If you were out and about on Monday, there is a chance that you caught a glimpse of the rainbow balloon arrangements proudly adorning the windowfronts of different businesses and organizations in Kahnawake.
To mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT), Kahnawake Shakotiia’takehnhas Community Services (KSCS) distributed the displays, each with a note attached to explain the significance of May 17.
As a day that promotes acceptance and inclusivity, community member MC Snow said the visibility the small gesture provided was just as fundamental to the cause.
“I have never noticed anything being done for this day in the community before,” recounted Snow, who pointed out that this day is somewhat new to them as well. “I immediately thought: what a nice surprise it is to see that they are recognizing this day.”
When they recently came out as trans, Snow asserted that above all else, the need for people to simply live authentically should always come first.
“To see the community organizations standing in support of that is very important because it helps people, whether they are just coming out or they are questioning, to feel accepted,” they expressed.
The significance that support plays within one’s surroundings is something that Kahnawa’kehró:non Kim A. Diabo said can not be understated. The mother of two trans children said that she was touched to see Kahnawake demonstrate their solidarity with LGBTQ2S+ community members.
“It’s so hard already out there in the world, so it’s important to make it more inviting and accepting here at home,” said Diabo. “To accept them in their daily lives for who they are is essential.”
Another pivotal aspect the mother hopes to see more of, is the inclusion of LGBTQ2S+ in education offered in local establishments.
“In order to better educate our children, there needs to be more of that content included,” she said, pointing out that parents and staff would equally benefit from this. “There may be some kids in school who will never come out or who will struggle with their identity, so just to have that awareness with sex education would help.”
In schools, just like in the different support services offered to the community, Snow said they hope this week’s act of solidarity is a sign that more resources will eventually be offered to the community.
“When I was going through a difficult time and felt like I needed to talk to somebody – one of the first places I went to was the social services here in town,” they explained. “But there didn’t seem to be a lot people experienced with the topic of LGBTQ+ people.”
Snow said that they believe the entire community would benefit from having services better geared towards gender and sexually diverse members.
“Right now there are places where people can go for support but they’re mostly in the city,” said Snow. “I think our population in Kahnawake is large enough that we need to get our own facilities where we can have our clinics and doctors that are specialized in, for example, treating clients who are transgender.”
To have programs and services in town would also be favourable as they would be specifically adapted to the realities of Indigenous Peoples.
“I don’t think our traditions were ever meant to be gendered, but through colonialism and the influence it had on our people, things appear to have got lost in the translation,” expressed Snow. “We have our own culture – Two-Spirit is ours, and we should definitely have systems that are culturally-sensitive.”
While Kahnawake continues to push forward to make inclusion the new normal, Diabo reminds parents that sometimes, the mere action of being present is enough.
“Be there to catch them when they fall, be a shoulder to cry on and someone who they can vent to,” she said. “Be there so they have someone to help them through the rough times.”
Laurence Brisson Dubreuil, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door