Creating Space and Celebration With Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits
In many Native American tribes, “Two-Spirit” refers to people who possess and manifest both male and female spiritual qualities. This group is at the core of the mission of Horizons grantee partner Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS). Founded in 1999 by members of the Gay American Indians organization, BAAITS has a long and rich history of service to the Two-Spirit community in the Bay Area and beyond.
In 2012—after noticing that community members were being turned away from traditional powwows—BAAITS hosted its first Two-Spirit powwow which was, at the time, the first and only public Two-Spirit powwow in the world. In the years since, Two-Spirit powwows have flourished across the country—an impact in which BAAAITS is proud to have played a role. Today, the BAAITS Two-Spirit powwow is the largest in North America, with the organization welcoming over 4,000 community members to their twelfth annual powwow earlier this year. As Executive Director Angel Fabian says, “Indigenous circles and Native circles are not complete without Two-Spirit community members. We know that. We’re grateful to be able to welcome the community back into the circle, back into tradition, back into learning about their peoples, their languages, their land, their struggles—because for a lot of us, that has been a source of great strength and great support.”
And the festivities don’t just stop with the powwow. This year, while gearing up for its Two-Spirit powwow, BAAITS hosted a film festival, an Indigiqueer drag show, a youth and elder panel, and more. Additionally, as Fabian says, “Most, if not all, of our programs are alcohol- and drug-free—knowing that alcohol and drug use has had a huge impact on our communities. For the most part, a lot of the spaces that we currently have for the LGBTQ Two-Spirit community are bars, and we wanted to create spaces other than that.” With this in mind, BAAITS events and celebrations are open to Two-Spirit community members as well as their friends, family, and loved ones.
Now more than ever, the BAAITS mission is essential. As Fabian commented, “Our folks have housing needs, food security needs, employment needs. Unfortunately, with all the legislation that’s happening across the country, it’s impacting community members. […] There's a lot of work still to be done and a lot of needs to be met.”
In 1999, as the organization was creating its origin story, BAAITS partnered with Horizons Foundation for the first time. Nearly 25 years later, with BAAITS receiving another Horizons Community Issues grant this year, that partnership remains strong. When asked about BAAITS’ continued involvement with Horizons, Fabian said, “We are appreciative of all the support that Horizons has provided for us and we will be looking for continued support to meet these needs. [...] We could not do this without the support of community.”