Gender Diaries: Jeremy Dutcher
As the world continues to push against gender constructs, the conversation around how people are identifying themselves is constantly evolving. Each week, Milk will feature a guest editor writing about their specific relationship with gender and, often, where it intersects with fashion. This week, we feature singer Jeremy Dutcher.
Qey psiw-te wen! Ntolowis Jeremy Dutcher, nsiwiyik tuceyik Neqotkuk, Wabanakihkuk naka nilun wolastoqiyik. Nucintaq.
Pihce, pihce — mesq yut ikoliosomonok aliyaniya ihi, Psi-te yut skicinuwok tama-al wisokitahamal Motewolonuk. Kcitpot nilun. Tetpeyultipon. Kenuk imiyewikuwam kmilon kehsok pakotultihtit pomawsuwinuwok.
Hey everyone! My name is Jeremy Dutcher, my family comes from Tobique First Nation in the east coast of Canada and we are part of the Wolastoqiyik (the people of the beautiful river). I am a song carrier.
A long, long time ago, before visitors from Europe began arriving, all the natives here thought very highly of Two Spirit people. We were sacred. There was a place for us and we were all treated equally. But the church spread many lies among the indigenous people.
Two Spirit // a person who embodies both a queer and indigenous identity.
Did you know that prior to European contact, there were some nations/tribes in North America with gender system that included eight distinct identities? Pre-contact understandings of the complexities of gender and sexualities are deep and vary from nation to nation. Though much has changed since this time, many communities have kept their inclusive attitudes in spite of institutionalized western religion and continue make space for their queer family members in their community.
My community was not one of them. Where I was from I didn’t know there were queer elders. I didn’t have a lot of models while growing of what it looked like or meant to be both queer and Wolastoqiyik. My quest has been to imagine what the collision at this intersection might look like. I am living into what it means to be a middle person, and I use fashion to broaden these potentialities. Hards and softs. Capes. Stockings. Skirts. Leathers. Birch. Sheer.
The aesthetic I hope to move into the world is that of queer-indigenous-futurism. What if the story of European-imposed religion had never transpired among our people? What if we never learned the ways of shame and sin? What might we look like? How fabulous might we be?
I’m a singer now. For the last three years, I’ve been traveling across Turtle Island and singing songs for my ancestors to different audiences here and there. everywhere. When I’m onstage, I am a maker and a holder of space and I get to sing to whoever I want and share whatever message I want. I choose to take that space and speak into a re-envisioning of the colonial narratives that have befallen indigenous people since the arrival of the first visitors. A narrative that erased queer softness and saw savagery in its place.
I want to wear something that I wish I could have seen. Something that affirms that little gay native boy and tells him that there is not only a place for him but that he ought to step into his power laid out for him.
A note on Him — even sitting in the simple understanding that my gender is colonized through the language of English is tough at times. In my language, Wolastoqey, there is no gendered pronouns. No he or she, every idea is expressed with a neutral pronoun called ‘Nekom’ (they). This had implications on the first couple generations of my elders that were learning English as a second language; like my grandmother. She would always “mis-gender” us as kids. Couldn’t quite figure out the he and she of it. We would laugh, but it is actually pointing to something rather beautiful. A language past gender and freed from patriarchy. It’s why I protect it like a gemstone and use it when I can.
Mostly I wanted to push forward more representations of queer indigenous bodies and reassert that we are still here. Actually, we have always been here and we are singing to you a song that stretches back farther than time has been kept. Music has been my vehicle into telling my story to a wider audience than I ever imagined; which includes my gender story.
Everyday I want to push up against my masculinity and interrogate its boundaries. To understand that these lessons are inherited, not a given, and it is the work to dream passed them. This is the work and gifts of middle people. Two spirits. Motewolonok.
Featured image courtesy of Vanessa Heins
Stay tuned to Milk for more Gender Diaries and see our previous installments here.