LGBT2S Native Statistics

Recently, I stumbled upon a sheet from the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Policy Research Center on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Two Spirit (LGBT2S) and Gender Non-Conforming (GNC) Natives. The sheet highlights various statistics about the civil rights, economic opportunities, and the physical and mental health statuses of LGBT2S Natives. I wanted to share some of the statistics that focuses on the physical and mental health of LGBT2S Natives.

Here are some of them:

  • In a 2015 study, 71% of Native gay men and 2Spirit folx, who engage in sexual contact are at a higher risk of HIV transmissions & infections. Almost “1 in 5” Natives who were living with HIV at the end of 2013 were unaware of their status.
  • In a 2008 study, 56% of Native transgender and GNC folx have attempted suicide. 3.24% are living with HIV and 8.53% are not aware of their status. This is highlighted when compared to rates of 2.64% for transgender folx, and 0.60% of the U.S. population.  
  • In a  2010 study based in New York, 33% of LGBT2S were more likely to experience depression. 
  • The same 2010 study above found that  1/3 (29.3%) of LGB-identifying and Trans, 2 Spirit, Gender Non-Conforming natives have experienced hate violence compared to the 1 in 10 white respondents. 
  • Congruently, in a 2009 study, Lesbian & bisexual women and trans-women & 2Spirit (I use these terms inclusively, as compared to the study which may or may not have mis-identified peoples to be consistent with research standards) have a high prevalence of sexual assault (85%) and physical assault (78%).

There are many other ‘astonishing statistics within the sheet that focus more on economic opportunities, housing access, and such.

I honestly wish that I was surprised by these statistics. I’m not.

Statistics about or that include Indigenous Peoples are always rare or non-existent because of the lack of data. Not to mention, colonialism is insidious. It invades and exists in every institutional structure that the everyday person interacts with. These statistics are disparaging because of the long history of oppression, but also its continuation. Mis-representation and portrayals of Indigenous Peoples in video games, sports, social media, et. all overshadow the lived realities of us. They misconstrued us and perpetuate toxic gender roles, transphobia, homophobia, and violence against women. 

When people ask what is important in Indigenous communities, we list a string of realities; poverty, housing, mental health, suicide rates, cancer, diabetes, food deserts, HIV/STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections), education, etc. 

Movements such as #NoDAPL, #ChangeTheMascot, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), and so much more, do not focus on one aspect of Indigenous life. Yet, others might say otherwise

The thing is that these social issues are not singular.

They are essential. They are part of the process of restoring our health. When I see another person, or specifically when a white person disenfranchise those movements by saying that we (Indigenous Peoples) should focus on other “more” important things. They may not realize that colonialism as a structure affects and works simultaneously with other structures, such as racism, sexism, etc. These structures keep Indigenous Peoples on the margins of society. By this positionality, our lives and deaths have no value. Our issues are not important. 

But, when we talk about becoming healthy, being healthy and restoring our health, we are talking about our entire being. Mental health, emotional health, physical health, sexual health, spiritual health, our relationship w/ the land, etc. they’re all connected. The intersectionality exists. Our health, as Indigenous Peoples, requires intersectionality and holistic approaches. 

Nothing we do exists in a vacuum. 

Cis-LGB identifying Natives & Trans, GNC, and 2Spirit Natives are very likely to die because of how the world has come to be. Violence against Indigenous People is much higher because of the lack of representation and adequate representation. Images of us are caricatures such as the “noble savage”, the “bloodthirsty savage”, or the “Indian maiden”. Indigenous women are hypersexualized, which increases violence against them. Our complexity is misplaced and stripped away from us. These images negatively affect how non-Indigenous identifying folx view us and affects our access to ‘basic’ resources. 

Trans, GNC, and 2Spirit Natives have higher rates of suicide because of institutional homophobia and transphobia in their own communities. This is a result of toxic gender roles forced upon Indigenous children during the Boarding School Era. HIV transmissions and infections are highly likely because of the lack of access to sexual health and adequate health facilities. Indian Health Services (IHS) are underfunded. 

Navigating these systems is difficult.

It will continue to be difficult for LGBT2S Natives until the colonized world recognizes and acknowledges the responsibility. The responsibility of repairing and reconnecting with the histories of violence that have occurred and supporting LGBT2S Natives in what we need now. Yes, we can recognize the damage of what colonialism has done to us. Some bilagáanas might acknowledge colonialism. But, how can we support LGBT2S Natives? Supporting them, and advocating for them is critical.  

It is crucial that LGBT2S Natives feel comfortable with outreach and seeking these resources. Highlighting the statistics above is the first step to recognizing the problem. Now, we must continue t0 find sustainable strategies and resources to support LGBT2S Natives. 

 Tips & Online Resources for supporting/advocating for LGBT2S Natives are below: 

  • Promote and engage in culturally competent practices that increase protective factors, such as including the community elders, cultural values & teachings, language, etc. Most notably, preventing any alienating practices or programs. Interacting with Indigenous Peoples, of all ages, and asking what they’re needs are is critical for approaches to reducing suicide.
  • Create a culture of consent. Creating and advocating for a  culture of consent provides opportunities for individuals to learn about consent when engaging in sexual activity. Though please be aware of some issues with how consent is defined. 
  • We R Native is an organization that has a ton of resources about identity, environment, relationships, impacts, and a ton of other great stuff. Their entire website is by Native Youth for Native Youth and is a comprehensive health resource for anyone. They have an entire section on their website under Sexual Health focused on LGBT2S folx. 
  • Native Youth Sexual Health Network is an organization that by and for Indigenous Youth that interacts with issues on sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice through what is known as the United States and Canada. They have a comprehensive PDF resource directory for 2Spirit Natives that has a lot more websites. 

*There are definitely many more resources online. I will update this list periodically with websites and organizations that mention and focus on LGBT2s Natives. 

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