Opinion

Zachary Pullin: Growing to find acceptance among my people





"The intersection of my identity as a gay man and a Chippewa Cree tribal member begins at the intersection of Route 87 and Highway 448. The unpretentious hamlet of Box Elder, Mont., on the Rocky Boy Reservation is home to a humble population of 800 and the monuments of sovereignty of my ancestors.

My parents believed that if they didn’t like the road we were on, we needed to pave a new one. So they moved the family to the nearest metropolis: Spokane, Wash. What my parents gave us was opportunities and choices that we never had in Box Elder, protecting my sister and I from an unknown future (I was clearly, queerly different at a young age).

But pieces of my heart remained at the intersection of Route 87 and Highway 448.

Years later, I remember my family discussing a lesbian relative and her sexuality in hushed voices, their faces pink with shame. The shaky voices and unfamiliar syllables floating into the room shook me to my core. At that moment I decided to pave my own road, driving myself away to a safer and more secretive place.

I made an explicit choice to deny my heritage while out on my own. I exercised selective perception to cast my culture as unaccepting and intolerant. I allowed others to project European-colonized, homophobic beliefs onto my people. The shield of conformity was my peace, but it drove an invisible wedge between my identities—gay and Native American. What was left was a crater in the intersection, and an unavoidable internalized racism."

Get the Story:
Zachary Pullin: Op-ed: Same Tribe, Same Acceptance (The Advocate 1/3)