LGBT TIG Week: Good Relations, Chosen Family: Solidarity Building for Indigenous & 2SLGBTQ+ Research and Evaluation by Dylan Felt & Waapalaneexkweew AKA Nicky Bowman

Koolamalsi/Hello! We are Dylan Felt (she/they) and Waapalaneexkweew AKA Dr. Nicky Bowman (Mohican/Lunaape; she/her), here to talk about 2SLGBTQ+ and Indigenous solidarity, love, and family.

In both our Indigenous and transgender communities, storytelling occupies a sacred space. We want to embrace that space and share with you the story of our research and evaluation partnership, and the necessity of building radical relationships.

In reflecting on our story, we realized the steps of our journey connected to the four doors of Nicky’s Stockbridge-Munsee/Lunaape Medicine Wheel. We share our story as steps through these four doors.

Medicine Wheel graphic

Stockbridge-Munsee/Lunaape Medicine Wheel; Clockwise from right: Eastern Door, Southern Door, Western Door, and Northern Door

Eastern Door
We begin with the Eastern Door, which is about being a Good Relative. We believe everything begins with developing, nurturing, and sustaining good relationships.

Long before we had a professional partnership, we had a friendship. Through exchanging gifts, gossip, drinks, and laughs at conferences or during virtual visits on Zoom, we built a foundation of love and trust which forms the core of our relationship. This enabled mutual learning about each other’s cultures, values, and even skincare routines.

The idea of “chosen family” has profound meaning for many Indigenous and 2SLGBTQ+ people, and became a shared lens through which we understood our relationship. We were investing not in a project, but in each other as lifelong colleagues and comrades. 

Southern Door
The Southern Door is about Good Mind. For us, this meant coming together to identify the research and evaluation interests we shared, and what we needed to learn more about. We saw this process as joining our minds as one within our academic lodge, or sacred academic space.

Knowing we shared an interest in supporting and honoring Indigenous and 2SLGBTQ+ communities meant that when an opportunity which would allow us to pursue this interest became available, we chose together to pursue it. Setting this intention, rooted in our friendship, prepared us to move forward together.

logo that combines the colors of LGBTQ+ pride, symbols of trans identity, and traditional Native pottery designs and floral patterns

Our logo combines the colors of LGBTQ+ pride, symbols of trans identity, and traditional Native pottery designs and floral patterns

Western Door
Through building good relations and coming together with a good mind, we came to the Western Door: Good Work. In 2020, our organizations began a collaborative project focused on supporting marginalized youth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We also welcomed others who shared our intentions, building a larger sacred academic space with incredible collaborators at organizations like UNITY, who joined in our commitment to uplifting Indigenous 2SLGBTQ+ youth through our work.

To honor our partnership, Nicky’s company (Bowman Performance Consulting) commissioned an Indigenous artist to create a logo which merged symbols and designs from Indigenous and 2SLGBTQ+ communities. The logo was “gifted” as part of the dedication, partnership, and spirit of our good work, grounded in good relations and a good mind.  Indigenous peoples celebrate “Two-Spirit” as a gift from the Creator and all the intersectional teachings and wisdom that comes with it.Text Box: Our logo combines the colors of LGBTQ+ pride, symbols of trans identity, and traditional Native pottery designs and floral patterns

Northern Door
Now, we come to the Northern Door: the Good Journey. This door speaks to us about the work that is ongoing. We continue to identify opportunities for Indigenous 2SLGBTQ+ youth to have a voice in shaping policy, research, and evaluation priorities within our project.

Our work together will continue beyond our current project, and will always be rooted in the love and trust we built at the Eastern Door, and continue to build today.

Rad Resources:

As part of our good journey together, we invite you to join us in ongoing learning. Here are some resources we found useful in developing a good mind for this project:

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating LGBT TIG Week with our colleagues in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Issues Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our LGBT TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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