2-spirit youth calls out 'stares' for wearing ribbon skirt at AFN assembly
Kieran Davis attended his first Assembly of First Nations event this week in Ottawa
Kieran Davis was honoured to carry an eagle staff during the grand entry of the Assembly of First Nations' (AFN) 2022 special chiefs assembly, but uncomfortable feelings overtook the two-spirit youth when he decided to wear a ribbon skirt the following day.
"This is the first time I've attended AFN, and I can't help but say I don't feel safe," said Davis, who uses he/they pronouns, to the assembly Thursday morning.
"We need more gender diverse voices present and we need to open our doors and minds to allow us to feel safe here."
The 21-year-old is a member of the Lac Seul First Nation and has been attending the AFN assembly in Ottawa this week as a representative on the 2SLGBTQ council for Treaty 3 and the Treaty 3 representative for the Ontario First Nations Young Peoples Council.
Couchiching First Nation Chief Brian Perrault gave his time at the mic to Davis at the start of the assembly session on Thursday morning.
"I want to give a little bit of time for a spokesperson from these young people behind me," he said.
"In Treaty 3, we have a number of councils that form a part of our governance in Treaty 3. We have an elders council, a women's council, a men's council, a youth council and a couple of years ago a group kind of felt let out. So the chiefs in Treaty 3 formed a two-spirit council."
Davis said when he walked into a bathroom Wednesday wearing a ribbon skirt he got "looks and stares" from other delegates. He wore the skirt like he does every Wednesday to support a high school tradition in his community.
"We face gender-based violence every day … and our expressions are often misjudged," Davis told CBC Indigenous.
"As a trans male, sometimes people may only see me as a man, but I am a water carrier as well and I feel both for my feminine spirit and my masculine spirit. I need to express myself the way I feel each day."
"It made me feel uncomfortable," said Davis.
"I felt their judgment, and that needs to change."
Fighting for safe space
Davis said it was important to raise the issue with the assembly to promote gender-diversity in all spaces, and to advocate for more two-spirit leaders.
"I want youth all over and two-spirit people all over to just know that someone's fighting for them and for that safe space for them," said Davis.
"There's still more work to be done but I feel like I said exactly what needed to be said."
Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare said in a statement that historically, youth and 2SLGBTQ members "have held sacred positions in our communities.
"To date, they bring diverse experiences and perspectives and add value to our local and national discussions and decision-making. It is unacceptable to make anyone feel discriminated against, excluded or out of place.
"The voices of youth and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people must be heard, respected and understood, and it is our role to ensure a safe and welcoming space … It takes a lot of courage to stand up for what you believe in. I lift up Kieran for voicing his concerns to the assembly and advocating for a safe space for all First Nations youth and 2SLGBTQQIA+ members."
The AFN announced Thursday afternoon the first six appointees named to its inaugural 2SLGBTQ council, which was created following a resolution passed by chiefs in assembly last year. The new council hopes to have its first meeting in the spring once all regions have appointed a representative.