Imara Jones: Hi fam, I’m Imara. Jones, and you’re listening to the TransLash Podcast, a news and culture program that centers the experiences and perspectives of trans people. I wanted to start out by giving an audience shout out to @JSumerau Twitter, who called our last podcast on the elections, quote, “a great discussion,” close quote. Listeners, if you shout us out on social media, we will shout you out right here. We’re so grateful for your support, and keep doing it, and we’ll keep calling out your name.
And we’re also so gratified by the podcast 90 Day Gays for telling its listeners about us. We’re so energized by all this love across the board. Okay, now on to the heart of our program. Like so many of you on Saturday, I woke up to celebratory shouts and screams. There’s actually a video of me on my IG page, looking at everyone and telling everyone that I was just woken up by all the screams. I don’t know what I was thinking, I don’t have on any makeup, no nothing. At that moment, I learned that we were officially in the last days of Trump’s presidency.
Today we’re going to talk about all of that with Congresswoman Deb Haaland, one of the first Native American women serving in Congress and Vice Chair of the LGBTQ Caucus in the House of Representatives,
Deb Haaland: This is our land, and we care deeply about it. And so when you’re thinking about the history of our country, Native history is American history.
Imara Jones: Then I’m going to talk to Geo Neptune. They are nonbinary, trans and Two-Spirit, and the first out person of any of these identities to be elected to political office in the state of Maine.
Geo Neptune: Many indigenous languages don’t even have gendered languages. Many Western languages are divided into masculine and feminine, whereas especially Passamaquoddy, you know, my native language, we only have one pronoun.
Imara Jones: Before we get started, however, we just wanted to let you know that every year TransLash makes a free holiday survival guide for trans people. And we’re getting ready for that. And I’m telling you, because we want your submissions. You can send us visual art, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or express yourself in any other way. If your submission is accepted, thanks to our sponsor POC Zine Project, you’ll get $100 gift card–who wouldn’t like that? And entries which aren’t selected will be shared on social media. The deadline to submit is December 1.
You can send your submissions to Translash Media on Instagram, Facebook, or by email at email@example.com. Again, that’s firstname.lastname@example.org, using the subject line “zine.” Let’s make a zine together and survive the holiday season together. And of course, give your squad the gift this season, and all year long, of letting them know about our podcast and urging them to subscribe.
Usually, we start out with a moment of trans joy. The Trans Day of Remembrance is next week, on November 20th. It’s a day to reflect on the epidemic of violence against trans women, especially Black trans women, and other trans women of color. This year, at least 34 trans people, mostly Black and Latinx trans women have been killed. That’s the highest number that’s ever been recorded in any year. And the year’s not even over. In fact, the United States has more murders of trans women than any other country on the planet, except Brazil and Mexico. And it has to stop. This wave of violence happens largely because people don’t see us as human. They don’t see us as having family or loved ones. They don’t see us as having dreams or being worthy. But they’re wrong. They’re wrong about all of those things. And one way we can fight back.
One way we must fight back is to tell our stories. That’s why I think it is vital that we hear from the family members and loved ones of the people who have been killed by anti trans violence. Melania Brow is one such family member. She’s been speaking up to make sure that her sister isn’t forgotten. Layleen Polanco, her sister, died while incarcerated at New York’s Rikers Island last year. Rikers Island is the world’s largest jail. She died there due to the negligence of the guards who saw her as disposable. Astoundingly, she was being held on just a $500 bail. But Layleen, along with all the trans people who have been killed are so much more than the grim headlines and stories, we tell about their death. They had loved ones, and they lived.
During the last Trans Day of Remembrance, I had the pleasure of speaking with Melania about her sister at a ceremony organised by my team at TransLash. We talked about how Layleen was full of life and joy. Melania’s words, and Layleen’s memory have stuck with me ever since. Here’s what she had to say.
Melania Brown: Yes, so, my sister, she started with animals. I mean, I’m talking about any kind. It could be anything that, something that she didn’t even know what it was. My mom caught on. I mean, Layleen’s room became a zoo. Okay, she had birds in there with sticks on their feet, she would heal them, and then she would release them back to their home. It went from that,
Until one day I come home from school, and now I see a human. And I’m like, okay, and she’s introducing me and she’s like, “Yeah, so are we going to talk to mom about…” I’m like, “About what, you know, she, she just needs somewhere to stay.” And I’m like, okay, so now we telling the person, whoever it is, you know, this is what you got to do. You got to do this for my mom, if you go wash the dishes. She’s gonna, she’s gonna say okay, you can stay, you got to do something.
