Naming a Child, Not Gender
Lisa Koperqualuk. Talasie Tulugak. Qumaq Mangiuk. Marie-Pierre Gadoua
November 7, 2011
"The first name is unisex."
Lisa Koperqualuk, Inuit
In many cultures, gender identity is clearly defined and is a formal part of a child's first name. Nothing is set in stone among Inuit. Traditionally, the first name was determined before finding out the sex of the newborn. It could be the first name of an immediate family member or a recently deceased person. It was not chosen at random, because the person who first had it would then influence the personality of the child who used it next. It was about honouring ancestry, not a predefined gender.
An interview with inuit women
When a child is born, that child is named after someone. It could be a very close family member, a grandma, an aunt, a grandpa. In another region, they name people, the newborn, to someone who recently died. Not in our region.
It used to.
Not these days.
How would you choose the person that the child will be named after?
Well, when I was pregnant with my children, I discussed with my mother, “How should we name the child if it’s a girl or if it’s a boy?” Firstly, it didn’t matter if it was a boy or a girl, they could be named after a man or after a woman, any, either sex. It’s unisex, the names were completely, you know, there was no different gender. So in my case, when my son was going to be born, we thought of our ancestors, so we thought of my great-great-grandfather because there were hardly any people named after him, so we called him Gabriel (Nureki?), who was (Qilukli?)'s father. So I should have been calling him father. But because of life’s complications, and being away from the community, I ended up just calling him my son. He’s my (ilnik?), he’s my son. But he knows that he’s my father. So now, once in a while, when he emails me on Facebook, he says, “Mom, I need…” No, no, he says, “Panik, I need a hundred dollars!” He uses it now to blackmail me.
When you’re named after someone… You’re a female but you could be named after a man. It happens a lot.
I’m named after my grandfather.
She has a middle name. A name, for male.
Several years ago, I had a friend of mine in Puvurnituk, a man my age, and they were expecting a baby. So they told me they were going to name the baby after me if it’s a girl. And then one day, she was in Moose Factory I think, to deliver her baby. So the baby was born, of course they didn’t know what sex it would be before, and they call me, they’re excited, ‘’You have a (Salunaq?) now.’’ And I was like, “Woooo!”, but then a few hours later, they called back, “No… We’re sorry Lisa, he was not a girl.” It’s like the baby changed its mind and became a boy after. But when I think back on it and having learned that, you know, in our past, they were not naming children only according to sex; I regret that the baby was not named after me even if it was a boy.
Article published on Friday, July 1, 2016 on the Ici Radio-Canada website.
GINA METALLIC, AN ABORIGINAL WOMAN WHO IS QUEER
Gina Metallic is a Mi'gmaq woman. She was the first to announce to her community of Listuguj in the Gaspé Peninsula, that she is two-spirit. Surprised by the positive feedback from community members, she knew she was on the right track.
Text by Vincent Wallon
Gina Metallic explains that the term “two-spirit” first appeared in the Aboriginal community at the 3rd Annual First Nations Gay and Lesbian Conference in Winnipeg, in 1990.
It represents the expression of various genres and “distances itself from the purely sexual aspect to draw closer to the spiritual dimension”. This term corresponds to the English word for Queer.
Today, Gina Metallic is a social worker and a specialist in child protection and therapy in Indigenous communities.
A tradition open to LGBTQ people
She’s inspired by Indigenous tradition and explains that two-spirit beings were previously deeply respected and had their own social role in each of the different communities.
Within certain communities, youth were asked to choose an object: a bow or basket during a ceremony. The bow was a more masculine object and the basket was rather feminine. A young person who chose an object with a role different from his or her birth sex was attributed as having a special gift relating to creation.
They then became marriage counselors, teachers, spiritual leaders, basket weavers or blanket makers and did not take on the traditional roles assigned to men and women.
A forced Christianization with a binary vision of gender
The evangelization of Indigenous communities has had a dramatic impact on this aspect of society. Gender and sexual fluidity no longer had its place. Roles were determined at birth: to be a heterosexual man or woman.
“One can only imagine the trauma experienced by a two-spirit youth when asked to choose the gender of their birth sex and play roles he/she did not support.”
- Gina Metallic
Today, homophobia is still present in schools, according to Gina Metallic, who is also working with others on this subject to rehabilitate the two-spirit Indigenous culture and restore it to its place of honour.
A feminine and two-spirited voice
Gina Mettalic works in the field very closely with various communities on LGBTQ issues. She conducts workshops and training to establish a dialogue between community members.
She also wants to create references and literature on Indigenous two-spirituality in a culture of oral tradition.
As a graduate of the master’s program in Social Work at McGill University, she wrote her doctoral thesis on the development of two-spirit identity.
LGBTQ people are the most vulnerable to suicide
When she travels to a community, Gina Mettalic doesn’t know how she will be welcomed and she’s always apprehensive of the encounter.
Violence and intimidation exist to varying degrees and the level of homophobia differs among the communities.
Conversations can sometimes be difficult and painful, as Gina Metallic often addresses the issue of residential schools and the trauma associated with them.
Towards a positive evolution
Certain communities are more progressive than others. Such as those located near urban centres, the Mohawks of Kahnawake in Montérégie, are more inclusive and during certain ceremonies, for example, women may wear clothing other than skirts.
Gina Metallic is very optimistic about the reappropriation of the two-spirit culture by Indigenous communities. As a social worker at the Wabano Indigenous Health Centre in Ottawa, her work is growing in recognition.
