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Exploring Two-Spirit Identity and Adoption Part Two
Episode 248th November 2022 • Family Twist • Corey and Kendall Stulce
00:00:00 00:46:30

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How does a discovery about your heritage reshape your life and identity?

Join us on this compelling episode of Family Twist where Jack Malstrom shares their fascinating journey of self-discovery and the powerful impact of learning about their indigenous roots and Two-Spirit identity. As a Two-Spirit advocate and a voice for the LGBTQ+ indigenous community, Jack's story offers a unique perspective on embracing true self in the face of societal norms.

Exploring Two-Spirit Identity and Adoption Part Two

Listeners will gain:

  • A deep understanding of the Two-Spirit identity within Indigenous cultures and the modern challenges and triumphs associated with it.
  • Insights into navigating personal and cultural identity, including the complexities of adoption and heritage discovery.
  • Strategies for self-advocacy and the importance of maintaining one’s cultural and personal integrity in diverse societal structures.

Discover the transformative power of heritage and identity by tuning into Jack's enlightening and heartfelt story on this episode of Family Twist.

Listen to Jack's radio show: Rose City Native Radio

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Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

This is Family Twist, a podcast about astonishing adoption stories and finding family via DNA magic. I'm Kendall. And I'm Corey. And we've been inseparable partners in life since 03, 04, 05, also known as March 4th, 2005. In January 2018, our found family journey took us 3000 miles from the San Francisco Bay area to New England, where we now live near my biological father, two half siblings and their families.

We love being near them all and the adventure continues. Hi, it's Cory. Thanks for joining us for part two of our interview with Jack Maelstrom. If you haven't listened to part one, I encourage you to do that first. Jack's adoption story is pretty remarkable. They discovered that they were not in fact Hispanic, but indigenous. And that discovery has led Jack on an amazing path, which we will get into in part two. So can we talk a little bit about...

two spirits and how often do you have to explain what that means to people? A lot. It's, it's, it varies. So, you know, you kind of gauge the situation of like, do I feel like going into my PowerPoint today or do I just say I'm bisexual? You know, it's just one of those things I've been trying to be more intent. Well, not in tenfold. What's the word like more conscious about like.

not taking the easy road with it and still sticking with two -spirit because that is what I am and not using like Western terms that don't fully fit just because I don't feel like explaining myself. I feel like it's important to normalize using that identity and term and getting people used to things like that. I mean, same with they, them pronouns that I use now and stuff like that. Sometimes it's like, do I feel like still think like a girl today? Do I feel like pretending to be a girl for the sake of not having to explain this person?

why I'm not a girl. And I've also been working on that for myself as well, because again, it's important to normalize that and not adjust my identity to make someone else comfortable. So yeah, I do tend to have to explain it a lot and I'll go into it right now. So Two Spirit, it's an umbrella term that was created by a group of queer indigenous folks up in Canada back in the 90s, the early 90s. And basically it's an umbrella term.

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and a placeholder term that we use to describe our LGBTQ relatives, but also it's a cultural role. So in a lot of tribes, queer folks were seen as sacred and they were medicine keepers, they were adoptive parents, they were negotiators, marriage counselors. Like they held a lot of respect within the community. All for various reasons, of course, you know, some people believe like the way the term two -spirit, like how that comes to be is like in some communities, they believe that you're

blessed with a masculine and a feminine spirit in one body where normally most people just get one. You get two. So you get to see both sides and that's what makes you a mediator. And not all tribes believe in that, of course, but that's kind of where the term came from. And you know, many tribes like the Navajo have a story about the Natle, which is what they call two -spirited folks. And like, you know, man and woman get in a fight and they go to like, I think like two islands and the two -spirited

people have to go back and forth and negotiate them to get back to all being together again. It's a cultural role too that we hold and it's very sacred, but it's very hard to... A lot of the words that we had for that in our various communities were erased because of homophobia and Christianity and things like that. In some of our communities, those words have become derogatory or we're told they're derogatory and it's like,

