This portrait booklet is a celebration of two-spirit people

Divina Nicole and Sima Youssef hope the booklet will help two-spirit people feel seen across Canada.

Divina Nicole and Sima Youssef hope the booklet will help two-spirit people feel seen across Canada

Divina Nicole is the first transgender Indigenous business owner on the Gaspé coast. (Submitted by Kayla Caplin)

Divina Nicole is the first Indigenous transgender business owner on the Gaspé coast. In a portrait booklet created earlier this year, she shares her story of coming out.

The booklet is called Celebrating Two-Spirit Identities. Bright colours dominate the cover, with an outline of a Mi'kmaq dreamcatcher filling the page. Inside are portraits of two-spirit people from Gesgapegiag and Listuguj, accompanied by testimonials about what it's like to find and live your truth.

In her portrait, Nicole smiles at the camera in confidence. She embodies the goal behind the booklet: to celebrate and empower two-spirit people.

"I'm at a stage in my life now where I know who I am and what I am," she said in an interview with CBC Montreal's Let's Go host Sabrina Marandola.

LISTEN: Divina Nicole and Sima Youssef discuss the creation of their portrait booklet.

Nicole is Mi'kmaq and lives on the Gesgapegiag First Nation reserve. She explained that identifying as gay or two-spirit can be frowned-upon in her community, but, historically, this hasn't always been the case.

She hopes readers will identify with her story, and the stories of the other people in the booklet.

"By reading our stuff, they can get a feel for how it's going to be," said Nicole.

These stories are resonating locally and across Canada. Sima Youssef, who helped on the project, said hundreds of copies were passed around in the South Shore of Gaspé alone. They even found their way into local high schools.

Divina Nicole (left) and Sima Youssef (right) collaborated to bring the Celebrating Two-Spirit Identities booklet to life. (Submitted by Divina Nicole)

She said this uptake is helping the community acknowledge the presence of two-spirit people around them.

"It has reached many age groups," she said. "I've received such great feedback from people."

Nicole is also hearing from people across the rest of Canada. They are finding her on social media, sharing their own coming out experiences, and expressing joy at finding this new connection.

Youssef, who identifies as a pansexual cisgendered woman, said her experience helping with the book was life-changing.

"I learned so much from the participants on how to be proud and brave with your story and who you are."

They are exploring turning the booklet into a podcast. But until then, Nicole and Youssef are looking to other projects. Youssef is taking on an adult education project in the Cree Nation. Nicole is hoping to open a spa on the Gaspé coast.

The booklet can be accessed here, or by reaching out to LGBT+ Baie-des-Chaleurs directly.


Eric Dicaire

CBC editorial assistant

Eric Dicaire is a CBC Montreal editorial assistant working from home during the pandemic.