Women of the Navajo Calendar Reject Trans Woman

Transphobia strikes everywhere. In long ago tradition, most Indigenous nations recognized that gender was much more than binary, however, it seems that much has been lost in the colonial zeal to rip people from their roots.

Sharnell Paul.

Sharnell Paul.

Lake Powell Life covered this story, and Terese Mailhot at ICTMN has a column about this story.


Had Women of the Navajo calendar founders included Paul, they would have been working against historical erasure, reclaiming the stories within their own inclusive cultural roots. Their discriminatory acts speak of lateral violence within our own communities. Oppression works laterally and vertically. Their acts against Paul are acts against cultural reclamation and Indigenous sovereignty. It’s time to give our people voice. Our bodies and our stories have the right to acceptance and recognition. Women of the Navajo had the opportunity to empower culture, identity, and acts of reclamation. Granted, it would have been late to the game, but it’s better to be late than never arrive at a political occasion that is inevitable. All Indigenous bodies are sovereign, deserving of protection, respect, and recognition. What are they scared of? Whatever phobia they invite, it is no doubt the product of boarding schools, assimilation, and other genocidal acts put upon us.


The stories where I’m from are gone. There is no pre-contact narrative of people who identified as anything beyond the gender binary. There are only a few stories of sexuality and gender, let alone any that speak of gender roles. Our ceremonies and stories were forbidden. Only within the past few generations have people been able to stand and bear witness. There is something from the past that still resonates: that our stories can be erased, and our bodies forbidden. If we do not claim our people, and their identities, and their stories, and their struggles, they will be erased from the continuum, just like everything that has been stripped from us. Their beautiful faces and struggles will not thrive if we don’t lift them up now, to praise their clarity and power.


  1. says

    Yes, she is. This business “it’s real women only” is so damn hurtful. I don’t know that I could successfully define woman, but one thing I know -- having a vagina does not make me a real woman. Being assigned female at birth doesn’t define me as a real woman either.

  2. chigau (違う) says

    Does being ‘lovely’ make one a ‘real woman’?
    ’cause I fail on that one.
    I have gestated and lactated.

  3. rq says

    I think their bigotry made them miss out on a wonderful addition to their calendar. Not the mention the subversive, anti-oppression aspect mentioned in the article.

  4. says


    Does being ‘lovely’ make one a ‘real woman’?
    ’cause I fail on that one.

    Yeah, me too. And I haven’t gestated and lactated, so if that’s the ‘real’ part, I fail that too.

  5. says


    I think their bigotry made them miss out on a wonderful addition to their calendar. Not the mention the subversive, anti-oppression aspect mentioned in the article.

    Yes. They had one great opportunity, and tossed it away. This could have been such a positive and empowering event.

  6. rq says

    Interestingly and by complete coincidence, here’s an article from today at the CBC re: two-spirited people, gender and sexuality.

    Joshua Whitehead’s dad went to residential school, and that makes it hard to talk about being two-spirited, the University of Calgary PhD student said.

    “To not [be] having those conversations with our parents, because they may be traumatized from residential schools, and the sexual assault that went on there, I think is harming to us,” he said.

    “If two-spirit/queer indigenous peoples can muster the strength in their own ways to voice themselves and tell their own stories and present our own bodies in ways that we think are beautiful, sexy and lively.… If we can (have these conversations at the kitchen table in a meaningful way), there is more than enough potential for us to become intertwined, interlinked and braided together, as originally we should be,” said Whitehead, who is from Peguis First Nation.

    “We as indigenous peoples are really strongly linked in terms of community, in terms of movement, in terms of proximity and closeness. And I think there’s a powerful thing in being together.”

    For elders like Albert, that will come when communities go back to tradition.

    “A community will be stronger if it includes all its members.”

  7. says

    rq @ 7:

    Yes, many nations have traditionally believed in two-spirit people, and have considered them to be of particular value to the tribe. Other nations have different beliefs, but in past tradition, most of them have accommodation for a variety of gender beyond the binary. This was not a cause for shame or castigation. Most non-binary Indians were viewed as valuable and special individuals within the kinship.

  8. says

    Also, what the residential schools have done to generations of Indians really has to be emphasised, and tossed right out the fucking window, too. It’s very difficult for people to do that though, because of the abuse they suffered, which was intense, and on more than one level.

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