Is it really, or is that actually like just something we weren't allowed to say, but that's the real name. You know, it's hard. There's not a lot of research on it. There's a lot more research being done on it, but it's difficult because like, obviously they didn't want to keep records of that. And what little records we can find come from a very European lens, be it Spanish or, you know, white European. So it comes from a very hateful and prejudiced lens. So there was a term for us before that called bird ash, which is.

which is a derogatory term and it translates to like roughly like young male prostitute. So they, they already saw us as something like lewd and disgusting. And so in reading journals that do like document this stuff, like it's always like from a very negative aspect. So the whole point of creating this umbrella term was to reclaim that reclaim our, our space within our communities again.

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because homophobia is extremely like present in our indigenous communities. Unfortunately, being able to reclaim that and remember that like obviously queer people exist, like we've existed since the dawn of time. That's just like how that works. I don't know what to tell you. Like there's, we're not a new thing. Gay people have always been around. I don't know why this is like so shocking to people. Gays exist. What? This is news to me. I don't know. I, most of us are really like using it as like a, as a term until we learn.

the term for ourselves, like what our individual, because each tribe has like, you know, their own individual beliefs and wording and like also responsibilities, like cultural role responsibilities. If there is a cultural role, I always see two -spirit as a cultural role of serving your community because like one thing that I've noticed, and you talked to other two -spirits as well, a lot of us are in social work, like an obscene amount of us are in social work and youth work and community work. You will find a lot, I mean, you'll find a lot of queer people there in general, but like,

There's a lot of two -spirit people in social work and in community work. And I don't think that's, that's a coincidence, you know? Um, and I think that's something we've been doing since, you know, the dawn of time is community work. So yeah. So I, I wanted to, because a lot of the time too, like I noticed in like queer POC spaces, they'll talk about how they feel like they have to choose an identity before they go out.

So am I Mexican today or am I gay today? Because I can't blend the two. I feel like I have to pick a side. And I felt like that too. It was like, okay, so I have my indigenous stuff and then I have my gay stuff, but like never the two shall meet. But they have to have, right? Like, you know, and it's just like that questioning of like, again, like gay people exist. They always have. So how, how did, what do we do about that? And like, how did we see that? And so I started asking questions, but most of the people I asked were straight.

So they didn't know. And I got, I got different answers every time. And then finally I was connected to the Portland Two -Spirit Society and I was able to get more answers and met more Two -Spirit folks and like started like really being able to like get access to that information. And then after like about a year, year and a half of like really making sure this is like, like I have an understanding of this. Um,

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I decided to identify as because it felt right. Like bisexual never fit. I used to, I used to not even label myself. I used to say I wasn't picky. Like I was that guy. I just cringe every time I think about it. It's like, holy shit. But it was the early 2000s. What are you going to do? You know? Yeah. Bisexual never really seemed to fit either. And, you know, all the Western labels were a lot. And, but Two Spirit, like not only.

incorporates like my queer identity, but I always use two -spirit as a gender and sexuality identity. So it, and it just fits better for me where like, I have to, you know, list all this alphabet soup in Western terms of like, oh yeah, I'm non -binary and bisexual and I guess pansexual and like demisexual and all this, you know, whatever, which is fine. I mean, you know, it's what it is. It's how English is. I have no respect for that language, but it's how English is, but.

Two -Spirit encompasses, like, it's just to have it in one word makes it so much easier of like an understanding of like, oh, okay, like there's a gender fluidity that comes with that. There's, you know, queerness that comes with that. And I don't have to like, you know, really pinpoint it. It's just an understanding of queer in general, right? It's like how Western people use queer as an umbrella term and like just keep it at that and not trying to like narrow down or like split hairs of anything. It's just me. It's just how I am.

