The 5th annual Minnesota OUT! Campus Conference kicked off last night with a fierce round of introductions that honored the history of the organization and made a clear statement about the organization’s politics of intersectionality.

The evening began with an inspiring welcome from board chair, Scott Anderson. Scott challenged this weekend’s attendees to push themselves not to leave this weekend and return to business as usual, but to use the weekend as a chance to build skills and new networks aimed at broadening our LGBT agenda to one that includes racial and economic justice, immigration and sovereignty as central to our queer work.

Scott described the work of the Minnesota Campus Alliance as, “transforming our state campus by campus throughout Minnesota and helping people to live their full and complete lives.” (The Minnesota Campus Alliance has trained 3,000 people from 50 campuses in three years, across the Midwest.)

He shared the successes of the organization and called for attendees to get involved and become leaders in the organization. Check out the Get Involved information here.

Following the welcome was the Minnesota premiere of the film, “Two Spirits.”

TWO SPIRITS interweaves the tragic story of a mother’s loss of her son with a revealing look at a time when the world wasn’t simply divided into male and female and many Native American cultures held places of honor for people of integrated genders.

Fred Martinez was nádleehí, a male-bodied person with a feminine nature, a special gift according to his ancient Navajo culture. But the place where two discriminations meet is a dangerous place to live, and Fred became one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history when he was brutally murdered at sixteen. Between tradition and controversy, sex and spirit, and freedom and fear, lives the truth—the bravest choice you can make is to be yourself.

A post-film Q&A was hosted by Two Spirit activist, Richard LaFortune. LaFortune appears in the film and travels the country telling the story of Fred Martinez and raising awareness of Two Spirit identities.

Richard LaFortune, also known as Anguksuar, or 'Little Man' Photo by Anne Hodson

He shared with the audience the origin of the term Two Spirit, a term that emerged in 1990 as a result of years of conversations and community building across North America. Prior to 1990 the term was not widely used across First Nations communities.

Two-Spirit People (also Two Spirit or Twospirit) — an English term that emerged in 1990 out of the third annual inter-tribal Native American/First Nations gay/lesbian American conference in Winnipeg — describes Indigenous North Americans who fulfill one of many mixed gender roles found traditionally among many Native Americans and Canadian First Nations indigenous groups. The mixed gender roles encompassed by the term historically included wearing the clothing and performing the work associated with both men and women.

A direct translation of the Ojibwe term, Niizh manidoowag, “two-spirited” or “two-spirit” is usually used to indicate a person whose body simultaneously houses a masculine spirit and a feminine spirit. The term can also be used more abstractly, to indicate presence of two contrasting human spirits (such as Warrior and Clan Mother) or two contrasting animal spirits (which, depending on the culture, might be Eagle and Coyote); however, these uses, while descriptive of some aboriginal cultural practices and beliefs, depart somewhat from the 1990 purposes of promoting the term.


There are many terms to describe a spectrum of gender identities across First Nations languages. But, the term Two Spirit has been claimed by a wide variety of First Nations queer folks.

1988 marked the first international gathering of Two Spirit communities and that gathering just so happened to take place in our hometown of Minneapolis. 20 years later, the gathering was held in Minneapolis once again building on the rich history of Two Spirit organizing happening across the continent.

One inquisitive audience member asked LaFortune about Two Spirit individual’s relations within First Nations communities. At one point, he turned to Coya Artichoker. Coya spoke eloquently about her experiences navigating queer communities. She named racism within white queer communities as a larger and more prevalent issue than homophobia in First Nations communities in her life. Coya linked the startlingly high rates of domestic violence against women in native communities with the colonization of first nations peoples. Coya named colonization as a key issue for First Nations peoples to work through in order to reclaim the more free expressions of gender and sexuality that were originally core to native cultures. Coya also spoke to the startlingly high rates of domestic violence against women in native communities and how colonization not only contributed to but is believed to be the impetus of this violence. Stay tuned to FromOurPerspective for more posts, including a recap of the keynote where Coya will be speaking along with Susan Raffo and Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz later tonight!

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