pride and progress

Inter-generational dialogue about Pride takes shape in short film project

Jacoby MacDonald, a youth participant with the Out On Screen program, is the filmmaker profiling prominent trans and Aboriginal rights activist, Sekani Dakelth.

Filmmaker Jacoby MacDonald and subject Sekani Dakelth want Pride to reflect a more inclusive picture

Sekani Dakelth (left) and Jacoby MacDonald partnered to create a short film which profiles Dakelth's activism in trans and Aboriginal rights for the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. (CBC)

As part of the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, youth have paired up with elders to create short documentaries profiling prominent members of the queer community whose work spans generations.

Reel Youth and Love Intersections partnered with the film festival for the third year to create another instalment of the Troublemakers series, which captures local queer, transgender and two-spirit histories through an eight-session filmmaking program.

Jacoby MacDonald, a youth participant with the Out On Screen program, is the filmmaker profiling prominent trans and Aboriginal rights activist, Sekani Dakelth.

MacDonald's documentary, Seventeen Percent, will be screened as part of the collection of short films screened Monday Aug. 13 at the VIFF Vancity Theatre.

The two sat down in studio to talk about their own journeys of discovering their queer and Indigenous identities.

The following interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

How do your Indigenous and LGBTQ+ identities interact?

Jacoby Macdonald: When I first figured out that I wasn't "straight," I don't know, it wasn't so connected… being Indigenous and being queer were different things for me, especially because I didn't see them together a lot.

I don't think there were any queer Indigenous role models that I had growing up, male or female or other. In my head they just weren't the same thing.

When I was exploring my sexuality and realizing that I was interested in everyone, it was confusing because I was like, 'hmm, I know I definitely like boys but I don't know, can you like both? Or do I have to only like girls, or do I have to only like boys? And there are people who don't conform to either and I'm attracted to them."

Sekani Dakelth: I used to see them as two separate things because I always felt like my community was — I call it 'conquered Catholic' because often the Catholicism was beat into them, and abused into them — so they perceive me as an abomination and as a sin.

The only memories I have of the first LGBT person on our reserve was somebody that got beat up a lot because of who they were, they got molested a lot because people would say they don't really matter.

That person grew up to be a very damaged person and actually committed suicide. The only other person I can remember also did the same thing, committed suicide.

So it always felt like two separate things for me, as well. Not anymore now. Now I'm like, I'm both, and I'm so proud to be both.

What does Pride mean to you?

JM: I'm hopeful now because I feel like in a lot of ways, brown and black and queer folks are kind of reclaiming Pride.

You look at pictures from a decade ago and pride was mostly just gay white men, which… is definitely a big part of the community but I think we need to be more inclusive.

Pride for me, Pride is queer, Pride is brown, Pride is black… Pride is not-able bodies... It's just not a white man basically.

SD: It's more inclusive, because they're definitely over represented. Whenever I think of Pride, the first image that comes to my head is a bunch of gay men dancing together with their shirts off. That doesn't include me.

I feel like Pride… like the image that's portrayed out there, it's always been something that didn't include me and wasn't made for me.

What was it like working on this documentary together?

JM: I feel like knowing you has been really special for me, and getting to know you, because I've never really had anybody I could talk to about being Indigenous, first of all, and also being in the LGBTQ+ community.

I feel like those are two separate things, and I definitely have people in either community but nobody in the middle.

SD: They asked what was special about your partner and… I said it's your confidence. Your confidence will get you into spaces that our people can't normally access, or have the confidence to get into.

Confidence is one of the things that I feel is tied to someone's identity, and knowing who you are and where you come from.

JM: Hearing you talk about my confidence is really special to me, because I was quiet as heck growing up.

SD: If you listen hard enough you'll hear them. They're saying 'Go Jacoby.'

For the full conversation watch media below:

Indigenous filmmaker Jacoby Macdonald and Indigenous rights activist Sekani Dakelth discuss how they see pride has evolved over a generation. 5:51

This story is part of a series called Pride and Progress that airs on CBC Vancouver News at 6 and The Early Edition throughout Pride Week, July 30-Aug. 3.

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