I can use that term. You can understand that I'm queer, but then the rest that follows is up to me as an individual and like how I am personally. So I, I really liked that about it. I love the connection too, that you make to the community. I mean, I think that when you say two spirit over the years, I've come to understand it that way. You know, as an outsider, I think of it like, yeah, that they're, they're kind of.

people that identify as two -spirit are always representing their individual communities. I just think that's wonderful. Yeah. It's really nice to be able to blend those two identities as well because you know, there's the shock that they're, that gay people exist, but then there's extra shock. Gay Native Americans exist? What? You know, like that's a whole other thing. Yeah. Being able to blend like my racial identity with this in like finding space within that culture and every, like,

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Combining all of it and not feeling like I have to choose one is so freeing. And like, I think that there's a lot more recently, like there's, there's a bigger movement of like learning to blend the two identities because of course we exist within our cultures. We always have and like learning to stop separating the two and compartmentalizing them and embracing the ability to blend. Because once we blend that we also show up more in our communities.

and are more represented in our communities in the way that we should be. And again, it's about reclaiming that space that we deserve to be in within our culture and our communities. And we always have been, but through trauma or all these other things, sometimes that does get lost. So it's an important thing, I think, to learn to be able to blend your culture with your identities. And it makes me feel more whole as a person to be able to do that.

Was it challenging at all though, with the very beginning of taking on this radio show where that's a brand new thing to you, discovering your natives, a new thing to you. So you're still learning about that. Um, do I want to put the queerness into it too? Like how soon and you know, into doing the radio show did the native and the queer, you know, start mixing.

That took a while. I actually didn't come, I had like a coming out episode because the person who had started, helped me, was supposed to help me start the show was white, but very involved in the native community. And he had told me like, don't tell them you're adopted. Cause then they'll see you as an outsider and like, they won't listen to you. And so I was like, Oh shit. Okay. So I just wouldn't tell anybody I was adopted.

And I never talked about it on the show and like, I never really like went into it. And then about like, maybe like a year or two into the show, I was invited to cover the National Indian Child Welfare Association's national conference that was in Portland at the time. And, and they're already, they're based in Portland, but it just, this year it happened to be in Portland. And so they invited me to cover it as a member of the media. And I went and like, my life was completely changed. I met other native adoptees.

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I interviewed, you know, folks in child welfare and from the BIA and all this stuff. And like, you know, it really like invigorated me and like gave me like more confidence in who I am and like reminded me to like, I was never ashamed about this before. Why should I be ashamed about this now? There's an entire conference saying it's important for us to talk about this. Um, you know, and so.

When I aired my hour long special on that, like I had an entire monologue of me like basically coming out as an adoptee myself and like actually talking about that on the show and being like, look, like this is where I'm coming from with this. I know I'm new to the community. I know I'm new to, I'm new to all this stuff and this is why, but you know, something tells me that y 'all are going to understand that. And if you don't, you're more than welcome to change the station, you know.

And that's something I've always said when, when people call in upset about something I've said, it's like, you also have the prerogative to change the radio station. Like you don't, I'm not forcing you to listen to me. It was a very warm and like welcoming reception. Like obviously what that dude had said, like was not true in the slightest. The only time I've ever really received pushback about being an adoptee and like talking about these issues is from non -native people.

I very, very, very rarely have encountered that from native people. And even when I do, I have learned how to kind of address that, you know, and just remind them of like where that comes from. And it comes from colonization. So yeah. And then as far as the queerness is concerned, that came, that came a little later. That came probably the following year when I started to get more involved in the two spirit society. And then.

I, cause I hadn't met any other, like I hadn't really been connected with that yet. Didn't know how to connect it and like, didn't know if it was really relevant. And then once I started doing more Two -Spirit Society stuff, I started doing more pride specials. Um, you know, I interviewed the folks who had started the Navajo Nation, the first ever Navajo Nation gay pride event, like the just starting up. And that was like huge, but I started doing that more and.

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And then I, you know, I went out to Standing Rock and was at the Two Spirit camp out there. And so I did a special on that and like, started to integrate that more. It took me a while to get comfortable with that as well. Like even in the work I was doing when I was working for NICWA, I didn't really talk about being queer at work. And then I noticed that they didn't have any LGBTQ curriculum. And I was like, you know, like I could maybe do something on this. Cause like, I'm kind of queer if you'll want.

