For many Native Americans, embracing LGBT members is a return to the past

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03/29/2019

The sound of drums, singing and prayers marked the opening of a powwow in Phoenix on a Saturday afternoon this month. Marchers carried the flags of the United States and some of Arizona’s tribal nations onto the grass field, but the procession also included rainbow flags, and the pink and blue transgender flag. It was Arizona’s first Two-Spirit Powwow, one of a handful of powwows that have sprung up across North America to celebrate LGBT Native Americans. Among the marchers in the grand entry was Kay Kisto, the reigning Miss Indian Transgender Arizona. “To actually be here, to be at the first-ever [Two-Spirit Powwow] in Arizona — I’ve been having goosebumps ever since I got here,” Kisto said. Kisto, 35, grew up on the Gila River Indian Reservation, south of Phoenix. Growing up, she feared harassment or violence if she were to reveal her transgender identity. But to be able to celebrate her identity and heritage in an event on her tribe’s traditional lands was an overwhelming feeling and a sign of change, she said.

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