Corvallis Social Justice: Two-Spirit Stories of Resilience, “Skate Park After Dark” for Runaway Youth, Pride Center Trans Awareness Week Events

In celebration of both Native American Heritage Month and Trans Awareness Week, and in collaboration with the SOL LGBTQ+ Multicultural Network, an Oregon State University student organization serving and providing support, advocacy, and resources for Queer and Trans Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (QTBIPOC), the Kaku-Ixt Mana Ina Haws (KIMIH) will be hosting their annual Two-Spirit Stories of Resilience event this evening.   

The event is intended to provide a celebratory and educational community space that centers queer, trans, and Two-Spirit Indigenous folks through the sharing of stories and poems. Tonight, attendees will not only get to listen to these stories in a variety of media forms, but will also be able to create an art piece that can become part of a collective zine.  

At last year’s Two-Spirit Stories of Resilience event, which was held over Zoom, hosts began with sharing an InQueery video exploring the histories and significance of the term “Two-Spirit” – which was coined and adopted at the third annual Native American Gay and Lesbian Gathering, hosted in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1990 – as presented by Geo Soctomah Neptune, a Passamaquoddy Two-Spirit activist, storyteller, model, and educator.sdf  

“Part of the reason ‘Two-Spirit’ was adopted at the 1990 conference was because much of the written record on the Indigenous Nations of North America begins with European contact,” said Neptune. “‘Two-Spirit’ was an attempt at self-determination across linguistic barriers, because the existing language – foreign and imposed violently on the Indigenous peoples of North America – was both offensive and deeply colonial in its gaze. European colonizers imposed homophobia, rigid binary gender roles and misogyny under the guise of ‘civilizing’ Indigenous people through the Christian tradition in residential schools and beyond. As a result, Indigenous people were robbed not only of their land, but of their spiritual traditions and way of life regarding Two-Spirit people.”  

They added that in recent years, many Native people are returning to these traditions “as a way to heal from the injustices the American colonial project has visited upon their ancestors and traditions.”  

“Two-Spirit identity is resilient and precious. It has survived centuries of colonial violence and prejudice. These sacred ways of knowing live on amongst Native youth seeking to know more about themselves, elders who have kept the traditions alive in spite of the odds, and anyone in between,” said Neptune. “It is a sacred tradition among the First Peoples of this land we call Turtle Island that all of its inhabitants should know about and respect.”  

The event will be held in person at the KIMIH, located on 311 SW 26th St., from 5:30 – 7 p.m. To ensure safety and accessibility for all community members, the KIMIH, like other on-campus cultural centers, is a fragrance-free space.  

Bringing DIY & Punk Culture to Corvallis “Skate Park After Dark” Event: In addition to being Native American Heritage Month, November is also National Runaway Prevention Month, a public awareness campaign led by the National Runaway Safeline (1-800-RUNAWAY) to “shine a light” on the realities of runaway, unhoused, and at-risk youth across the U.S., as well as to raise awareness of community resources that are available to support youth in crisis.   

Jackson Street Youth Services, a local nonprofit organization committed to helping runaway youth experiencing homelessness in Benton, Linn, and Lincoln Counties (with emergency youth shelters located in Corvallis and Albany), has been participating in the campaign by organizing public “Skate Park After Dark” outreach events, where runaway and at-risk youth ages 10-24 have access to free hot meals, helpful resources, and community building. Thus far, the organization has hosted these events in Lebanon and Albany – and tomorrow, Nov. 16, it will be brought to Corvallis at the downtown-adjacent Eric Scott McKinley Skate Park.  

From 4:30 – 8:30 p.m., the Albany-based Grindz Hawaiian Food Truck will be donating hot food to youth; Caesar the No Drama Llama – a retired show llama who now works as a therapy animal – will be giving out emotional support hugs, and the Corvallis Really Really Free Market (RRFM), a local mutual aid group, will be providing free resources in collaboration with Jackson Street Youth Services’ Street Outreach Team, including clothes, winter supplies, hygiene kits, menstrual care products, pet food, and more.   

Distinct from other Skate Park After Dark events in the region, the Corvallis event is also a collaboration with Bitter Half Booking, a radical duo of queer and punk Corvallis DIY show organizers committed to building safer, accessible show spaces for folks who have been historically marginalized and excluded from mainstream music scenes – including youth. Starting at 5 p.m., music will be played by Corvallis-based bands: the rock group West, folk punk band Reptile Lovechild, queer folk/country band Jay and Hex, and heavy post-punk band Flexing  

“For Corvallis, we wanted to go above and beyond to create an event that wasn’t just about providing basic needs, but also about creating a real feeling of togetherness,” said Ben Martens, Communications and Event Coordinator for Jackson Street Youth Services. “Punk culture and skate culture have a shared history as positive outlets for youth, and Bitter Half Booking has been creating sober, safer show spaces around town for ages. So it just made sense for us to combine our forces for good and make this rad, inclusive, free experience happen for our Corvallis community.” 