And, you know, it was a need. It was definitely a need because like, you know, in our communities, unfortunately, like, you know, we have a lot of youth suicides and a good chunk of those youth are LGBTQ youth that are committing suicides in our communities. And so the tribes really wanted and needed that curriculum at the time. And there wasn't really anybody doing that. So I was able to, to form that and work. And I have like a Two Spirit 101 presentation that I do and like working with LGBTQ youth in.

foster care and all of that stuff. So it took a while to build up confidence to be like, is anyone even going to listen to me? I barely know what I'm doing. Like I'm just existing. I've just been doing the work and I'm just talking from what I know in my own perspective. Like I am no expert on this stuff. I just have lived experience in it and that's my expertise. I don't have a college degree in anything. You know, I am just speaking from what I have experienced personally and you can kind of take it or leave it and.

It's taken me a while to like get confidence in that though, and being okay with that. And, and even now sometimes like I get a little shaky with it of like, I'm just some asshole with a microphone. Like, I really don't know. But you know, but at the same time, it's like, again, you can also turn me off. You don't have to listen to me at all. I'm just one perspective. And like me personally, I like multiple perspectives so I can get a 360 view of, of the situation. So I'm just one perspective and whether or not you agree with me, that's fine. But.

abling with them, it was like:

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The native community, they were very excited because there wasn't any, there isn't a lot of POC representation at pride in general. Portland is a very, very, very white city. So getting any POC representation at all is like iffy. And so being able, like a lot of relatives were just like, you know, I saw the teepee and I came over, we had a teepee that unofficially was dubbed the education teepee because people would go in there and ask the dumbest questions I've ever heard in my life.

But you know, it was a journey, but it was very exciting because, you know, we got to meet other natives that maybe weren't as involved and like, you know, they would come to Pride and not expect to see themselves there and then find us and be like, oh my God, like, hi. And like, hey, where are you from? What's your tribe? Oh shit. Like, oh my God. Like you want to hang out or like making new friends and making new relatives and everything. And like they're excited about that. It's also tricky because Pride is usually the same weekend as

the Delta park powwow, which is like a very big powwow here in Portland. So we have to split our time as well, which was like really a big pain in the ass, but the non -native community on the other hand, you know, a lot of rude questions, a lot of racial stereotypes, a lot of, I was an Indian in my past life. A lot of, you know, people would call it like the fuck tent people being like, Oh my God, like, I want to get one of these tents for my backyard. This is so cute. You know,

I wonder why they're listening to a, you know, a very native show. Because they, it's, it's, it's that fetishization. That's the thing is like, Portland may be a very liberal city, but at the same time it's, it's still very racist. It's extremely racist. It's just a, a, you know, racism with a smile. It's underhanded racism. It's not in your face.

So it's it's fetishization. That's why I always say, like when people find out I'm native, like their pupils dilate and they're just like, ah, you know, because it's like they they see they see me as this like mythical creature. I'm not actually a human being anymore. And, you know, my fucking hair comes unbraided and the colors of the wind blow by and they hear the Pocahontas soundtrack in the background and it fucking eagle flies over, you know, shit like that. Like, um, so it's that it's that fetishization. And it's like also like, you know,

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people patting themselves on the back like I'm a good ally because you know, I listen to indigenous voices or whatever. When in reality, like no, it's tokenization and it's fetishization and like you're not actually learning anything. You listen until I hurt your feelings. And I've had white people call in about the things I say about them on my show and saying, and like calling my show racist and stuff like that. And I'm like, calling you a colonizer is not racist. It's stating a fact. Like I don't know what to tell you. But that's sad.

