me sexy: an exploration in to native sex and sexuality

by Drew Hayden Taylor

published: outwords inc.

Me Sexy is an insightful and personal exploration into Native sex and sexuality. The latest anthology from award-winning Ojibway playwright Drew Hayden Taylor, the collection of thirteen essays are written by leading members of North America’s First Nations communities. In his introduction to the book Taylor writes, “it has been said that how a people makes love or expresses love says more about who they are than all their political, social and economic writings.” Ranging topically from pubic hair to contemporary Inuit Art, Me Sexy is just as intriguing of a read as it is informing.

Catching up with Drew for a cup of coffee, I had the chance to discuss with him the book’s contribution to the queer side of Native sexuality. “I wanted [Me Sexy] to be as broad a spectrum as possible of perspectives on native sexuality” says Drew. “I think [that] cannot be done,” he continues, “without an exploration of what is called this ‘two-spirited’ community in Native culture.” Three essays within the anthology address that topic directly. Eloquently written by Nancy Cooper, Daniel Heath Justice and Gregory Scofield, each writer expresses how sexuality has affected their life experiences.

In “Learning to Skin the Beaver,” writer and teacher Nancy Cooper writes about how important it is for queer Aboriginal women to find their roots in order to better understand the importance of their place within modern Native culture. Touching on the poetry of Chrystos, the annual Two-Spirited gathering, and sharing stories from her aunties, Cooper relates what it means to be a ‘modern day Aboriginal lesbian.’

In a witty and touching tale, professor Daniel Heath Justice takes readers from his childhood fascination with “Wonder Woman” to his time in the classroom teaching queer First Nations literature. In “Fear of a Changeling Moon,” Justice writes a captivating autobiography about growing up as a gay Cherokee man in the United States. Now living in Canada, Justice creatively retells the nightmarish dreams that haunted his youth and the path that positively led him to where he is now.

Poet Gregory Scofield reveals that assuming a two-spirited identity is much more complicated than it seems. Thumbing through the Alberta Elders’ Cree Dictionary, Scofield searches for a definition to describe what it means to be ‘two-spirited.’ When his search yields nothing useful, he questions, “How do you translate such a concept, the idea of a third of fourth gender?” Entitled “You can Always Count on an Anthropologist,” Scofield’s essay shows how some answers can come from the most unlikely places.

“The interesting thing about Native two-spiritedness,” Drew says, “is that depending where you go and what elders you speak to, you will find opinions lying on opposite sides of the spectrum. “Some elders…” he says, “influenced shall we say by hardline Christianity [maintain] that ‘prior to contact there was no homosexuality’ … [that] it’s a European innovation.” However, he says that other important voices in the culture argue that most of the medicine men and women were two-spirited “because they had that special connection of both sexes within them.”

Reflecting on its publication, Drew is more than happy about how Me Sexy finally came together. “I was really delighted that two-thirds of the essays were humorous,” he says, “there is a good warm-hearted smile on almost all of [them].” Me Sexy has something for everyone. Addressing a broad range of sexual topics from a variety of academic, creative, and political voices, Me Sexy is a compelling look at Native sexuality from an Aboriginal perspective.

When I asked Drew what he would suggest if someone wanted to learn more, with a playful smile on his face he replied, “Do your field research, there’s few bars I’ve heard about.”