Ancestors Know Who We Are: Two Spirit Black Indian Storme Webber
June is Pride Month for Seattle’s LGBTQ community, and Storme Webber (Alutiiq, Black, and Choctaw) has much to be proud of. She is an interdisciplinary artist and recipient of the 2015 James W. Ray Venture Project Award. Webber is also Two-Spirit.
Among her many accomplishments are two books of poetry, including Blues Divine and Diaspora. She is also working on a multi-media project, Noirish Lesbiana, which Webber describes as an interdisciplinary project bringing together literary, visual, and performing arts in an exploration of lost stories from Seattle’s pre-Stonewall queer culture.
Webber says both her parents inspire her work. Her father is a bisexual, Choctaw African-American, and her mother, who came out at age 16, is an Alutiiq lesbian. Webber, says she was born “where Indigenous met African met Texan met Alaskan Native”.
Webber, like her mother, also came out at 16. Having grown up in the gay scene of Seattle’s pre-Stonewall days, she admitted in an interview with ICTMN that the compassion of the gay community of 1960s Seattle nurtured her restorative justice themes in her work.
Stonewall refers to when patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in New York City, rioted against police brutality and homophobia on June 28th, 1969, a pivotal turn for the gay rights movement, hence LGBTQ pride is typically celebrated every June across the U.S. and the world.
“As a person who was in gay society before gay liberation, I have a whole different point of view. I remember when gay pride was just sort of coming into being and wanted to be mainstream. I came out into a radicalized community,” said Webber.
In the 1970s, and as a teenager, Webber and others formed a social group consisting of lesbians of color. Her sexuality did not come without conflict, as she found when she came out to her mother.
“My mother was actually really upset. I said , ‘How can you be upset? You’re a lesbian.’ She said, ‘It’s a hard life.’ And for her, it has been.
“When [my mother] was younger, the police would raid the gay bars and they would beat everyone,” she says. “I am thankful for all the change. Sometimes the things that can be our burdens can be our blessing, too. I am a Black Indian Two-Spirit. There have been instances everywhere I turned where I’ve not been enough something.”
As a Two-Spirit artist, Webber says she honors tradition and embodying Two-Spirit means serving the community and those who don’t have voices.
Her poetry book project Noirish Lesbiana shares untold tales of Seattle’s gay history, including urban Two-Spirits of the 1960s. Noirish Lesbiana “honors and recognizes our LGBTQ elders and ancestors who lived in oppressive and dangerous times, who were threatened with violence, jail and commitment to mental institutions. It celebrates how far we have come in terms of recognizing modern queer community as a part of the whole,” Webber writes on her website.
Webber says that although LGBTQ pride honors the history of the gay rights movement, Two-Spirits are often left out of mainstream celebrations and tribal communities. Her work strives to educate and reclaim Two-Spirit practices for indigenous communities and beyond.
Webber says she is attending the Annual Montana Two-Spirit Gathering this July 2016, hosted by the Montana Two-Spirit Society, whose website says the gathering’s purpose is to “encourage all people to heal the damage wrought by racism, sexism, ageism, colonialism, ableism, transphobia, and homophobia and the negative impacts these have on health.”
Webber says, In a long life of struggle, everything has been worthwhile. “At this wonderfully, weathered age now,” she says, “the ancestors know who we are.”
NativeOUT, a Two-Spirit and LGBTQ group describes a Two-Spirit person “[As] a male-bodied or female-bodied person with a masculine or feminine essence. Two Spirits can cross social gender roles, gender expression, and sexual orientation.”
In his book Living the Spirit: A Gay American Indian Anthology, Will Roscoe wrote that at least 150 North American tribes had traditionally honored Two-Spirit people as spiritual or medicine leaders. European colonization and Christianity fed indigenous phobias against Two-Spirit and LGBTQ people creating many homophobic stereotypes of today.