Youth advocate EJ Velez selflessly shares his own personal experience with homelessness and the challenges he faced navigating systems in an effort to educate the public and ensure youth receive proper support and care they need to succeed. As a college senior, EJ balances school work with his activism. He serves on the National Runaway Safeline’s Youth Advisory Board, as a Youth Catalyst Team Consultant for Youth Collaboratory and is a Youth Consultant to National Network for Youth (NN4Y).
Why NRS Includes 2S in LGBTQIA2S+
The language – and even the acronyms – we commonly use when discussing both sexual orientation and gender identity continually evolve. With this evolution, it’s easy to find yourself confused by these two phrases and their differences.
As explained by Planned Parenthood, “sexual orientation is about who you’re attracted to and who you feel drawn to romantically, emotionally, and sexually. Sexual orientations include gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, and asexual. Gender identity isn’t about who you’re attracted to, but about who you ARE — male, [cisgender], genderqueer, etc.” Gender identity focuses on a person’s understanding of their gender, even if it does not match the sex assigned at birth.
You’ve likely seen the acronym LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) as it relates to gender identity and sexual orientation. While LGBTQ+ is the GLAAD-recommended acronym for this community of people, you may find other organizations use variations like LGBTQI (the “I” represents “Intersex”) or LGBTQIA (“A” represents “Asexual,” not “Ally”).
In 2020, the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) began using LGBTQIA2S+ to recognize those who identify as “Two-Spirit.” This phrase refers to people who identify as having both a masculine and feminine spirit, and is used by some Indigenous and Native communities.
“Two-Spirit” describes the cultural-specific understanding for the diverse gender traditions of Indigenous and Native people. Historically, Two-Spirit people were among the most respected in their communities, often serving as community healers, ceremonial leaders or caregivers to the elderly or orphaned children. This is consistent across many cultures who experienced extreme oppression and intergenerational trauma through periods of colonization. Today, young people who identify as Two-Spirit may suffer from inequalities perpetuated by a legacy of discriminatory laws and policies.
By utilizing LGBTQIA2S+, NRS hopes to acknowledge underserved people in Indigenous and Native communities.
You can make a difference in the lives of those who identify as Two-Spirit. It’s easy. We recommend you start by reviewing the trainings, resources and webinars made available by SAMHSA’s Tribal Training and Technical Assistance Center, an informative guide by the Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Also, consider making a financial contribution or volunteering for an organization that works to advance the interests of Two-Spirit people. Indigenous Pride LA offers a collection of Two-Spirit societies and organizations across the country.
The National Runaway Safeline is committed to serving young people who feel unsafe and unsupported or are struggling in any way when it comes to their sexual orientation and gender identity. If you are a young person who identifies as Two-Spirit, we are here for you 24/7 at 1-800-RUNAWAY and 1800RUNAWAY.org. If you represent an organization that offers resources for young Indigenous or Native people, please consider joining our resource database so that we can refer youth to your services.
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