Travis Angus grew up in a small community of the Nisga'a Nation and as a young person who struggled with sexuality, found it difficult to fit in.

"It was difficult growing up back home and not being accepted at any age of my life whether it be from the Nass Valley to Prince Rupert to going to school," Angus said.

Angus, whose traditional name is Niis Mious, identifies as two-spirit — both male and female — and uses the pronoun they instead of the gender-specific pronoun she or he. 

Two-spirit identity

After moving to Prince Rupert, Angus felt more accepted by peers. Back then, Angus identified as gay. It was much later, after moving to Vancouver, that Angus was introduced to the two-spirit identity.

Two-spirit identity is part of many indigenous cultures where the person is both male and female and can do tasks of both roles in the community. They were often regarded as holding high status, said Angus.

But that form of identity was suppressed through colonization and residential schools, Angus said.

"It took me years to be able to accept that fact that I was a gay man struggling with their feminine side and struggling with who I was or who I was going to become," said Angus.

Culture shift

Angus said the Greater Vancouver Native Cultural Society provided a home and a sense of belonging. At 48, Angus feels more confident and advocates on behalf of two-spirit people and all members of the LGBT community.

Angus received the Vancouver Pride Society's business leader StandOUT award for advocating for the acceptance of LGBT and two-spirit communities in the fields of business, addiction recovery, health, politics and some trades.

With the help of elders, Angus helped the Greater Vancouver Native Cultural Society celebrate Indigenous culture during Pride celebrations.

"It's a huge place we're at right now," Angus said. "My hope is to have a two-spirit gathering here before the end of next summer."

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