Article published on Friday, February 2, 2018, updated at 12:43 am on the Quotidien website.https://www.lequotidien.com/actualites/transgenres-a-coeur-ouvert-07529a2dbf2a6d769a1cd0fe1bd0de37
OPEN-HEARTED TRANSGENDER PERSONS
Ludovic Dominique, a 29-year-old resident of Mashteuiatsh, and Danielle Cinq-Mars, aged 53 from Roberval, have faced experiences considered similar whilst at the same time completely opposite: the former has gone from woman to man and the latter from man to woman. They answered questions from young aspiring filmmakers at Kassinu Mamu High School in Mashteuiatsh, who are working on the production of a film on transsexuality.
The story of Ludovic Dominique, a transgender Indigenous individual, is not a trivial one. He has been taking testosterone for six months to become a man, but he always knew deep down inside that he was a man.
“Before taking testosterone, I was aggressive and uncomfortable in my skin. I had suicidal tendencies. I used to cry a lot. Since I started taking testosterone and my body has become more masculine, I feel calm and less stressed. My face has changed and I have a little hair growth,” says Ludovic.
However, the name and gender have not yet been changed on any official documents since this entails costs.
The one who was initially named Véronique says that as a child, he played with boy games and preferred boy clothes.
His female attributes, specifically hips and breasts, were underdeveloped, so Ludovic felt that he belonged to the male gender.
The role of religion
“I am an only child of a Christian family and that's why my “trans identity” process was hindered. My mother is a very uninformed person and she told me, “Véronique, God made you into a girl, you must remain a girl. You can dress as a boy, but you're not a boy,” he recalls. That was in 2010.
Fear of displeasing
For eight months, he began to dress in a more feminine manner to please his mother. “I could tell that it wasn't me, I didn’t feel right,” says Ludovic. He then started dressing once again like a man, but set aside his plan to render his sex change official.
After his mother's death in 2014, he finally started to subtly hint to his family. “I wondered about the possibility of losing my job or if people were going to make fun of me,” he recalls.
Until recently, his father was still unaware of this. He was one of the few people who did not suspect that Ludovic wanted to become a man.
“People have always seen me dressed as a boy. People were unconsciously prepared. I haven’t experienced any discrimination nor any verbal or physical violence. However, I feel anger when I’m called upon as a woman,” confesses he who works as a cook in his community's restaurant.
His employer is aware of his transformation and supports him in his efforts.
“I feel fine. People accept me and don't judge me. Even the elders are aware. There’s a good open-mindedness in the community,” reckons Ludovic.
By talking about his experience, he hopes that other young people in his situation will accept themselves and reveal their true nature.
Young filmmakers from Mashteuiatsh address transsexuality
Initially shy to talk about herself in front of a small group of young people, Danielle Cinq-Mars quickly broke the ice on Thursday afternoon at Kassinu Mamu High School in Mashteuiatsh. She unscrupulously explained the steps she took a year and a half ago to become a woman in a more official capacity.
The aspiring filmmakers wanted to know everything about her, from her sexual orientation to her relationships with family and friends.
“They are children who need to be coached and guided and I have tried to direct them towards real and authentic things. They must show something true," says Danielle Cinq-Mars.
T.R.A.N.S., the movie
Their short film, inspired by Jean-Marc Vallée's C.R.A.Z.Y., uses humour to demystify the taboos surrounding transgender people. The script has already been written, but the students must now consider the more technical details, the accessories and make-up before the shooting in two weeks.
“The screenplay was difficult. At first, the main character was being pushed around by his family too much. We finally decided to disregard the theme of sexual assault because of everything portrayed in the news,” says project manager Jean-François Corneau.
After meeting Danielle Cinq-Mars and Ludovic Dominique, transgender Indigenous individuals, they wanted to make their main character as credible as possible. Does Joe have to change his voice? Should he exaggerate his makeup? Danielle Cinq-Mars believes that he should be as natural as possible.
Getting youth interested in school
The film creation process, which involves the participation of 22 students, began in September. It is supported by community organizations that are working to prevent school drop-outs.
The countdown has begun
The editing of the three-minute short film must be completed by April. It will be presented on the big screen in Montreal as part of the Clip Gala and judged by a jury of professionals in the field. About thirty schools across Quebec, including five Indigenous schools, are participating in this competition. Mashteuiatsh High School has won a few awards in the past few years.
Danielle has difficulty finding a job
Since becoming a woman, about a year and a half ago, Danielle Cinq-Mars has had difficulty finding a job in Roberval. “I don't know to what extent this is due to my transgender, but it's not easy,” she says.
She has rather considerable experience; she hopes to work in the field of customer service or administration.
“An administrative assistant position could be interesting. I have computer skills as well. I could do some copying, for example,” says Cinq-Mars.
It’s over with welding
She did welding for several years, when she was still a man, but has no intention of returning to the profession.
Every week, she sends resumes and cover letters, but gets very few responses.
“Is there hidden discrimination? In general, people are very kind to me, but maybe they adopt the philosophy “not in my backyard”, she wonders. Despite residing in Roberval, she would like to apply in Saguenay or Quebec City, but doesn’t have the financial means to go there to conduct interviews.
For the past four years, she greets boats at the port of Roberval during the summer months. However, she didn’t accumulate enough hours this summer to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits.
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