Another inspiration for this collaboration was the recognition of how DIY, queer, and punk spaces and cultures have historically served as critical lifelines and empowering creative outlets for marginalized youth.  

“DIY culture, punk culture, and queer culture have all been traditional havens for runaway, at-risk, and impoverished youth,” he said, “and Jackson Street’s mission is to amplify youth voices, so we’re happy to be creating a positive space for youth creative expression. We’re hoping that folks will come out, make friends, make art, and find true solidarity with their peers through this kind of youth-focused programming.”  

The Eric Scott McKinley Skate Park is located on 648 SW 2nd St.  

Pride Center Trans Awareness Week Events: As aforementioned, this week is Trans Awareness Week, and the OSU Pride Center is hosting a couple of events aiming to provide support, care, and resources for local trans and gender non-conforming communities.   

Tomorrow, Nov. 16, there will be a Trans Awareness Week clothing swap taking place from 4 – 6 p.m., an opportunity for trans and gender nonconforming folks to freely browse and take home clothes and accessories that match their gender identities and expressions in a space where they’re safe from judgment, harassment, invasive questions, and the burden of a price tag. Size-inclusive and gender-affirming clothes are especially encouraged to be brought in, and must be washed and in at least mid condition.   

Pride Center Director Cindy Konrad said that the center hopes to put on more clothing swaps in the future, and encourages people in the community to explore organizing their own.

“My advice for people who want to have a clothing swap is to not be afraid to start small,” she said. “You can just get a few friends together who wear similar sizes and bring things you don’t need to exchange. If people want to have larger scale clothing swap, it’s a great idea to reach out to the community ahead of time to have a base of items and ask for a variety of sizes and styles. At the event, try to organize things by type of clothing and size so people can find things that suit them more easily.”

And on Thursday, Nov. 17, the center is hosting their first Trans Story Circle of the year, an event for folks who identify within the trans umbrella to gather, share stories, and build connections in a safe and brave space. For this circle, attendees are invited to engage in questions related to imagining futures for themselves and their communities, such as the following: 

  • What is your current vision of an ideal future? 
  • When was the first time you had a concrete vision for your future? 
  • How does that tie in with your identities? 

“We cannot work toward a more just future if we can’t first imagine what that is,” said Kondrad. “Dreaming of an ideal future gives people something to hope for and work toward. We’ve learned that from Afro Futurist writers and activists like adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha who talk about the importance of imagining just futures within Black communities. Having space for trans people, especially trans people of color, to dream in a world where they face oppression can create space for healing.”

Registration for the Trans Story Circle is required, which can be completed by scanning the QR Code available on the center’s Instagram post.  

Both events – which are open to anyone and not limited to OSU students, staff, or faculty – will take place at the Pride Center, temporarily located in Room 112 of the Student Experience Center (SEC) on 2251 SW Jefferson Way. Accommodation requests related to disabilities can be made by sending an email to Konrad at Konrad@oregonstate.edu  

In a recent Instagram post, the Corvallis-based Polypore, a queercore/art punk/emo band comprised of trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming artists, wrote an empowering love letter to their trans kin in light of Trans Awareness Week.  

“We know this week is hard for many, joyful for many, sorrowful, celebratory, and so much else to Trans & GNC folks like some of us in this lil band. Whatever it may mean to you, we hope all Trans folks feel celebrated and loved this week.  

“Thank you to the many organizers, bands, and community members that support our music and us being authentically ourselves. Thank you to other Trans-fronted and Trans-inclusive musicians and bands for paving the way for us and lifting us up always. We hope that this community can feel our endless loooove [sic] and gratitude with every riff n yell.”  

Polypore members also urge folks to continue to do the work for queer and trans liberation, both in the DIY scene and beyond.  

“Consider this a love letter, a thank u note, and a reminder to create intentional space for Queer & [sic] Trans folks in music, in DIY, and in all corners of life. There is much to celebrate this week, and at the same time much to mourn for many. There is always work to be done; thank you for doing it with us and making this scene what it is. We couldn’t be here without you.” 

By Emilie Ratcliff 

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