You know, that's that's the breaks. I don't know what to tell you. Like we've even had people call in. We did like my cohost Navajo and we're talking about like turquoise, like how to tell real turquoise from fake turquoise and like the Navajo is no turquoise. And we had some woman call in getting all offended. Well, if I bought by, you know, rocks painted blue from an indigenous person, then that should be good enough. Like offended that we were talking about, you know, fake turquoise is shit. Like people are going to get mad no matter what. And it's fine. And I've learned to like not.

worry about it so much. I used to at first and you know, it was like, well, if I offend people, they're not going to listen to me. And now I've learned like, you can tell very easily, like, are you asking this question because you actually want to learn? Are you asking this question because you think you already know the answer and like, is that worth my time? Right. You know, and, and as I get older, you know, they say, once you turn 30, you stop giving a fuck. And then once you turn 40, you really stop giving a fuck. So at 33, I'm

running out of fucks to give about hurting people's feelings. And I've even upset people in trainings, you know? And I don't even say anything that radical in my trainings. I don't even curse. Like, you know, I just state the fact about boarding schools and it was run by the church and Christianity is a big reason of why we have a lot of problems. And the child welfare system is founded from the church, literally stealing children from parents, like literally scooping them and selling them to white people.

That is the foundation of our child welfare system. It was never built to help us. It was always built to destroy us. And we need to understand that the system we work in, that's where it comes from. You're not going to fix it from the inside out, but you need to have a better understanding of it. If you're going to serve these communities properly, you know, and sometimes that's a hard thing for people to swallow. And I get that, but like truth hurts. I don't know. Right. Yep. Yeah. Too little time to be, you've already kind of talked about the fact that you attended and.

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Did reporting at the national Indian child welfare welfare association conference and where, where you met, you haven't mentioned that you met Sandy Whitehawk, but we read about that fact and we're really curious about the healing circle that Sandy hosts. Right? Yeah. So Sandy Whitehawk is an indigenous adopted elder and has done a lot of advocacy and work.

for Native adoptees and Native veterans as well. She's done Native adoptee powwows and things like that in Minnesota and was doing, continues to do a lot of amazing work for our community. And so she does this like healing circle where, you know, a lot of adoptees attend the conference, obviously. And so we meet in the evening and it's a talking circle basically. So we...

We meet each other, but also like we go around and we have an altar in the middle. We go around and we share our stories and we, you know, we talk about our experiences as adoptees. And I didn't know that's what it was the first time I went. I just, it just is stated as like adoptees meeting or something like that. And so I went thinking, you know, my little, my little zoom recorder, like being like, I'm going to record some stuff. And then I was like, Oh, I'm not good record.

any of this. It was, it was some really heavy stuff. I mean, people share some very rough experiences and I, that the first one for me changed my life as well in just realizing how much I had bottled up of my experiences of being tokenized and the really racist stuff that adults said to me that, you know, my peers had repeated.

from their parents and, and, you know, the ways I was treated growing up. And I realized like, Oh my God, like all of that is really racist. Like, Whoa. And like, and how frustrated I was and, and sad and depressed and, and that all kind of came vomiting out of me. Like it was, it was intense and I wasn't ready for it, but I was supported by people who have been through that. Like people, some people had similar stories to me, to mine.

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And, you know, understood like it was very nice and very healing to be in a circle where everyone understands exactly what you mean. Like there is no difference. We're all native and we all have had to grow up in this system and like exist in this world that is created to like, like pretend that we are still extinct. And so it absolutely changed my life. And it's like, one of the things I always look back on like of like,

When you think about why you do the work you do, like all I have to do is close my eyes and I see that exact same circle. I see all of their faces and like the work I've done is for those people because I owe so much to them, but also just like I owe it to myself and people like me to like continue doing this stuff and, and representing us and like making, you know, hopefully what little future we have like better for people like us, because I don't want anyone to go through what I went through or what they went through.

And so it's, it's, I attended it for multiple years while I was working with Nick, and my birth mom attended it with me one year. She volunteered at the conference and attended it with me and it was very intense, but very good. I think it was really healing for her too. And it's just a great way for like us to come and support each other and like.

