Ivo Blackstone is no stranger to the subject of social inclusion and what it means to be part of a diverse community. For 10 years Ivo has worked with youth as a social activist and personally identifies as a two-spirited, non-binary Indigenous person. Ivo has a lot to say about how we can be more inclusive, so we sat down with Ivo to talk about diversity where we live.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
My Indian name is Sta’xai’luum, I come from the Cowessess Indian Band in Saskatchewan, but was born and raised here in East Van. I’m a Program Facilitator for a not-for-profit organization called LOVE where I work with youth. Together we do photography, creative writing and film while having amazing conversations about violence while using those art mediums to share messages around non-violence.
Do you mind sharing about your identity?
I identify as two-spirited which means ‘living with two spirits within you’ (masculine and feminine). It’s not just a gender identity but also a cultural role within my Indigenous community. The term resonates with me. That’s who I am.
What barriers do you think the LGBTQ community faces in BC today?
Higher mental illness, murder and suicide rates – lots of stuff. The other day I had a woman bump into me at a mall and call me a f****t!
How did that make you feel?
I’m angry at a society that deems me to be less than perfect or less than human. It should make you angry too!
Do you think our community is a welcoming place for minorities?
As someone who passes as white, people feel that they can confide their racism and anti-immigrant sentiment with me. I’m like, “actually, I’m native and this really affects me.” I’ve grown up seeing racism; it has been here for longer than people want to admit.
What do you think about the U.S. presidential election and the prevalence of racial discrimination?
Racism has always been a part of Canada and the U.S. Recently with all the rhetoric that’s been public, its allowed folks to come out and be a lot more vocal.
Do you ever get asked frustrating questions that make you feel uncomfortable?
I get uncomfortable when people ask me to speak for an entire population. I don’t feel like one person can do that. Also, a lot of times when I talk about my gender identity, people ask what my genitalia is and I get uncomfortable. It’s not something they need to know about.
Any ideas on what we can do to fix some of these issues around inclusion?
We need to restore funding to organizations who have done amazing work but have had their funding cut. I’m more inclusive in my own life by sharing stories with my friends and addressing when there is racism in the room.
Do you think where you do your banking can make a difference?
Yes, of course it makes a difference. Lots of banks support pipelines that have gone through my friends’ homes! Bella Bella in Heiltsuk territory is a special place in my heart. It’s where my shell and eagle feather are from and was recently polluted.
When it comes to diversity intolerance, what makes you proud about where you live?
I’m really proud to live in a place where I’m not discriminated against in my workplace by my culture, gender identity, sexuality and to actually have those things appreciated.
How do you think our communities can become more inclusive? We’d love to hear your thoughts on Twitter.