Intersecting Histories and Identities: Celebrating Pride and Indigenous History in June | College of Arts

Intersecting Histories and Identities: Celebrating Pride and Indigenous History in June

Posted on Friday, June 28th, 2024

Written by Callie Gibson

Pride Month is celebrated annually in June and works to achieve equal justice and opportunity for two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, asexual, non-binary, and gender non-conforming (2SLGBTQIA+) individuals. Equally, June is Indigenous History Month, a time to recognize the history, heritage, resilience and diversity of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples.  

Dr. Adam Davies (they/them), assistant professor and graduate program coordinator in Genders, Sexualities, & Bodies, and Dr. Rowan Bell (they/he), assistant professor in Philosophy and Sexualities, Genders, and Social Change, discuss how both events focus on recognizing and celebrating the identities, struggles, and achievements of individuals who are 2SLGBTQIA+, Indigenous, and as members of racialized groups and that these issues must be thought of as intertwined. Highlighting the interconnectedness of issues related to indigeneity and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, Davies explains, “if it wasn’t for colonization and the ongoing theft of land and erasure of knowledge traditions, common ideas regarding gender and sexuality would be very different,” emphasizing how colonialism, the establishment of power and control of people and of resources by a foreign group of people, has shaped Western conceptions of gender and sexuality and the importance of centralizing analytics of colonialism when discussing gender and sexual diversity.      

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Maja Wetzl. “Flat-stitch beaded turtle on medicine wheel.” Beads on felt with deer hide backing, 2023.

Traditions of various Indigenous cultures hold their own understanding of gender and sexuality, which has been forcefully replaced through colonization. According to Davies, this is exemplified through colonial acts such as determining haircuts received by children at Residential Schools based on binary perception, the classification of gender into two distinct forms of masculine and feminine. We therefore cannot expand our understanding of gender and sexualities without acknowledging the ongoing history and violence which various Indigenous cultures and racialized groups face. The way in which we approach these conversations plays a key role and can be affected by the idea of “thick concepts” developed by Dr. Rowan Bell. Thick concepts are words that carry more meaning than their basic definitions and often guide our perceptions and evaluations of the world, our actions, and interactions within it. The acknowledgement of thick concepts challenges Eurocentric labels like “cis” and “trans,” labels which are oriented through European ways of knowing. Bell points out that a focus on “gender identity,” as accepted through thick concepts, can reduce gender diversity down to an internal, individualistic understanding, which separates it from the histories and communities in which it thrives. 

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Beck Stanbra. “Fragments of Laundry.” 4” x 5” film, 2023.

By recognizing that language is not just a neutral tool for describing the world, but also carries implicit evaluations and assumptions, individuals can become more critical and aware of the power and biases inherent in their words. For example, the term “professional” is integral to the environment and perception of Higher Education. To be professional entails a multitude of evaluations filled with biases and expectations on how students, faculty, and “professionals” need to appear and act. To be professional, and to adhere to “professionalism,” is often equated to successful performance. Davies discusses the challenges faced by marginalized individuals in academic and professional environments, sharing insights from their recent book, Queering Professionalism (2024).  

The emotional labour involved in challenging traditional notions of professionalism and the need to support 2SLGBTQIA+, Indigenous, and racialized groups must be distributed equally to all members of the Higher Education community, at all levels, to create safe spaces for students, faculty, and staff. Both Bell and Davies highlight that there is a need for students to see themselves reflected in academic and professional spheres, reinforcing the importance of visibility, representation, and acceptance. 

Understanding how we can contribute to safer spaces on campus and in the broader community starts with familiarizing ourselves with stories that explore ideas and issues surrounding sexualities and genders and 2SLGBTQIA+, Indigenous, and racialized groups.  

Suggested readings by Bell and Davies include:  

  • Tanya Talaga’s Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City (2017) 

  • Sarah Ahmed's Living a Feminist Life (2017) 

  • Leanna Simpson’s Islands of Decolonial Love: Stories & Songs (2013)  

  • Billy Ray Belcourt’s A History of My Brief Body (2020) 

  • Maracle, Aiyyana. “A Journey in Gender”. Torquere, vol. 2, Apr. 2013, doi:10.25071/1488-5182.36587. 



Join us in uplifting these Guelph students, who have graciously allowed us to feature their work:  

Maja Wetzl (she/her). “Flat-stitch beaded turtle on medicine wheel.” Beads on felt with deer hide backing, 2023.   

Maja's “Flat-stitch beaded turtle on medicine wheel” is a miniature recreation of her first ever beaded piece. Wetzl explained that she chose to bead a turtle on a medicine wheel, bordered by blue beads, representing water, on its edges, as they are all integral symbols in Ojibwe culture. Maja has called Guelph home for the last 5 years and is a recent UofG graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematical Sciences. Currently working as a research assistant in the Geography, Environment, and Geomatics department, she is soon continuing her studies in the fall as a Master of Science in Statistics candidate at Guelph. 

To find more of Maja’s work, check out her Instagram: @odeimin.creations  


Beck Stanbra (he/they). “Fragments of Laundry.” 4” x 5” film, 2023. 

Beck’s work explores the domestic and mundane aspects of queer everyday life, such as male menstruation and laundry. Through this process, Beck has come to love the process of physically manipulating the film, as shown in this piece. Beck is going into his fourth year of Studio Art at Guelph.  

To find more of Beck’s work, check out his Instagram at: @beck.arts 



Another important step towards amplifying the voices of 2SLGBTQIA+, Indigenous, and racialized individuals on campus and in the broader community is to explore and share the resources below.