Sunday’s Indigi-Queer Gayla is fully expected to be a colourful and spectacular variety event, what with all of the fab fashions, rockin’ Indigenous art, and glam performances a-plenty for everyone’s evening viewing pleasure all from the comfort of home. Yes, it’s an online extravaganza complete with queens and a powwow, and it’s one that has an extra special importance for members of the Alberta Two-Spirit community and their allies.
“I feel like this is an opportunity to educate the masses,” explained Boyd Whiskeyjack, the president of the Edmonton 2 Spirit Society.
Two-Spirit is far from a new identity although that identifier has only been brought into common use over the last few decades. It refers to a person who identifies as having both a masculine and a feminine spirit. The ‘LGBTQ2’ acronym doesn’t fully express what it means, Whiskeyjack continued.
“Two-Spirit is all-encompassing in that and more. It goes beyond just gender and sexual diversity. It goes into the realm of spirituality: who we are beyond just our physical bodies. I guess you could say that's how we play our role in the community more so in a cultural aspect.”
Giving Two-Spirit not only the forum but the hot spotlight for a gala is an important moment toward recognition and validation. It’s something that the organizers are not taking lightly. It sounds like they’re putting their all into it.
“We’re highlighting artists in traditional and contemporary contexts through means of drag queen performances, traditional powwow performances, and fashion through an Indigenous lens in a contemporary context. We're highlighting those three mediums of art into a jam-packed, 90-minutes session of entertainment lineup.”
This is not your usual livestreamed soiree ... not by a long shot. The lineup looks like it’s going to pop a few eyeballs, in fact.
Co-hosted by Calgary Pride, Fruit Loop and the Edmonton 2-Spirit Society, viewers will take in the fashion stylings of Helen Oro Designs (HOD), LUXX Ready-to-Wear, MOBILIZE and Under_the_night_sky_creations. They will be entertained by a bodacious lineup of ‘Queenz’ who will take turns strutting on the stage with performances by Quanah Style, Ladonna, Desire Devine, Chelazon Leroux, Artasia and Honey Dijon.
Don’t forget the unforgettable globetrotting Running Thunder Dancers.
Chelazon Leroux is really looking forward to getting up and showing off her wig designs and her makeup artistry while dolled up in some dazzling outfit. It’s a big personal moment, too, and it came up as a huge surprise during what was planned as a simple trip back to Edmonton to see friends.
“I used to live in Edmonton before, actually, and got to know the Edmonton Two-Spirit Society for a bit but wasn’t as involved. Just to have the opportunity to come back is really great and I think now I have a lot more to offer, understanding where I come from,” she began, elaborating on the power of identity and getting public affirmations.
“I had moved back home to a reserve and I really found a lot about my identity and how much that's definitely influenced what I do as an artist now. I can bring a better sense of identity: being Indigenous, being queer. What does that mean now in this day and age because the identity of Two-Spirit is either misinterpreted, some people think it's lost to time.”
“This event allows us to really represent what it means. I don't think it's a blanket term. It's different for every Indigenous person who has that Two-Spirit label. It's not one story. I think you'll get to see that with this show, that there's a huge variety of representation. It's not just trans artists. It's not just gays performing. It's a wide variety and it's good to just be able to bring my perspective on it being Dene First Nations, being Indigi-queer, and two-spirit. All of that plus good hair and great performance energy,” she enthused.
People can stay tuned to Chelazon's Instagram at instagram.com/chelazonleroux for her further adventures and commentary.
This event will be shown through several social media pages starting at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday and viewing is free. Look for the 90-minute livestream on calgarypride.ca/live. Viewing is free and all are welcome to the show.
It’s all just one part of Calgary Pride Week, which runs from Aug. 28 to Sept. 6 this year. That means that more events are already underway, plus it’s the 30th anniversary. Calgary Pride is set to broadcast performances from Canada's best and brightest LGBTQ2S+ artists along with diversity workshops, community newscasts, and interviews, all of which will be free for public consumption. These will be streamed simultaneously on Calgary Pride’s social media channels including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Twitch.