A powwow ended the LGBTQ Two-Spirit Awareness event June 20.
By LORI ANN EDMO
FORT HALL — The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Victims Assistance Program hosted a LGBTQ Two-Spirit Awareness event June 20 where community members were educated about issues the individuals are faced with.
Audrey Jim, Tribal Domestic Abuse manager, said June is Pride Month and she, along with her staff discussed issues the LGBTQ population had to deal with such as domestic violence growing up as children then bullied by others into adults. “We wanted to show the community what this population has to live with.” They spoke with Clyde Hall and Spirit Wadsworth about it — they jumped on the idea and were instrumental in recruiting the speakers.
More than 150 people turned out for the event that included speakers, educational booths, door prizes and panel discussions.
Clyde Hall presents founder of Gay American Indians, Randy Burns, with
a Pendleton blanket.
Lenny Hayes, therapist/consultant, did a presentation on domestic violence on the LGBTQ population. In the Ojibwe language, “Two-Spirit” indicates a person whose body simultaneously houses a masculine spirit and a feminine spirit. He further explained it in different languages.
Guest speaker Lenny Hayes.
He said domestic violence doesn’t discriminate and it occurs in all segments of a community regardless of race, class, culture, ethnicity, age, physical ability, education, politics, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation. Hayes said one in four lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are abused by a partner during their lifetime.
Violence may be physical abuse, verbal, sexual, psychological or emotional and economic abuse that could be limiting access to money or resources, interfering with school or work or harassment.
Violence could also involve isolation (cutting off support system), intimidation – threats of violence and use of privilege that can include incorporating biased language and slurs into verbal abuse, using institutions that my be oppressive to LGBTQ survivors such as the court or child welfare systems exposing the survivor to hate violence or outing the survivor.
Hayes explained how one can tell if someone is being abused. Examples include visible physical injury, unexplained delay in seeking treatment for injuries needing medical treatment, along with multiple injuries in various stages of healing. On the job indicators of abuse include loss of productivity, chronic absenteeism and or lateness, requests for excessive time off and or on the job harassment by the abuser. Illnesses that may be domestic violence related including stress-related such as headaches, backaches, chronic pain, sleep disorders, fatigue. In addition, panic attacks, depression, suicidal thoughts, secrecy or withdrawal from friends and activities, substance abuse.
He explained homophobia involves a range of negative feelings toward homosexuality or people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). It can be contempt, prejudice, aversion, hatred or antipathy that may be based on irrational fear, and is often related to religious beliefs. The effects include loss of friends and family through rejection, threats of loss of employment, threats upon life, loss of children, beatings, rape, death to violence or suicide.
Hayes explained “internalized homophobia” refers to negative stereotypes, beliefs, stigma and prejudice about homosexuality and LGBT people that a person with same sex attraction turns inward on themselves, whether or not they identify as LGBT.
To determine whether a person is homo or transphobic he encouraged people to challenge their thoughts or others thoughts, call someone out if they are using homo or transphobic slurs such as “that is so gay,” faggot, dyke or he-she. He asked if people were going to continue to be silent about it?
Dr. Rick Pongratz, Idaho State University Counseling and Testing Service, spoke about Suicide among the LGBTQ population. In 2017 concerning suicide among Idaho youth, one in five have considered suicide; one in five have engaged in self harming behavior; one in 10 have attempted in the previous 12 months.
Regarding youth in LGBTQ and indigenous populations, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people. Indigenous youth are 2.5 times as likely to die by suicide as their non-indigenous peers. LGB youth are four times as likely and queer youth are three times as likely to die by suicide as their non LGBTQ peers. Native trans and gender nonconforming adults – 56% report having attempted suicide.
Why such high rates?
With Native American youth: Access to health care, poverty, help seeking stigma, along with discrimination and abuse; existing suicide prevention programs may not address cultural needs; LGBTQ – the stigma of community rejection (family, faith, etc.), homelessness and experiences of hate-based violence may also be issues.
Pongratz gave statistics involving suicide. Idaho is fifth among states with the highest rates of suicide. Montana is number one, followed by Wyoming, Alaska and New Mexico. In 2017, suicide is tenth among leading causes of death.
Risk factors for suicide include: previous suicide attempt; mental health struggles such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc.; alcohol or substance abuse; older age, LGBTQ and international students because of loss of community; non-suicidal self injury; perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness; hopelessness; history of trauma or abuse; stigma with asking for help; lack of access to health care and loss such as with a job, school or relationships. Others include access to lethal means; local clusters of suicide; sense of isolation; exposure to others who have died by suicide; unemployment; discrimination and rural (isolation and access.)
Warning signs: Verbal clues: “I wish I were dead,” “My family would be better off without me,” and “I just want out.”
Behavioral clues: acquiring means, putting affairs in order, unexplained anger, irritability, mood swings; impulsivity; increased use of alcohol and drugs.
Situational clues: being fired or expelled from school; loss of any major relationship; death of a close relationship, especially if by suicide; diagnosis of significant illness; fear of becoming a burden to others.
Other signs include sleep disturbances, rage or anger, risky activities, withdrawal from family or friends, looking up ways to die, saying “no reason to live,” feeling trapped or self-destructive especially with drugs, alcohol or with weapons.
Myths involving suicide: suicide is a cry for help; nothing can be done to stop someone once they’ve made up their mind; a person won’t do it if they have children; only people with mental health problems attempt suicide; most suicides happen suddenly without warning; people who die by suicide are selfish or want the easy way out; successful people don’t attempt suicide.
He suggested intervening through: listen; take time; be curious; show concern; non-judgmental; open questions; talk (silence isn’t strength); make a safety plan; build support network such as develop sense of belonging to culture, family and community.
Five actions steps include: ask; keep them safe; be there; help them connect and follow up.
Offer hope: remind and connect with the person with reasons for living – social support, involvement in extracurricular activities and culture, reduced access to lethal means, self-esteem and offer hopeful statements.
Those who should be referred: overwhelmed or stressed individuals, couples or families; depressed or anxious mood – any suicidal thoughts; sleep or eating concerns; grief and loss; trauma; drug and alcohol abuse; relationship problems; domestic violence issues; severe mental health issues such as hallucinations, paranoia, etc.; difficulties functioning in life.
Pongratz explained to make a referral have or develop a relationship with the person you are referring to services; listen to what they’re saying even if only for a few minutes as it help them to feel heard and trust your recommendations; reflect back, acknowledge their feelings and difficulty in the situation; use empathy and instill hope they don’t have to do it alone; know resources in your community and have them on hand.
Resources include: Counseling and Family Services crisis line 208-238-4000. Behavioral Health Crisis Center, 1650 N. Holmes, Idaho Falls, 208-522-0727 or 1001 N. Seventh Ave., Pocatello 208-909-5177. Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline 208-398-4357 text or call or SPAN Idaho – suicide-loss survivor group meets second and fourth Thursday, www.spanidaho.org
Sharing their Stories
After lunch a Sharing their Stories panel discussion was conducted.
Panelists were asked different questions about coming out, safe places and any issues with employment.
Five panelists shared their views on coming out as gay, lesbian or transgender. They talked about who was supportive of their choices and where safe places were. Many said their grandmother’s or grandparent’s homes were a safe place to be.
If there were situations of domestic violence it may have been because alcohol was involved. However, as they grew older, those that addressed it got away from the situations.
Concerning employment one panelist talked about a situation where white conservative males wouldn’t accept her situation so she didn’t bring up her personal life. Another said inappropriate remarks were said to her so she went work where she felt comfortable.
One panelist said Fort Hall is a pretty tolerant community as many families have relatives who are LGBTQ.