So that’s how, then it went from animals to that. My sister would bring in, you know, humans that were rejected from their own family. She would bring them, in they would stay with us for a few months until they get on their feet. And then they go. She did what she could. She was the she was just a natural born healer. That’s just who she was. She will give a person, a complete stranger, her last meal. That was my sister. And this earth needed more of her.
Imara Jones: Thank you, Melania, for continuing to share your love for Layleen, and for fighting for trans lives. It is our duty to remember not how Layleen died, but how she lived. This is true for all of the trans people no longer with us. And it is our duty to commit ourselves to building a better world free of violence and hate not only for the trans lives here right now, but for the trans lives yet to be.
And now for our segment The News. Joining me today is Congresswoman Deb Haaland. She made history by becoming one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress in 2018 when she won her house race for the First District of New Mexico. I had the honor of interviewing her for the first time during that historic race. Since then, Congresswoman Haaland has been fighting for progressive legislation on climate change, gender equality and human rights. She’s also been an outspoken ally to trans communities, and serves as a member of the Congressional Equality Caucus, serving as Vice Chair, which works to expand LGBTQIA equality.
Congresswoman Haaland made headlines when she protested Trump’s trans military ban by proudly displaying the trans flag outside her office. And she is a recipient of the National Center for Lesbian Rights Vanguard Award, which is given to allies who use their platform to advance LGBTQ-plus rights. Congresswoman Haaland, thank you so much for joining us. It’s always amazing to talk to you, and congratulations on your re-election.
Deb Haaland: Thank you so much. And you know, I am thrilled to be here. So thank you for having me.
Imara Jones: I wanted to start out with the top of the line news as we make this recording, which is, of course, the win of Joe Biden, but Donald Trump’s seeming slow walking or downright refusing to accept the result of that, not only continuing to maintain radio silence, but to file a series of lawsuits claiming fraud, getting cooperation in that from some of your colleagues and the House and the Senate and being bolstered by that.
We’ve had the head of the Justice Department’s Elections Crimes Unit resign in resistance to not carrying out orders to investigate these supposed election crimes which no one has been able to come up with. And so I’m just wondering, as a lawmaker, as a legislator, as a Democrat in Congress, what you think all of this means for the next, you know, 70 something days until January 20th. And what’s top of mind for you in all of this continuing chaos?
Deb Haaland: Well, of course, the Republicans are in denial, or they’re just going along with the President, because they want to continue to curry his favor. There’s still two Senate elections that are going to happen in Georgia. And you notice that they called on the Secretary of State to resign. And I think that, I mean, look, they can’t be in denial forever. January 21st, President Trump, he will not have power any longer, he won’t be the President. And so the only thing I worry about is making sure that they’re cooperating with Joe Biden on the transition. And you notice that Joe Biden wasn’t even the President-Elect for 24 hours before he started working on his Coronavirus Task Force. And they already met yesterday. So he’s moving ahead with his plans, as he should, eventually, they’re not going to be able to carry on the charade for very much longer.
I feel like President Trump still wants to raise money. Because there are folks who are on his email list, just you know, because. And they’re money emails, you know, he’s continuing to send his emails out. He’s trying to, still trying to raise money. It’s a futile attempt. And, and I just think it’s shameful that more Republicans haven’t come out to acknowledge not only the value that everyone put into these elections, because a lot of folks they worked very hard to count ballots and did everything in the right way. But I mean, this is a bedrock of our democracy, our elections, and it’s really shameful. And then, of course, I don’t understand how all of the Trump votes could be wrong, but yet the Republican votes aren’t.
Imara Jones: Yeah, it’s so odd, keep counting in the places where I’m closing the gap and stop happening in the places where the gap is growing. It’s so childish in so many ways. One of the things that happens in this time of the year, starting on Columbus Day, moving through Thanksgiving, is suddenly, for those six weeks, America likes to rediscover Native people and Indigenous people across the United States. But it’s always done so in a way that is so I think, reductive and stereotypical and is meant to basically assuage white guilt. And this idea that Native Americans helped us get to this point, and there’s no conversation around all of the terrible things that happen and no conversation around the incredible culture that was here before white people landed.
