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Indigenous Youth Fellow Spotlight: Tiago De Souza Moraes (Desana)

By Nati Garcia (Maya Mam, CS Staff)

For Indigenous Peoples, gender has always been transcendent and fluid, interconnected to our lands, languages, cultures, spiritualities, and worldviews. The separation occurred during colonization and acts of genocide that regulated sexuality with the aim of eliminating gender diversity in Indigenous communities. There is evidence in historic records of gender diversity, along with imagery in hieroglyphics, shrines, temples, and pottery that reflected the realities of Indigenous Peoples’ daily practice and engagement with sexuality and gender diversity that was not a taboo, but the norm. However, the reality of today is a struggle for Indigenous people who identify outside the enforced colonial structures of gender, which violently systemizes and disables gender diversity identities while creating harmful environments and instilling fear in Indigenous communities. The discrimination, violence, and racism faced by gender and sexually diverse Indigenous people converts to social marginalization, isolation, and disconnection from cultural belonging. When the thread of connection to cultural roots is severed, one’s sense of belonging is fractured, and Indigenous affection to one another becomes repressed throughout generations. 

The colonial framework of 2SLGBTQ+ has become an avenue for Indigenous people to restore the linguistic and cultural practices around concepts of gender diversity that have always existed. Indigenous people are recovering their gender identities through artistic expressions, storytelling, and media. There are some Indigenous communities that still function in clans where marriage is considered based on the diversity of genders and not by sexual orientation to strengthen their clan lineage; others have oral traditions where the protagonists are fluid beings depicted as a particular animal to reflect the importance of diverse genders in their communities. 

In celebrating Pride month, it is important to acknowledge the historical struggle and active resistance of Indigenous Peoples in reclaiming their ancestral diverse gender identities. Cultural Survival staff recently spoke with Umussin (whose colonial name is Tiago) De Souza Moraes from the Desana Peoples from Novo Airão, Brazil. De Souza Moraes is a 2022 Cultural Survival Indigenous Youth Fellow from the “Pehkame Mashã” Fellowship Project focused on providing Indigenous youth the opportunity to reflect upon and share their experiences on various topics such as multiculturalism, biodiversity, and content creation in a virtual platform. De Souza Moraes shared about his experience as a bisexual person.

De Souza Moraes is studying computer science at Amazonas State University in hopes of making technology, information, and innovation accessible to his People. He also participates in the Student Movement of the Indigenous of Amazonas. He shares the struggles of inclusion in being bisexual, where he had to leave his community not only to pursue his studies at the university, but also for safety reasons.