Through the institution of Residential Schools, Indigenous kids between the ages of 5 and 16 were stolen from their families and communities by the state to “kill the Indian and save the child”. In these abusive, filthy and mostly Christian boarding schools, thousands of Indigenous children never made it back home and most records regarding their deaths are missing. All of them were forcefully indoctrinated into binary gender. Residential Schools, more aptly called concentration camps, were active all the way up to the 90s.Two-Spirit Indigenous children today are still being isolated from their cultures and indoctrinated into binary gender through colonial institutions. In KKKanada, 52.2% of children in foster care are Indigenous, but account for only 7.7% of the child population, which is disgusting proof of colonialism’s ongoing mass cultural genocide. 

Indigenous people pushed into concentration camps

But from day one, every violent act committed against them has been met with fierce resistance by our trans and Two-Spirit siblings, who continue to take up space by force, even within colonial languages. This term, Two-Spirit, is an identity often used as a placeholder for a dormant traditional role. It’s a pan-Indigenous term from Turtle Island coined in 1994 at  the annual Native American Gay and Lesbian Gathering in Winnipeg, Manitoba. ‘Two-Spirit’ claims Native traditions as precedents for understanding gender and sexuality, and affirms that Indigenous gender and sexual identities are intimately connected to land, community, and history.

Indigenous people of Turtle Island specifically have had to create terms such as Two-Spirit because of how the colonizer ripped us from our mother tongues. This brutal separation from our languages and customs is also why so many Two-Spirit people experience rejection from their own communities, including their Spiritual leaders and Elders, who because of this disconnect, believe that Trans, queer and Two-Spirit people are unnatural, and even a product of colonialism.

Make no mistake, colonialism is what’s responsible for the rampant transphobia within Colonized communities.

We have always been here, and the difference is that our ancestral cultures held space for us and honored us as much as they honored Gender ambiguous and non-conforming Gods. Many of these deities have been taken from us through violence, including the reframing of Indigenous deities as if they naturally fit the colonial gender binary. 

Two spirit Indigenous person

Those of us here to fulfill our ancestors’ prayers know that liberation for Colonized people will never come from a Transgender or Two-Spirit person on the cover of Vanity Fair, starring in an Oscar-nominated movie, or winning a Peace Prize.

I’m not writing to encourage liberals to include Two-Spirit people in their Pride Parade. We at Black Hammer believe all Colonized Proletariat are equal; no matter gender, sexuality, age, skin tone, body type, location, religion, language, mental/physical differences and/or bi/multiracial identity. We understand that when the genocidal settler state demonizes, neutralizes, or fetishizes our identities, it’s always with the purpose of expanding and normalizing itself. 

We refuse to play into liberal identity politics and instead DEMAND that all of Colonialism’s symptomatic offspring be challenged and destroyed, including binary gender. These have no place in our hearts, minds, or lands! All our problems are from colonialism and the submissive neocolonialists that are within our Colonized nations, and no intersectional imperialism can change this fact. 

Intersectional imperialism

My Two-Spirit siblings and I don’t need the visibility of Hollywood, which films our assault and murder to make a dollar. This kind of visibility again reminds us of the dogs waiting for us every day. We don’t want a seat at the colonizer’s table, or for colonizers to approve of us. We need dictatorship over our lives, identities, labor, land, and resources. We need to tap into our ancestral knowledge and inspire revolutionary self-confidence in one another! We must remember who we are as Indigenous peoples, because only through Colonized unity and our leadership can white power, capitalism, colonialism, imperialism and all its symptomatic offspring be smashed! 

A glimpse into the ancestral knowledge our ancestors had

Everyday, the opportunity to oppress is extended to some new sector of the colonizer nation. White trans people get to join the amerikkkan military, while Indigenous trans people are under the boot of that military and locked into cages. Black trans sellouts get their own tv shows, while poor and working class Black trans women only get spotlighted when getting murdered.

The time is now to destroy the colony and build a future where no one lives at the expense of another! Justice for all Colonized Trans, queer and Two-Spirit people of Turtle Island and the world! 

Land back!


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