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'Energy by way of Native drag:' Indigenous artists don’t let discrimination cease them

8 min read

In current months, state legislatures throughout the nation have launched a whole lot of legal guidelines concentrating on Two Spirit, Lesbian, Homosexual, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning plus communities, together with a number of payments in Arizona.

Legal guidelines launched instantly affect the
lives of 2SLGBTQ+ folks in varied methods, from their freedom of
expression and well being care to public lodging and civil rights.

This yr’s legislative session in
Arizona — with Republicans sustaining a slender majority in each the
Home and Senate —  was filled with discriminatory payments towards the 2SLGBTQ+
group, together with measures to limit drag reveals, wipe out a scholar’s most popular pronoun use and restrict college toilet entry.

General, lawmakers launched 11 payments,
and 6 handed the legislative course of and made all of it the way in which to
Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs’s desk, the place all six had been swiftly vetoed.

If these payments had been signed into legislation,
they’d apply to nearly all of the state, however that might not
embrace the 22 Tribal Nations in Arizona, since they’re sovereign, with
their very own legal guidelines and rules for his or her communities.

Seeing the inflow of discriminatory
laws that would affect the 2SLGBTQ+ group was not stunning
for Diné Drag Artist Woman Shug, as a result of rising up on the Navajo Nation,
they know what it’s prefer to have their rights restricted as a 2SLGBTQ+

“It’s not simply the U.S. authorities;
it’s additionally our tribal authorities,” Woman Shug stated, mentioning that the
Navajo Nation has no legal guidelines defending its 2SLGBTQ+ folks from hate
crimes or discrimination or guaranteeing their proper to marriage.

“It’s one thing that I’m type of used to,” Woman Shug stated as a result of, inside their group, they should struggle to be included. 

Woman Shug stated that current as a
2SLGBTQ+ individual is a type of resistance, they usually hope that Indigenous
2SLGBTQ+ folks at all times do not forget that. 

“You current as a brown, lovely,
Indigenous, queer, trans, two-spirit individual is your type of resistance,
and no one can ever take that away from you,” Woman Shug added.

The Navajo Nation has no legal guidelines devoted
to anti-discrimination or hate crimes regarding Navajo 2SLGBTQ+ folks
dwelling on Tribal lands. 

The Navajo Nation Human Rights Fee reported in 2016 that
the Navajo Invoice of Rights ensures the rights of all Navajo residents
no matter intercourse, and any entities that obtain federal or state
funding on the Navajo Nation should comply with the anti-discrimination

The fee beneficial that
Navajo Nation leaders enact legal guidelines and insurance policies to guard folks
no matter intercourse, gender identification and sexual orientation. 

In 2005, the Navajo Nation applied the Diné Marriage Act, which prohibits same-sex marriage. 

“For the Navajo Nation, there isn’t any
safety for same-sex {couples},” Woman Shug stated, and in the event that they had been to
get married and stay on the Navajo Nation, they’d not be valued the
similar manner as heterosexual marriages.

“Your marriage isn’t legitimate on our Tribal land,” Woman Shug stated. “There’s no safety for us.”

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Seth Damon lately launched Laws 0139-23
that might repeal Title 9 of the Navajo Nation Code in order that same-sex
marriages are acknowledged inside the Navajo Nation. Damon’s efforts come
after earlier makes an attempt to repeal the act failed over time, most
lately in 2022.

“The prohibition in opposition to same-sex
marriages doesn’t uniformly welcome or help the well-being of all
Diné,” Damon stated in a information launch. “The aim of the laws I’m
sponsoring is to make sure that all Diné are welcome inside the 4
sacred mountains and to acknowledge all marriages inside the Navajo

The laws would additionally amend
provisions inside the Navajo Nation Code to evolve with this repeal.
Nonetheless, the standard Navajo wedding ceremony ceremony methodology, involving a person
and lady, would stay unchanged. 

Damon signed the laws on June
23, which can make its manner by way of 4 committees earlier than being heard
earlier than the Navajo Nation Council, which has final authority on the

At a state degree, Hobbs has made it clear that her administration is not going to tolerate any laws that assaults the 2SLGBTQ+ group.

The Democrat has been a stalwart
critic of anti-LGBTQ sentiment and has repeatedly vowed to behave as a
bulwark in opposition to discriminatory laws. That dedication was
reasserted on July 8 at an occasion hosted by civil rights and LGBTQ
advocacy organizations to have a good time Hobbs’ actions. 

“So long as I’m governor, the LGBTQ+
group in Arizona shall be protected,” she introduced to enthusiastic
cheering and applause. “I’ll proceed to make use of my veto pen as many instances
as I must.”

Drag in celebration of Native girls

Navi Ho has been a Diné drag
performer for years, they usually’ve carried out at reveals throughout the Phoenix
space. In addition they make it some extent to carry out at drag reveals hosted by
Tribal Nations and in reveals that function Indigenous drag performers
as a result of they didn’t see Indigenous illustration after they began

“There’s not many people,” Navi Ho
stated of Indigenous drag performers. “However we’re on the market, and we’re
happy with what we’re doing.”

Navi Ho stated they’d seen an
enhance in Indigenous drag performers coming from totally different Tribal
Nations, they usually’re pleased to see it as a result of Indigenous illustration
inside the 2SLGBTQ+ world remains to be minimal.

“It’s positively inspiring folks to be their genuine Native selves,” Navi Ho added.

