Articles in Bethel
Our readers responded, sharing their reasons for living in Alaska and their experiences as LGBT Alaskans. We’re posting their stories in a series called Choosing Alaska.
This response is from Andrei.
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I am writing in response to your post on the return of college graduates to Alaska.
My name is Andrei. And I returned to my hometown Bethel following college graduation. I was elected to the Bethel City Council and worked on clinic construction grants for years. I am a gay male.
It was easy to return home. In fact, I didn’t give it much thought. Perhaps I have it much easier than many gay male experiences. Small town Alaska has been very good for me. Because of the brain drain I was able to hit an apex in my profession very quickly in my small town. I soon realized I had to move. I was a big fish in a small pond. I was intellectually curious about many things. And the remoteness of my location prevented me from growth.
And thus I moved.
Today I am in Bethel to care for my mom. She had a major surgery this year and required me to take care of her. I do live in New York City now. And I find Bethel to be a lot like New York. Bethel is Eskimo New York. Anchorage is Eskimo Amsterdam.
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What is your experience of being LGBT in Alaska? Leave a comment below, or email us directly at Bent Alaska @ gmail .com (without the spaces), and we will include your response in a follow up post. And if you have another topic you’d like to see on Bent Alaska, please tell us about it!
A Native American LGBTQ film “Two Spirits” premieres on PBS’ Independent Lens tonight, Tuesday, June 14, showing on KAKM at 9 pm Alaska time. Two Spirits tells the story of Fred Martinez, his life and violent death, and the history of multi-gendered people in many Native American cultures.
“Two Spirits interweaves the tragic story of a mother’s loss of her son with a revealing look at the largely unknown history of a time when the world wasn’t simply divided into male and female and many Native American cultures held places of honor for people of integrated genders.
Fred Martinez was nádleehí, a male-bodied person with a feminine nature, a special gift according to his ancient Navajo culture. He was one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history when he was brutally murdered at 16. Two Spirits explores the life and death of this boy who was also a girl, and the essentially spiritual nature of gender.
Two Spirits mourns the young Fred Martinez and the threatened disappearance of the two-spirit tradition, but it also brims with hope and the belief that we all are enriched by multi-gendered people, and that all of us — regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or cultural heritage — benefit from being free to be our truest selves.”
The concept of Two-Spirit is explained in the film by LGBTQ Native Americans, including Richard (Anguksuar) LaFortune of the Yupik tribe, director of the media project 2SPR-Two Spirit Press Room and an early organizer of the International Two Spirit Gatherings. LaFortune was born in Bethel, and is currently living in Minnesota working on reducing the suicide rate of Native youth and revitalizing Native American languages.
The American Library Association (ALA) recognized Two Spirits in its 2011 list of Notable Videos for Adults, a list of 15 outstanding films released on video within the past two years that make a significant contribution.
Watch the Two Spirits trailer:
The Two Spirit film blog recently highlighted the contributions and unique history of the Two-Spirit community:
“Many indigenous peoples recognized centuries ago the natural complexity of sexuality and gender, and have identified multiple genders and held an honored role for people now described as “LGBT” as ambassadors, healers, counselors, matchmakers, parents to orphaned children, artists, and medicine people who are seen as having special gifts to contribute to the society because of their Two-Spirit status.
Native American scholars are reclaiming ancient beliefs about gender and sexuality that are found in Native cosmology, traditions and ceremonies, and cultural stories. Unfortunately, the research conducted in scholarly circles rarely, if ever, reaches the general public or the media and therefore has not been a focal part of the public advocacy done on behalf of LGBT and Two-Spirit people.”
Other challenges include the lack of funding for Two-Spirit projects, geographic isolation and homophobia:
“Native Two-Spirit people are more vulnerable to homophobic violence and also to self-inflicted violence and suicide than the general LGBT population. Native LGBT teen suicide is a particularly urgent issue, and clearly a major contributing factor is that many two-spirit youth lack a sense of connection to the inherent dignity and respect that should rightly be afforded Two-Spirit traditions and values. Many Two-Spirit people live in geographic isolation from LGBT resources and/or in cultural separation from their two-spirit traditions. Native LGBT people want to be more connected to each other, and they also want to be more involved in making a difference to LGBT equality work locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.”
The Two-Spirit community hopes to build on the awareness raised by the film to address these issues:
“The leaders and activists of the Two-Spirit movement are working to shape more progressive national attitudes toward gender and sexuality with the general public and within tribal communities. Two-Spirit people are making the most of the increased awareness generated by the film Two Spirits and other resources to build the framework for long-term development and by working with public sector partners, foundations, philanthropists, and tribal leaders.”
ITVS, the co-presenter of Independent Lens, is supporting the film Two Spirits with community cinema screening events and materials in support of the national broadcast. There are dozens of public screenings around the U.S. and Canada this month, free at libraries and community centers, and supported by the local PBS stations. No screenings are scheduled in Alaska. (Who wants KAKM to host one? Contact them HERE.)
KAKM – Tuesday, June 14 from 9-10 PM
If you miss it tonight, you can set your DVR for one of the later showings of Two Spirits on KAKM:
Thursday, June 16 — 2:00am
Sunday, June 19 — 2:00am
Monday, June 20 — 1:30am
Social reception for Alaskans Together for Equality 5/15, 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Bethel Community Services Building.
Country Western 2 step lessons & dancing, three Fridays 5/15, 5/22, 5/29, at 7:30-8:30 p.m. $30 for the series, $12/drop in per class. Bovee Studio, 1845 Caribou Way, off College Rd. RSVP to Judith.
Pajama Party drag & variety show 5/16, doors open at 7 p.m. show at 8, at the Pioneer Party (Alaskaland) Civic Center.
Fairbanks PFLAG meeting 5/17, 4 p.m.
SEAGLA Social Fridays (6-8 p.m.) for GLBT people and our friends over 21, at The Imperial Bar, downtown.
Mat-Su LGBT Community Center in Palmer is open M-F 5-8 p.m. (except 6-8 on Wed.) The social group meets Wednesdays, 5-6 p.m. at Vagabond Blues. Harmony Choir meets at the Center on Thursdays, 6:30 p.m.
De-HiBearnation Brown Bear Bus Run 5/16, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. meet at The Raven Bar (4th & Gambell) the bus leaves promptly at NOON! The Last Frontier Men’s Club.
Side Street Saturdays, an informal meetup for LGBT writers, 5/16 at noon in Side Street Cafe.
“Homosexuality, Christianity & The Clobber Scriptures” used by traditional Christian Churches to promote anti-gay messages, this week’s sermon at the Sunday service with MCC Anchorage, 5/17, 2 p.m.
Patio Potluck Picnic at Mad Myrna’s 5/17, 3 p.m.
Anchorage Frontrunners, Tuesdays, 6 p.m.