And one of the things that you did in your speech before the Democratic Convention, the virtual convention, was that you totally upended that narrative in a way that placed Native learning and intelligence and example, as something that Americans need to follow, grounded in your experience as a 35th-generation New Mexican. And this idea of taking people who are marginalized and asserting and showing the way in which you all are, we all are, marginalized people, much larger a part of this project, this story, I think, is really is really a powerful one. So I’m just wondering if you can talk about that, I’m wondering if you ever thought about it in the way that I phrased it or, and this overall link between how we talk about Native people, and the history of Native people in this country and the United States?
Deb Haaland: Right. Well, as you were talking, I was thinking, you know, people don’t have to like wait till Thanksgiving every year. They probably work with Native Americans at their jobs. They probably, you know, their classmates, they might even be their elected public officials. And they can learn to like, think about it all year round, you know, sort of like, “Oh, it’s, you know, it’s Mother’s Day.” Well, it can be Mother’s Day, every day. Like, you don’t have to wait until the day to acknowledge somebody. And so, yes, I mean, Native Americans have been here since time immemorial, which is why I like to say sometimes I’m a 35th-generation New Mexican, my ancestors migrated to this area of the Southwest Rio Grande Valley in the late 1200s.
So when I say that it stops people in their tracks, right? Like they start, wow, 35 generations, How long ago was that? People, they often don’t realize that they’re on native land. And I think that, you know, during this election, Indian Country rose up, and they voted, you know, you might have seen a map on Twitter where the map of Arizona and on the left side it showed where all the, the outlines of all the Indian communities, the Native nations, on one side, and on the other, it had big bright blue blotches. And that’s where all the votes came from. And so Indian Country played a very large role, even though we’re not the highest population in this country, we helped put Joe Biden over the top in some areas.
We’re active, we care about this is our land, right? I often get the question of, “Why do so many Native Americans join the military?” It’s because this is our land, and we care deeply about it. And so when you’re thinking about the history of our country, Native history is American history. And, I mean, yeah, there’s a lot of fictitious stories about Thanksgiving and things like that. You know, I would encourage people to read a little bit more.
Imara Jones: Crack open a book. No, I think that you’re right. And I think Native people have been here since, as you say, time immemorial. Um, it’s a deep connection to the land, I guess, is my point. Like, it’s beyond just living and inhabiting. Right. It’s a, that the land has shaped, maybe people as much as the Native people have shaped the land. And there’s a deep connection to this space and this place, um, that’s beyond the idea of titling or living on land. That I think is really important. Right?
Deb Haaland: Exactly. Because we, you know, it’s been here, and it was meant for future generations, which is why, as the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, that I fight every day, to stop this administration from, you know, like, they cut off big swaths of Bear’s Ears, for example, that’s the ancestral homeland of the Pueblo Indians. And I mean, if you go there and hike there, you’ll see these homes built into the sides of the cliffs and things like that, it’s amazing. But yeah, you know, when I think about it, my the bones of my ancestors are, are laid to rest in those canyons, and it’s wrong to cut those off of protection from the federal government, and start drilling and fracking in those places. It’s disrespectful.
And I’m hoping to help people to think about it that way. You can’t separate us from the land, even though we’re not on those lands anymore, because as you know, we, you know, you can look at little dots on the map where Indian country is now because we weren’t at the table when the United States was drawing the exterior boundaries of our tribal nations, so, but even still, places like Bear’s Ears, Chaco Canyon, Grand Staircase Escalante. And so many of, I say those because I’m from the Southwest, but there are tribes across the country who have sacred lands.
Standing Rock, the Standing Rock tribe, in their sacred lake, their, you know, their water that they were protecting, we still have an obligation to, to protect our lands, regardless of whether they’re in our within our exterior boundaries or not. So…
Imara Jones: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And, I mean, as I say, particularly Western civilization is one of the only traditions that you know, burns down the house that it lives in. So it’s, it’s so deeply insane and, and pathological. One of the things that I’m curious about. speaking of something that’s not insane and pathological, is, I’m wondering how your understanding and connection to your identity as a Native person helps to shape your ally ship for trans people and your understanding of gender overall.
