Native Youth Leadership Alliance

(Michelle Sherman) Navajo Nation First LGBTQ Symposium!

On January 25, 2013 The Navajo Nation, made history by having its first LGBTQ Symposium in Window Rock, AZ and it was hosted by Tsehootsooi Medical Center.  It was called Embracing Diversity for Equality LBGTQ Symposium.

We had breakout sessions that included topics such as In-Dept Transgender, Navajo HIV Prevention Services, How to support your LGBTQ child, Historical and Contemporary Dine’ Perspectives on LGBTQ in Navajo, and Navajo LGBTQ Youth Experience. I facilitated to 30 people on Navajo LGBTQ Youth Experience and I spoke about how it was growing up on the Navajo Nation and how I became a NYLA fellow and how they help built and support my vision.

I shared my coming out story and I have encountered stereotypes and being discriminated against due to the fact I identified myself as Native American (Dine’-Navajo) and gay. Living on the Navajo Nation Reservation I grew up surrounded with poverty, knowing little about the outside world, even though I lived near Farmington, New Mexico. Farmington is a town that was only five minutes away but yet I still felt isolated, alienated, and I was struggling with my identity. During my years struggling I was scared to accept myself because I felt that no one cared and I was afraid of what others will think and my biggest fear was getting hurt by those I valued close to me.

There were no resources at that time, and I am committed to staying in my rural community and to help all Tribal communities to create supportive environments for Two-Spirit/LGBTQ youth. This is one of the reasons I want to generate supportive spaces for LGBTQ Youths, because I know how hard it can be. That is why I developed community organization “Celebrate LIFE” so I can keep reaching out to Two-Spirit/LGBTQ youth who are struggling because there are so many other opportunities for our Native youth and there is help.

It was great session and it was great experience to share my story and to share to the Navajo Nation.  Thank you to mentor Elton Naswood to connected me to this event and provided the opportunity to contribute!  I hope the Navajo Nation will continue this symposium and other Tribal Nations will create these spaces as well.

*Photo credit Ryan Dennison