Navi Ho grew up within the Phoenix space,
however their household is from Tuba Metropolis, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation.
Rising up, Navi Ho by no means thought they’d see drag performers showcased
on the Navajo Nation the way in which they’ve been in recent times. 

“It’s a beautiful factor to see the
development,” Navi Ho stated, they usually’ve been invited again to the Navajo
Nation as a performer a number of instances, together with in Tuba Metropolis.

“It’s positively a development from once I grew up,” Navi Ho stated.

“I believe it’s lovely,” they stated. 

When Navi Ho heard concerning the
anti-drag payments launched and handed in Arizona, they thought it
ridiculous as a result of that kind of laws was pointless. 

“I believe that the choice to make such a invoice was based mostly off of hate,” they stated.

Hobbs lately vetoed two anti-drag legal guidelines, Senate Invoice 1028 and Senate Invoice 1030, which had been authorized by the Republican majority.

SB1028 bars grownup cabaret
performances, akin to strip reveals, from being held on public property or
anyplace a minor could view them, punishing violations with as much as a category
6 felony.

SB1030 mandates that metropolis zoning
officers problem permits and zoning rules for institutions that
conduct sexually express performances — which is already allowed underneath state legislation however not required.

Each payments had been authored by Glendale Republican Anthony Kern, who referred to as drag reveals evil in earlier debates and accused performers in family-friendly occasions of pedophilia. 

The wording used to explain drag
performances inside the laws isn’t one thing that Navi Ho is
acquainted with as a result of it doesn’t painting their expertise when
performing in drag. As an alternative, they concentrate on constructing a reference to
the folks within the viewers. 

Navi Ho stated they join in a
particular manner, and that makes them, as performers, really feel higher about who
they’re. That’s one thing lawmakers who create anti-drag legal guidelines will
by no means perceive, they added. 

As a part of their drag aesthetic, Navi
Ho stated they create their tradition and conventional put on to their
performances. They don a wig that’s put up in a Tsiiyéél, a conventional
coiffure the place the hair is wrapped with wool right into a bun.

Navi Ho stated they incorporate their
tradition into their drag performances as a result of it’s a part of who they’re.
Folks acknowledge and perceive after they carry out on the Navajo Nation
and different Indigenous communities. 

When folks see Navi Ho carry out, they acknowledge that Navi Ho is celebrating Indigenous girls.

“It’s like a wow impact,” Navi Ho stated, making the expertise superb and exquisite.

Navi Ho stated they’ve at all times gotten a
optimistic response from the viewers, together with from elders and younger
folks. Because of this they don’t perceive when lawmakers who don’t
perceive drag tradition discuss it as one thing that’s improper or

“I don’t suppose that lawmakers perceive what goes on in a drag individual’s life,” they added.

‘Energy by way of Native drag’

Woman Shug is working to assist extra
Indigenous drag performers showcase their artwork on a bigger stage. They
launched a drag present with an all-Indigenous solid referred to as “La La Land
Again,” they usually’re presently on tour visiting totally different cities.

Woman Shug stated they launched the tour
this yr alongside Two-Spirit Chickasaw performer Landa Lakes. The
tour was featured at New York Metropolis Delight and the Smithsonian Museum in
June, making them the primary present to function an all Indigenous drag solid
at these venues.

“What we’re making an attempt to do is making an attempt to
open doorways, normalize Indigenous drag-ness,” Woman Shug stated as a result of
Indigenous persons are usually forgotten relating to the LGBTQ+
group. They’re not often included in pleasure occasions and even talked about in
conversations surrounding the LGBTQ+ group.

“How is it that the primary folks of
this nation usually are not part of this dialog or invited to those
festivals?” Woman Shug requested. By way of this tour, Woman Shug stated they’re
making an attempt to carry area for Indigenous communities inside the 2SLGBTQ+

Woman Shug stated they wished to give you the chance
to create this kind of drag efficiency as a result of they know what it’s
like touring three to 4 hours away from dwelling to have the ability to carry out
in bigger cities. They hope the “La La Land Again” tour will go to as
many locations as doable, together with Tribal Nations.

“I need to carry drag to my folks,”
Woman Shug stated, as a result of for Indigenous folks, particularly elders and the
youth, to see drag tradition, it should be carried out inside their very own
group. If not, they must journey to surrounding cities off
of tribal land.

With drag tradition getting a number of
consideration in mainstream media, Woman Shug stated now’s the time to indicate
folks what Indigenous drag performers are able to. 

Whether or not the tour is delivered to a metropolis
or hosted on Tribal Land, Woman Shug stated they make it some extent to rent
native Indigenous artists to carry out — holding the solid completely
Indigenous and native.

“That is our time to indicate our energy and our energy by way of Native drag,” they added. 

Woman Shug has at all times advocated for
having the 2SLGBTQ+ group included in additional occasions hosted inside
Indigenous communities. They stated most of the time, organizers overlook
to incorporate their 2SLGBTQ+ family relating to festivals, gala’s
or powwows. 

“I’m making an attempt to navigate it the place it’s
normalized that we’re included,” Woman Shug stated, including that individuals
can’t say they’re Indigenous and conventional but overlook to incorporate their
2SLGBTQ+ family. 

“We existed earlier than colonization, and
we’ve at all times had roles,” Woman Shug stated, and Tribal Nations have at all times
had totally different meanings for 2SLGBTQ+ folks of their communities.

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