I ask that because later in this episode, we’re going to be talking to Geo Neptune, who is the first Native Two-Spirit non binary person elected to political office in Maine, on a school board there, and one of the things that they talk about is the way in which, for them, being Two-Spirit means these varying levels of gender, you know that it’s not just about the body, that it’s about the spirit that it’s also about connection to ancestors, that it’s also about the way in which you have a role in ceremony, it’s also the way in which you might express your sexual orientation, that all those two things together is something totally different.
And that how those varying levels of understanding helps them think about things in a very different way, including education. And so it’s so clear that you fight for trans people that you have an expansive understanding of gender and gender identity. And I’m wondering if that’s at all informed by your life and history as a Native person? Or, if it’s driven by things that aren’t that? I don’t know.
Deb Haaland: Well, I mean, on a fundamental level, as a Native woman, Pueblo woman, we, we accept our family members as they are, we don’t, we don’t put stipulations on who they should be, or how they should act, or what they should think. We–they’re our family, and we love them. Pueblo culture is such that we live as a community, we’re not just individuals taking up space in our own, you know, circles, we, uh, if one person ate, everybody ate, if one person worked, everybody worked, it wasn’t ever, you know, you don’t go around sort of feeling like you’re in this world by yourself. We live as a community.
And we accept people the way they are, it was, it’s not up to me to put my ideas on anyone. And quite frankly, my ideas are, “Come as you are because you’re a child of the Creator.” The Creator makes us, right, we don’t, we don’t make ourselves. We are who we are. So I think that part of that, yes, it is. But the other part is that I just, I mean, we’re all human beings, and I just, I just feel like we need to be kind to each other.
Imara Jones: We need to be kind to each other. It’s a very basic rule that we teach people, when they’re extremely young but often fall short of as adults. On this idea of values and connection to land and spirits and being children of the Creator. I’m wondering, at the end of the next four years, right, hopefully, it will be two more terms for you. But at the end of four years, when you look back, what do you…what do you hope is fundamentally different for the things that you care about as a result of a Biden administration? What do you hope is different for trans people on the issues of gender identity, on the issue of the environment and climate change? And, and the en–which you care about so deeply, on gender, on the whole bag of things that are a part of the reasons why you ran for congress and have gotten now reelected? What do you hope is different?
Deb Haaland: Well, I mean, of course, under a Biden administration, we’ve already seen his priorities, climate change is is up there. Climate change is one of his priorities. So my hope is that we have a full-fledged acceptance of science in our country, because there’s still a lot of people, and I would say smart people, who are denying climate change for political reasons.
The Biden administration will, I think, be 180 degrees from there and accept science, as Vice President Biden said, “I won’t be a President for some people, I’ll be a president for all people.” And, and I trust him, and I believe him. And I know that with respect to anyone who feels like they’ve been sidelined by this administration, they’ll be welcomed with open arms by the Biden administration. He wants to move forward for our country because we see that he has the country’s best interests at heart.
Imara Jones: You know, it’s also really important as well, on the areas where you think that he is falling short, to pressure him. Just because he’s elected doesn’t mean that the debate over what should happen ends, and I think some people have that fear, but that’s not, I don’t think that that’s what you would do, right, or, or so many of the people that you serve with.
Deb Haaland: Right, well, of course, we’ve made promises to our constituencies. And that’s the reason we got elected. So I absolutely will continue to move my agenda forward. It’s aligned with President-Elect Biden’s agenda, the environment and climate change, are, have always been my number one issue and, because that’s what the people in my district want me to fight for.
Imara Jones: Mmhmm. Lastly, um, I wanted to know what your thoughts are about the future of Native political leadership in the country, maybe Native leadership overall. Of course, there’s talk of you possibly being Secretary of the Interior, you’re one of three names that I see floated constantly, you were elected, of course, with Sharice Davids, who is also Native, of course, from Kansas, and is lesbian herself.
You now have a new colleague, Yette Herrell, who is Native, from your state, but Republican, and there’s just been a record number of Native people elected this year, at all levels of government, truly, truly historic. And so I’m just wondering, in that entire pot of things from a possible expanded role for you, to a record number of people serving in Congress, to all levels, what you think the future is for Native leadership in America and what it’s going to mean?
