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Cousins: A Safe Haven for Oklahoma’s Queer Indigenous Youth [Video]

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First Nations News

Cousins: A Safe Haven for Oklahoma’s Queer Indigenous Youth

After the loss of a transgender student in Oklahoma, a group is offering support for Two-Spirit youth.

In the summer of 2015, an 8-year-old Choctaw child named Twelve walked in their first Two-Spirit LGBTQ Pride parade, recognizing Native people with a male and female spirit within them. They wore their hair in braids and a black suit, their mother and auntie by their side. Out and proud adults waved hello to Twelve from their colorfully decorated floats. The streets of Oklahoma City were filled with music, dancing and drag performances. It was a celebration that seemed like a step toward a future of acceptance for Oklahoma’s Indigenous queer community.

“That memory sticks in my mind — seeing someone that young and seeing loving parents be so supportive,” said Auntie Sage, youth leader at Cousins, a group for queer Indigenous youth in the state. “I had not seen that in my lifetime.”

Nine years later, queer and Two-Spirit youth in Oklahoma have witnessed the introduction of more than 50 bills targeting LGBTQ people this year alone — more than any other state — from bans on gender-affirming health care to penalizing public school employees for asking a student their pronouns.

In addition, LGBTQ communities continue to reel from the death of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old transgender student who lived on a Cherokee reservation in Oklahoma and reportedly faced bullying over their gender identity.

“With all these anti-LGBTQ bills going on right now, it is very dangerous and it is a very sad time for Oklahoma,” Auntie Sage said.

Today, Twelve is a member of Cousins, which has been offering a sanctuary for queer Indigenous youth in a time of rising anti-LGBTQ hostility. Through outdoor activities, out-of-state trips, theater shows, monthly counseling, group talks and mentor pairing, the group is cultivating a community.

“Cousins is a place of education, fun, community, support, love and all this good stuff,” Twelve said. “But at the end of the day, it’s also a safe space for kids who need it.”

Check out our blog post here: https://nbcuacademy.com/queer-indigenous-youth/

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