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2-spirit Cree advocate encourages young people with release of new book

Mathias (Maloose) Jolly, from the James Bay region of Quebec, is hoping to make a difference in the lives of Indigenous youth and to encourage them to speak up about trauma in their lives.

Mathias (Maloose) Jolly releases book called Fragments, explores violence, homophobia

Mathias (Maloose) Jolly has released a book of fiction titled Fragments, a collection of stories he wrote over 20 years, during a dark period in his life. (Submitted by Mathias (Maloose) Jolly)

A two-spirit advocate in the James Bay region of Quebec is hoping to make a difference in the lives of Indigenous youth and to encourage them to speak up about trauma in their lives.

Mathias (Maloose) Jolly has released a book of fiction titled Fragments, a collection of stories he wrote over 20 years, during a dark period in his life.

Jolly at an event for Montreal Pride, called Queer Between the Covers. (Submitted by Mathias (Maloose) Jolly)

The stories explore themes such as physical, sexual and lateral violence, as well as homophobia.

"We need to discuss these things in the communities in order for us to heal," said Jolly, who grew up two-spirit in the Cree community of Mistissini and now lives south of Montreal.

The term two-spirit is used by some Indigenous people to describe someone who has both a masculine and a feminine spirit.

"The only way I was able to heal was talking about what I went through."

Jolly, 39, says it was difficult growing up two-spirit in the community, even though his parents loved and supported him. He says he was the target of bullying by his peers and says there were only a few people who defended him.

"It was very difficult for me," said Jolly. "My peers, they mocked me left and right. I had trouble accepting my own self in my teenage years."

He says he struggled with thoughts of suicide after experiencing two sexual assaults. He says writing was a big part of what helped him through.

"Journalling was very therapeutic for me. I was able to get things out," said Jolly. "Nobody knew what I was writing. I kept everything to myself, but that's when my emotions started to be less heavy."

Pride parade

Determined to make a positive contribution in the lives of younger two-spirit people in Cree and other Indigenous communities, Jolly is also encouraging Indigenous leaders to publicly support the two-spirit people in their communities.

At the 34th annual Montreal Pride parade on Sunday, Jolly invited and walked with Ghislain Picard, the Quebec and Labrador regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations. It was the first time Picard had attended the Montreal Pride parade.

Jolly with Ghislain Picard, the Quebec and Labrador regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, at the Montreal Pride parade in August. (Submitted by Mathias (Maloose) Jolly)

"I think that the LGBTQ and two-spirited community [is] something we need to be more aware of," said Picard, who promised to work with Jolly and look for more ways to support two-spirit groups in Quebec.

"The leadership has to be there and understand that everyone has rights. I was there hoping I would reflect that position from various chiefs and leaders," said Picard.

Grand chief's support

In February, Jolly also invited several key Cree leaders — including Grand Chief Abel Bosum — to share messages of support at a Two-Spirited Community Support Conference that was held in Montreal. It was the first time a Cree grand chief publicly supported the two-spirit Cree community.

Jolly says it is hard to underestimate how important these messages of support are for Indigenous youth.

"When I was a child I never heard any of my leaders say, 'It's OK you are two-spirited,'" said Jolly. "Hearing your own leader accept you is something we want to hear."

Jolly says he is comfortable in his new role as a mentor for Indigenous two-spirit people, and hopes to encourage people to choose healthier ways to heal.

"There is a lot of pain in our communities and we can't be silent."