Deb Haaland: Well, I am really grateful that so many Native folks across the country ran, I always encourage Native folks to step up and run. One of my promises to myself and to the world is to leave the ladder down to help more Native folks, you know, climb. When I decided to run for Congress, there wasn’t a Native woman in Congress for me to ask questions of or ask for help? or “How did you do it?” And how, you know, “what can you impart on me?” And so, you know, I feel obligated to make sure we’re, we are helping other folks to climb the ladder as well. So I think that more and more Native people will run for office. I mean, that’s really the simplest answer. You know, you can do it.
Imara Jones: Well, on that very simple but challenging last set of words, “you can do it,” I think that your life is an example of that, in terms of the ways that you’ve made history, and have gotten involved, and changed politics, and changed the way we think about politics and changed the way that we believe who should be in politics just by your presence. And I want to thank you for taking the time to talk. It is always an honor to speak with you. And I just feel that we have so much to continue to learn from you. And I’m excited that you will be driving the conversation on an even louder and higher and more expanded levels over the next couple of years. Thank you so much.
Deb Haaland: Thank you, Imara. And I want to thank you also for, I mean, I hadn’t even won my first election and you, you interviewed me and you gave me some traction, and you believed that I could win. And I just I just want to thank you for that as well.
Imara Jones: Absolutely. One thing that is always so clear to me when I am in your presence is that all of the 35 generations are with you. And it is always inspiring to see. And I’m excited to see what’s going to continue to happen, because it’s still just the beginning.
Deb Haaland: Thank you so much.
Imara Jones: That was Congresswoman Deb Haaland, who represents New Mexico’s First District and is Vice Chair of the LGBTQ Caucus in the House of Representatives.
And now it’s time for Transform, the part of our show where we elevate changemakers in our community who are innovating and creating the future for all of us. Transform takes us into their world. Today we’re joined by Geo Neptune. They are trans, non-binary and Two-Spirit. Geo is also the first out person of any of those identities to win office in Maine. Geo was elected as a school board member in Indian Township, Maine. on land that belongs to the Passamaquoddy tribe.
They ran to push for stronger education about their tribe’s culture and language, in addition to serving their community on the school board, Geo is an educator, activist, master basket maker and drag performer. Geo, thank you so much for joining us today, I’m thrilled to be able to talk to you.
Geo Neptune: Hi, thank you so much for having me. I’m very happy to be here.
Imara Jones: Of course, of course. First of all, I want to know and hear from you about what being Two-Spirit is and means for you. And I want to know that personally, but I also want to know that for our audience, because so many people think that Two-Spirit is just a native version of trans, or being trans in the binary. And that’s not accurate. So I want to hear from you about what being Two-Spirit means for you personally, and how you define being Two-Spirit overall in the context of the incredibly proud and long culture that you come from.
Geo Neptune: So when you hear the term Two-Spirit, it is an attempt to bridge Western and Indigenous understandings of gender and sexuality. Two-Spirit is a highly intersectional identity. So being Two-Spirit is a combination of societal roles in terms of our gender roles. So it is in part, an additional gender role, or several additional gender roles in addition to what the Western culture might define as men and women’s roles. And it is an attempt to bridge that societal role, along with spiritual roles and spiritual designations within our ceremonial communities. And it also bridges our understandings of gender.
So you’ve got those three, those three intersections so far, of gender identity and expression, and the societal role and the spiritual designation. And a fourth one that comes up for debate a lot, but I still include is the intersection of sexual orientation. Now that we have more terminology to talk about these different gender identities and more ways to kind of break down and express our own experiences.
So when people start to try to define being Two-Spirit using the gender binary, it doesn’t really work because inherently being Two-Spirit and claiming that Two-Spirit identity, you are rejecting that gender binary, because many indigenous languages don’t even have gendered languages. many Western languages are divided into masculine and feminine, whereas especially Passamaquoddy, you know, my, my native language, we only have one pronoun, nekom, which is him, her or them, and then nit, which is, is somebody who is very close to you. And then we have them over there, who is not close to you. So when you try to use English, you get those problems, because we, as Indigenous people do not exist within a binary world.
