Canadian Art: What Do We Mean by Queer Indigenous Ethics (with Billy-Ray Belcourt)

Featured Image: Anxiety, Fallon Simard

I’ve been thinking a lot about the tensions and emerging divides between Indigenous feminism and queer Indigenous feminism. From Indigenous feminists texts like Making Space for Indigenous Feminism by Joyce Green, to feminist art events I’ve attended, the cultural objects that define Indigenous feminism also exemplify how the field considers queer and trans knowledge outside itself. I’m reminded of Gwen Benaway’s notorious Twitter blasts about being a trans woman ill-received, or completely ignored, by Indigenous feminism. I’ve also been thinking through the performativity of Indigenous politics, including Indigenous feminism, in art and theory. Anyone could claim to be a feminist while actually harbouring carceral, laterally violent or transphobic politics, for instance. Being a “feminist” doesn’t make an Indigenous person inherently ethical or politically sound.

What does Indigenous feminism mean, in real time? How are Indigenous feminists living their politics within their relationships? Ultimately I want to refocus this conversation on the incredible beauty, or light, as Leanne Simpson would say, coming from queer and trans Indigenous creators. The wave of queer and trans Indigenous literature and art coming out right now that is unapologetically sex-positive is giving me life! Recent texts and artworks by you, Dayna Danger, Joshua Whitehead, Arielle Twist and Gwen Benaway read with such refusal to me: refusal of the respectability politics that contain queer and trans bodies in Indigenous spaces. These authors are saying the “good Indigenous feminist” label doesn’t apply to queer and trans sex workers who like to pop Molly on the weekends and get fisted and pissed on.

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