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Thoughts on Indigeneity & Gender

BECAUSE OF MY GENDER, I hope the outside world
is soft with me every day.
Because of my gender, I view the world with pessimism
and despair.
Because of my gender, I cannot exist outside of
certain boundaries.
Because of my gender, I may never return home.
Because of my gender, violence upon me is normalized.
Because of my gender, my truth isn’t the truth.
Because of my gender, I will go through insurmountable
barriers just trying to exist.
Because of my gender, I am sexualized from an early age
Because of my gender, I do not get to decide what
is right for me.
Because of my gender, I am angry.
Because of my gender, I am a creator of life, we plant
the seeds.
Because of my gender, I am soft with the exterior world.
Because of my gender, I innately care for the land
and its inhabitants.
Because of my gender, I nurture those around me.
Because of my gender, I dream of a new reality full
of paz y amor.
Because of my gender, I carry the spirits of my past
relatives and ancestors.
Because of my gender, I will live out my hopes
and dreams.

The gender binary feels like a tool used by the colonizer to set barriers in the way of us reconnecting with our traditions and ceremonies. As femmes, we are placed in a role that is conducive with the patriarchy. In ceremony we must honor our roles as “women” next to our men; however, in society, the expectation is that we uphold the roles of both genders. The evolution of gender reflects on our capabilities as Indigenous folx not just to create relations with the land, but to portray that relationship
in real time by being adaptive, reflective, and in revolution with ourselves and soil. To decolonize is to be non-binary.

It was recently spoken to me by another Indigenous person to view the concept of identities like the skin of a snake; to shed that skin once you’ve outgrown it, and grow new skin to protect you for the next era of growth. Gender provokes that same necessity to shed such labels we’ve outgrown, especially those that stem from definitions set and influenced by colonization. Can the choice to not conform to gender normatives be an active revolt against colonization?

Gender to me is my reclaimed sexual and spiritual power. It is the duality of energies and my connection to the land. Being Chicana/x is how I have relearned to view the world, and I am no longer limited to how the world views me. It means everything and nothing to me. My gender will be redefined or even obsolete in the future. My gender, my culture and my brown body in existence is Revolution.

I am thankful for those who have been in my life who have broken the norms and binaries of gender/identity through living their genuine life. To step outside the box is to be seen as different or wrong by many of our peers, unsure of what is traditional to us as Indigenous Peoples and what was forced upon us through colonization. How do we expect understanding and growth when we are confined to a place with four walls surrounding us?

At times I am still confused on why the fluidity of identity must conform to gender, but I am also appreciative of the energy within nature and this universe that time and time again breaks down our limited human concepts on what life and balance can mean. The bravery we can find in our people is astonishing; we are eternally grateful for those whose lives are a revolutionary act.

— PUES Collective (Yaqui) is a group of writers, graffiti artists, seamstresses, musicians, trade smiths, environmentalists, and graphic designers based on the south side of Tucson, Arizona. They focus their intentions on traditional ways of communicating by protecting their culture from mainstream media. PUES Collective are recipients of a Cultural Survival Youth Fellowship.

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