Imara Jones: I think that it is really important because as I say all the time to people that ironically, Western notions of gender are actually really primitive that when you–that when you experience gender outside of a Western context, in this context Native, but in African, or in traditional Asian or South Asian cultures, the notions of gender are highly sophisticated. And so we are trying to talk as you say about these things in two totally different ways. And the reason why you need to have the fulsome answer that you gave, and the complex answer that you gave is because the ideas are highly sophisticated. They’re highly intricate, and they can’t be boiled down to our notions and the fact that you took the time to explain that I think, is essential.
And another thing is how, like, as you say that the word Two-Spirit and the idea of gender that you’re referring to, is layered. It’s not just one thing. It’s personal, societal, spiritual, it’s not sexual orientation, and, and then how all these things interact to then create something new. And it’s really important that you said that. So with that background and that really important frame, how does being Two-Spirit, in the way that you just spoke about it, what does that mean for you personally?
Geo Neptune: So for me, personally, I guess kind of claiming and stepping into and I guess in some ways, receiving my Two-Spirit identity has been kind of a really long journey. And it really started with you know, the first time I heard the term Two-Spirit. I’ve always known that, I mean, I had this familiar feeling that a lot of trans people but not all have, of like being different, from when I was a little kid I wasn’t, you know, I definitely wasn’t like the other little boys. So growing up, I heard the term Two-Spirit. And it almost sounded the way it was used, it sounded like it was a slur being used by our elders.
Imara Jones: Hmm.
Geo Neptune: So I didn’t necessarily think it was a good thing. And then I went off of reservation for a school, to Gould Academy. And it was there that I got the opportunity to study whatever I want for this research project. So I wrote a 10 page research paper on Two-Spirit traditions. And that was kind of my first real discovery of it outside of a negative context. And so when I found all of these instances all across Turtle Island of Two-Spirit traditions, that’s when it turned into this journey of doing my best to find the Wabanaki Two-Spirit traditions that were taken from us, because here on the East Coast, you know, Passamaquoddy people, we have no migration or removal story, we weren’t forced out of our traditional homelands, these waterways that my people live on today are the same waterways that we’ve lived on for 13,000 years and more according to our stories.
But these traditions that have not only been taken from us and buried and hidden from us, but our own elders who have been raised in Catholic traditions are also hesitant to even try and talk about Two-Spirit traditions. It made it its own unique challenge. When I started to officially come out, I had just left a job at the Abbe Museum to come home to the reservation to be able to be close to my family, and to really focus on my art and, and be part of my community again, and that was when I decided to come out as as non-binary. And it was in ceremony that I was wearing a skirt in public for the first time. When I guess I kind of got that what, what would be talked about is the spiritual designation that elders told me, they said, “This is your path. This is how you’re supposed to dress–”
Imara Jones: Yeah.
Geo Neptune: “This is what creator wants for you.”
Imara Jones: And I think that for me, your story is highly resonant for a lot of reasons. I think, one, the language that you used, is actually the language I’m going to use now on because I didn’t, I wasn’t able to put into words who just said it. But to me, receiving my gender is exactly how I it felt to me, it felt that it was something that came to me and arrived. And I very much remember that at a really young age, having that experience. And it’s not something that I could put into words until you actually just said it.
It’s beyond this idea of “this is always who I was.” It’s really the feeling that I had in my body, that it came to me. And I think that, yeah, I think that’s exactly right. I wanted to ask you, the combination of why you decided to run for school board, and how you think your experience as a Two-Spirit person who’s also an educator, artist, activist, will change the arc of education for your school district?
Geo Neptune: I was approached by teachers who work at the school and asked if, if I would be interested in running, if they could nominate me when the time came, I was also approached by an elder on Tribal Council. Even some of the kids in my program had asked me to run because, well, well they had originally asked me to teach and then told me they’re like, “Actually, you cuss too much and you wouldn’t be able to teach at the school.”
Like, that’s very true.
Imara Jones: You’ve done very well today, I have to say there’s been…
Geo Neptune: Usually I can keep it together. But in my own art class, I’m like this is art, we get to express ourselves, including the kids, because I want them to feel free like that. They don’t have to even feel limited in their speech or their art. As long as they’re not putting each other down or attacking each other, you know, more than is culturally acceptable in a teasing way. But they had asked me to run for school board as well, because they knew that that was coming up.
