“None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for you guys.”
It’s hard to be hopeful. Despite the massive, unprecedented social change that we’ve seen for LGBTQ+ rights in recent history. It’s no secret that LGBTQ+ folks in the United States are now facing a whole new wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. It feels like we’re waking up to bad news every day for queer, and particularly trans, youth. In the spirit of keeping the faith, we’re sharing some much-needed good news. In a move that almost led to a tribal nation ban on same-sex marriage, TikTok activism saved the day for queer folks in the Winnebago tribe.
The Homophobic Ruling
This week, two-spirit Winnebago native Hūcpįga took to TikTok to share some upsetting news. Hūcpįga, whose English name is Tyler, detailed the events of a Winnebago tribal council meeting. During this meeting, it was brought to attention that there was “no clarification” on whether queer people should be allowed to marry in the Winnebago tribe. The tribal council felt that they needed to clarify this, despite the fact that the original documents state that “all tribal members can get married” in the tribal court.
According to Tyler, there were several homophobic comments made during this meeting. The word šiange, which is a sacred umbrella term for queer people in the Hočąk language, was used derogatorily in this meeting. Some council members suggested that queer people should be removed from the tribe, saying they “do not belong” and have no purpose. One council member reportedly said they can imagine two women together, but not two men.
@hucpiga please help (he/they) #fyp #foryou #native #twospirit #lgbt #gay #trans #alternative #alt #queer #punk #indigenous #transgender #nativetiktok ♬ original sound – 𖤐 ⚥ Ⓐ
Tyler went on to ask folks to share this message, saying that this conversation has spawned homophobia and transphobia in their tribe. The decision to ban same-sex marriage was ultimately made. Only four council members defended LGBTQ+ natives during this meeting.
Tyler made subsequent videos making some very important clarifications. The views that were expressed in this meeting ran contrary to the tribe’s history. Queer tribe members were respected leaders within their communities. These anti-LGBTQ+ ideologies come in large part as a result of colonialism, something Tyler and many comments pointed out. In another video, Tyler pointed out that this decision, which was made on March 24, would be final and irreversible on April 21. This gave the tribe members 30 days to appeal the motion.
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Tyler’s videos went viral with 850K+ views and over 6,000 comments on the first video alone. Commenters asked what they could do to help. In response, Tyler create an email template and asked folks to email the council directly.
Good News for the Winnebago Tribe
Tyler’s quick action and the response from TikTok paid off. In response to the overwhelming response, the tribal council held an “emergency” meeting. During this meeting, they overturned the decision. This means that LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit tribe members can once again breathe easily. “Although there was a lot of finger-pointing from tribal council members,” said Tyler. “A lot of blame, a lot of excuses, a lot of backtracking, and even blame put on me […] but as of today we get to keep LGBTQ+ marriage rights in Winnebago.”
Tyler went on to thank council members Tori, Brian, Lorelei, and Louis for standing up for queer members of the tribe. He also directly thanked tribe member Willy for sharing “some very vulnerable and touching words to the council”. They also thanked everyone who sent emails and messages to the councils. “That is what made this change happen,” they said.
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He also added that all of the tribal members have seen his TikTok. “I’m a Two-Spirit menace to society, public enemy number one,” he joked. “I’m f**king proud about it.”
Same-sex Marriage in Tribal Nations
Most Indigenous tribes in the United States permit same-sex marriage, although there are 12 that forbid it. The 12 include the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, and Navajo nations among others. After seeing what such a response can achieve, perhaps Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+ folk in these tribes can hope to see positive change for their people.
For now, we breathe a sigh of relief and make a commitment to act when we are faced with cruel injustice. And, if it hasn’t been said, we appreciate you Hūcpįga.