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Episode 3: LGBTQ+ in the Native Community

This episode explores the current and traditional Native views on the LGBTQ+ community. I interview Jenny Miller and Will Bean for their insight and experiences within the LGBTQ+ community in rural and urban Alaska.

"In order for us to heal as Indigenous people, we need to let the Indigenous Two-Spirit, LGBTQ+ people know you have a space in your family, you have a space in your community, and in your village. Because otherwise, if we continue on the rate that we're going, we're removing our own people simply for being who they are, moving to cities becoming more disconnected with their culture." - Jenny Miller

Jenny Irene Miller is a photographer living in Anchorage. Her Inupiaq name is Wiagañmiu. Jenny was born in Nome and raised in both Nome and Fairbanks. She is the daughter of Charlotte (Senungetuk) Miller. Her great-grandparents are the late Helen and Willie Senungetuk. Jenny’s late grandmother is Cora Olson and her grandfather is Larry Olson. Her family roots originate from the village of Wales.

Jenny’s art is influenced by her identity, the relationships in her life and community. It is packed with themes of histories, current realities, and decolonization. Her work encourages dialogue on important topics and issues in aims to defeat stereotypes and support healing.

She holds a BFA in photomedia from the University of Washington’s School of Art and a BA in American Indian studies, also from the University of Washington. Jenny is currently a Philanthropy Northwest Momentum Fellow at Rasmuson Foundation. Click here for Jenny's website.

"I'm really thankful for the youth that I've mentored with Identity (Alaska). They have a youth summit twice a year now. It wasn't until the second summit in 2013 that I'd learned about what non-binary was and gender fluid. And it was from them that I learned about it and I thought that was a pretty amazing thing." - Will Bean

Will Kusiq Bean (pronouns they/them/theirs) is an out and proud Alaska Native Queer person and is one of the three co-founders of Aurora Pride which is an Indigenous lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and Two-Spirit (LGBTQ2+) support group in Anchorage. Will's parents are Stanley Segevan and Rachel Upicksoun from Utqiaġvik (Barrow) and Wainwright, AK. As a Two-Spirit, gender non-binary individual, Will struggled with their identity growing up and often felt like they lacked a safe space to be true to who they are. Will's experiences along with learning the shocking statistics surrounding the mental/physical health of LGBTQ2+ people inspired Will to connect to other Two-Spirit individuals in the community. Will continues to work, volunteer, and participate in Alaska Native events and activities in urban and rural Alaska and hopes to promote the traditional value of kinship among fellow LGBTQ2+ and Natives in the community.

Links to additional resources:

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