So I mean, I guess I was getting you know, the message from all different directions that that is something I should do. Because the kids in my art class had brought up that they don’t get to learn a lot of the history that I would teach to them in the art class. I know that our cultural staff at the school does their best. I mean, they’re the same teachers that I had when I went to the school, so obviously I learned it from them. We know that the cultural staff at the school have all of this knowledge. But I think at this point, the cultural program has shrunk a bit from what it was. And now they don’t have the resources to have expanded in the way that they should have in the time that I’ve graduated you know, from eighth grade at the Indian Township School.
So, I want to make sure that Passamaquoddy children have, at the very least the same access to our culture, to our stories, to our songs that I had. And I want to make sure that our cultural staff have what they need in order to be able to do that. And I think it’s really important to talk about the fact that Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous history, and even our language is always seen as secondary to everything within the Western school system. And there’s no reason we can’t use Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous values to teach our kids math and science, our history and American history. And that’s what I hope to be able to accomplish in my four year-term. After being sworn in, as a school board member, I was also unanimously voted in as the Chair of the School Committee. So you know, my community still sees me as a valuable part of the school committee.
Imara Jones: That is a lot and it is full. I’m so excited to have had the ability to have this conversation with you today. I’m so excited to have you in elective office. One of the things that came out in a conversation that I had recently with Katelyn Burns, who is a trans political reporter, was how important it is across this country for trans people, for gender nonconforming, for nonbinary, Two-Spirit, for all of us, to run for school boards, because it’s the place that has actually the most direct control over our lives. And I’m also super excited for your leadership going forward.
Because this is just the start. There’s so many more things that you will continue to receive from the Creator as you move forward and I, I can’t wait to witness it. And to see where the combination of all the skills that you have, how that’s gonna lead us to new ways of seeing things and new ways of being and I just want to thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. I just really value this conversation
Geo Neptune: Well, thank you so much for having me. I appreciate, you know, the opportunity to to bring some light on Passamaquoddy people.
Imara Jones: Thank you. That was Geo Neptune, the first out Two-Spirit, trans, non-binary person to hold elective office in Maine.
Thank you for joining us on the TransLash podcast. Don’t forget to listen all the way through to the end of this show for something extra. I’m Imara Jones. If you like what you heard, and we kind of insist that you do, please go to Apple podcasts to rate and review us. Also you can listen to TransLash on Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts. Please check us out on the web at translash.org to sign up for our weekly newsletter. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @translashmedia, like us on Facebook and tell your friends, and everybody actually.
TransLash podcast is produced by TransLash Media by Futuro Studios. The Translash team includes Ruby Fludzinski, Oliver-Ash Kleine, Montana Thomas and Yannick Eike Mirko and the Futuro Studios team includes Nicole Rothwell, Jess Alvarenga, Stephanie Lebow, Leah Shaw, Julia Caruso and Sophie Davis. Digital Strategy is handled by Daniela Capistrano with support from Sean Watkins.
The music you heard was composed by Ben Draghi and also courtesy ZZK Records. Alright, TransLash fam here is what I am looking forward to. In addition to the Ttrans Day of Remembrance episode that we’re going to have of Lives at Stake which is a monthly program that I do with WNYC. If you go to TransLash’s pages, any of them, you’ll be able to figure out how to watch that Trans Day of Remembrance episode.
I’m also really looking forward to preparing for Thanksgiving, I have not given up hope on Thanksgiving. The weather here in NYC where I am is holding, you know we’re having these 70 degree days continue. And if it looks like there’s going to be that forecast on Thanksgiving, what I’m going to do is to cook a small meal and have roughly five or six people over to my place. Luckily, I have access to some outdoor space and so we’ll just eat outdoors if the weather holds, and I love cooking. I normally feast down, I normally cook for three days, believe it or not, for Christmas and Thanksgiving but this year will be a scaled-down affair just given the state of the world.
This is not a time to be doing too much and to be doing extra. We’ll be thankful for whatever food we have. We’ll be thankful for how many people we can get around the table and that they’re still all here. I haven’t given up hope on it and I’ll be posting pictures of it on Instagram. If you guys are interested. You can see what I’m doing and how I’m doing, and here’s to whatever Thanksgiving we can put together this year.
Subscribe to receive alerts: translash.org/connect
Learn more about TransLash Podcast with Imara Jones.