Every year in June, Pride kicks off in a big way. This year, Pride was especially meaningful for Bilijk First Nation (Kingsclear, NB) which was having their first ever 2-Spirit Pride event. The Master of Ceremonies for the event was the excellent Terry Young, with a diverse panel of 2-Spirit guests, led by Tuma Young, co-founder of the Wabanaki 2-Spirit Alliance.
The opening ceremony was carried out by local 2-Spirit Jesse Sabattis, who sang the Wolastoqey honour song, followed by the L’nu (Mi’kmaq) honour song sung by yours truly, W2SA Ambassador, Johanna Googoo.
[editor's note: "nekem" is the Mi'kmaq pronoun for "they/their/them."]
Tuma started off nekem’s presentation by asking: "How many Wabanaki folks does it take to change a light bulb?" You can hear random numbers, but Tuma informed the sizable crowd what the answer was: "50! - 1 to change the bulb and 49 to say, 'That's not how we were taught!'” The crowd breaks into laughter, but the real lesson was that things will change, and we just need to keep up.
Tuma's powerful presentation was very informative and well put together. As I sat there, I asked myself: “How will I follow that?" So I decided to let Jesse Sabattis, who was seated next to me, go next. Jessie told his coming out story, which was very touching, and he told us about his long journey in discovering who he was and why he felt his path wasn't his own, and how he made his own path. Jessie worked hard to recover from his addiction to be where nekem is, and taking on the role that nekem was given. Jessie is now one of our amazing two-spirit leaders. Congratulations Jesse!
The next speaker, Matt Comeau, a trans woman who was also discovering her path and reason for being. Matt spoke about growing up in world who wouldn't accept her and she felt that living as a male, playing sports and trying to figure out who she was was very hard. Matt spoke about slowly getting respect from community and peers. Her story was a very inspiring tale of discover.
At this point I felt ready to tell my coming out story as a trans woman. I told it with humour and laughter but also with a sense of solemnity as I explained to everyone how my spirit was created by my parents, because they thought they were insulting me as a child by calling me Johanna rather than by my male name.
My story goes back to the time when my brothers and I were young. Our parents gave us female names, which was funny, Michael was Michelle, Victor was Victoria, and of course I, John, was called Johanna, which was also my great grandmother's name, so I accepted that name with pride. Then I told how I came out to everyone except to my mom. I was so scared to do so but, in the end, she already knew, so I really had nothing to fear.
As the panel finished up, We closed the event with a round dance sung by Terry, who sang the Strong Woman song, followed by me, and I sang my Round Dance song, "Be who you are!” The circle was full, everyone was dancing and being happy.
What a way to end an event! Very good job, woliwon!" goes out to Bilijk First Nation. I am looking forward to next Pride there.