Roots in the Ground: The love and beauty of Grassroots Trans Resistance

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This resource was made possible through the financial support of the Canadian Red Cross and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Queer Trans youth have been fighting for centuries to gain visibility and protections in their respective states and governments, in many countries globally. What the pandemic taught us, if anything, is that visibility is not enough and now more than ever we need to create our own spaces that reflect our shared needs and values as community members. Creating these spaces will motivate us to learn from and mobilize with local communities in order to achieve collective liberation

Moving to Montreal to attend Mcgill University was my first step at reclaiming space as a marginalized person. I intended to study History and Indigenous studies so I could put socio political events as well as systems into historical contexts and so I could better advocate for Indigenous people’s history and current issues. I was on the frontlines in Montreal protesting for climate justice and Indigenous rights wearing a shirt with “Strong Indigenous Women” written on it thinking this is supposed to make sense and feel right because I technically was considered an Indigenous woman, but I always knew that I was a woman only because people said so. I knew I wanted to be an educator and community worker but not as a woman, as someone more non-conforming than that.

 I felt like I was stuck inside a body that wasn’t occupied by the real me, but instead a people pleasing emptier version of me.

My deadname was always the worst part of any dysphoria I experienced before coming out. I always felt like I was performing to the beat of someone else’s drum. I remember saying things growing up such as I don’t have breasts and dissociating when I thought of my deadname because I felt like I was stuck inside a body that wasn’t occupied by the real me, but instead a people pleasing emptier version of me. I juggled different pronouns over a year before I officially came out and landed on, they/he because I was a being but also masculine, a shapeshifter as Coyote Park ( a Two Spirit Indigenous (Yurok) Korean-American transgender artist) puts it, a feminine and masculine being that was healing and loving myself as time goes on. I started openly using Atreyu in October 2021 and it was a decision I made by letting go of the worries that I realized was not working for me. I knew that Atreyu, this chosen name which felt like a name I’ve always had, made it so I could fill in the gaps to what was missing from fully understanding myself. It was also the acceptance from friends and family as well as the understanding of concepts such as intersectionality that kept me on my healing journey.

Rising From Our Roots

Rising from our Roots is an organization I founded in Winter of 2022 after recognizing the wide gaps for BIPOC Queer Trans people in the creative arts field as well as the lack of education around equity-based approaches to event planning and grant funding. Friends and I in the community wanted to address these gaps by using the knowledge I had gathered from several learning spaces to create a safe space where fellow marginalized people can be celebrated, supported and find joy that they may struggle to find in other spaces. Spaces that center marginalized people’s experience and that are run by marginalized people provide that communal healing we never got in our younger years because of society’s narrow understanding of marginalized people’s existence. Our first project was the BIPOC Queer Trans market which was a huge success that raised hundreds of dollars for grassroots organizations in Montreal and provided a space where vendors could gather, network and share their art as a form of resistance to the many policies, fees and other systematic barriers against them. Now at our 1-year anniversary this Spring we are bringing the event back this April that will continue the work of normalizing and uplifting BIPOC Queer Trans persons in social and political spaces.

 The joy and success of BIPOC Queer Trans people is how we resist collectively against capitalism and colonialism.

 Settlers and non-Queer Trans persons need to share funds to grassroots organizations and attend these events to the work we are doing as well as the beauty we must share so they can begin to understand how much work needs to be done for us all to achieve liberation from oppressive systems. Healing and thriving at the grassroots are the best form of advocacy as it impacts those who may have grown up isolated and misunderstood like I was at one point in time. There are better and brighter days ahead for Queer Trans folks as no matter what shape or state we are in, we have always been here and always will be here to keep sharing and embracing our diversities that promote wholeness, love and beauty.

About the Author

Atreyu Lewis

Atreyu Lewis (they/he) is an Anishnaabe Ojibwe and Punjabi queer trans student, organizer, community worker, and advocate who is a student at Mcgill University. They are from Tkaronto on treaty 13 territory and currently resides in Montreal on unceded Kanienkehaka territory. Their work is focused on equity-based solutions and approaches to justice for marginalized communities, Indigenous rights, disability justice, and anti-oppressive frameworks.

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