Thunder Bay

'She accepted me for who I am': First Nations teen feels the love after telling grandma she's gay

A First Nations teen is feeling "nervous and proud" as she prepares to share her story of 'coming out' as part of a photo exhibition on Friday at the Anishinaabe immersion school in Kenora, Ont.

'I know I am a strong and brave woman,' Julia Skead says looking at photo of the day she 'came out'

Julia Skead, 17, titled this photo 'Brave' and says: 'This is the first time I wore a dress. I felt really pretty. It was taken about the same time I came out of the closet to my family and friends. The girl in this photo [me] had just been true to herself. I know I am a strong and brave woman. ​ (Julia Skead)

A First Nations girl is feeling "nervous and proud" as she prepares to share her "coming out" story as part of a photo exhibition on Friday at her Anishinaabe school l in Kenora, Ont.

Julia Skead, 17, said it's important for her to share her photo of the experience she had when she told her grandmother that she is gay.

"It went really well. She accepted me for who I am. She said she still loves me," Skead said. "She probably loves me even more now because she kind of had a feeling that I was, but she didn't want to say it, so she waited until I was ready to say it to her." 

Skead, who is from Wauzhusk Onigum First Nation, just outside Kenora, said people who live in small, isolated reserves sometimes have trouble being open about their sexuality.

"It seems like everybody is scared to come out because they don't want other people to think differently about them," she said. "But honestly it's their loss if they don't want to be a part of your life because they're missing out on something great."

Bimose Community High School is also helping Skead feel confident about herself and her culture. The alternative school is run by the Bimose Tribal Council, in the same building as an Anishinaabe immersion elementary school.

Julia Skead titled this photo, 'My papa' and says: My papa helps me in a lot of ways. He teaches me the language. He is wise and accepting. Papas are important because they are the second man in one's life after a dad.' (Julia Skead)

"We get opportunities here," Skead said. "We are included in everything. At the public school we felt left out. This school has made me feel like I will graduate."

"We get to express our culture more without getting judged by other people," said Skead's friend Taylor Cameron, 15. "They give us lots of help and hot lunches everyday."

Both girls said they enjoy the smudging and morning prayers every day at the Bimose school.

'I don't go with the stereotypes'

Cameron said she is too shy to take part in the photography exhibit, but Skead said the project gave her the chance to showcase her place in her culture and to focus on a future career.

When people see the photographs on Friday. Skead said,  "I want them to think that I'm strong, independent and I don't go with the stereotypes that people put us in." 

The photo exhibit is part of Friday's spring feast at the Bimose school. If you're in Kenora, you can see the art and take part in the celebrations from 1 to 3 p.m. in the gym at 1450 Valley Drive.

'This photo, The Lake, shows my dream of being a photographer. People like my photos and comment on my photos on various social media sites. Doing this photo project at school has made me realize that being a photographer is my future career aspiration,' says Julia Skead. (Julia Skead)