You know, again, it's just like, it's really like venting and releasing that and then having your family there to catch you and hold you. You have a new family and you have people who completely understand where you're coming from and, and, you know, being able to lift you up when you're not able to do that yourself. And like, it, it really, it's, it's a very, very powerful thing. And Sandy does such amazing work. Like I really hope I can be her when I grow up one day. Like she's amazing.

Mm -hmm. Yeah. She's still doing what she can and, you know, she's, she's, she isn't elder, so she does what she can, but yeah, she's still consulting and doing talks and things like that and continuing her work. What's it like educating the tribes on the two -spirit? It's tricky. Some tribes are more open than others, especially depending on location. So, you know, I've worked with tribes in Oklahoma. I've worked with tribes in Arizona.

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Alaska, North or South Dakota, you know, stuff like that. It really depends. For the most part, though, I think there is an overall understanding that times are changing and that they need to get on board. More and more tribes are legalizing gay marriage on their on their reservations now more than ever, even more so than when I started this work. I think at the time when I started, there was only 13 tribes, federally recognized tribes that like legalized gay marriage.

And that's growing. I'm sure it's huge now. I haven't checked in a while, but I'm sure it's a lot more now. And, you know, a lot more tribal communities like the Navajo Nation for once, like, you know, for example, are like doing pride events, actually having their own tribal gay pride events, which is huge. And so I think the attitude is definitely changing in some areas better than others. It's tricky because the church...

is sometimes very intertwined, like with my own tribe, the Pasquayaki tribe, Catholicism is very prominent there. So it can be a little tricky having these conversations and really having it be heard and taken seriously and undoing these attitudes. And it can be an uphill battle sometimes, but...

At the same time, those attitudes are slowly fading out, especially as younger folks are getting hired to work for the tribe and newer ideas are being introduced and they're hiring from within their own communities and eventually you're going to catch a gay. Sorry, that's just how it's going to work because we work for communities. So there's going to be a few of us. And there's a big push as well to hire younger generations.

and hire from within the community, you know, to keep people employed and, and to have youth be more interested in their culture and being involved and stuff like that. So with that movement also is going to help encourage a change in attitude towards LGBTQ people because you're going to have a younger staff. You're going to have more open -minded people and you're going to have more queer people on staff in general. So it, sometimes it can be.

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well received, sometimes like you have to repeat yourself a few times and, you know, and oftentimes, you know, the people who really aren't willing to budge are going to get flushed out like a kidney stone. Like time is changing whether you like it or not. So either get with it or like move on like a tumbleweed. I don't know what to tell you, you know? And so it's good to see that change and it is improving. I wish it was improving a little faster, but.

The fact that we're even making progress at all is something. Absolutely. For sure. So you've talked about a good relationship with your adoptive mom and family, a good relationship with your birth mom and your siblings. But you mentioned that it's been a long time since you've been in touch with your birth father's side of the family. Is there a reason for that? Yeah. You know, just cause they're blood related doesn't make them good people. And you know, he was able.

We would talk a lot and he was able to come to my high school graduation. That's the one and only time I've ever met him. He came and my birth mom came. So I had my adoptive parents and both my birth parents at my high school graduation, which is like legendary. Yeah. I mean, they hadn't seen each other in 18 years. So that was a whole thing, but it was very cool. But you know, I just don't think he was ready maybe or like...

You know, I could sit around and speculate all day, but basically he made a lot of promises and, and things and you know, Oh, I'm so excited to be in your life. Like we're going to talk. I'm going to do this. I'm going to help. I was, I was going to Japan to be an exchange student and he's like, I'll send you money for Japan, like all this stuff. And I'm going to help you like get into the school you want and all those things. And then like just dropped off the face of the earth and couldn't get ahold of him. And I, you know, and I.

I called my grandma and I was like, look, like if he's in prison again, cause he's been in and out of prison a few times already. And it's like, if he's in prison again, like you can just tell me, I'm not going to be upset. Like I just want to know he's okay. And like, also just want to know like what's going on. And she's like, well, he moved to Arizona. We have like land on the rez, but look, he's just trying to get his family back together right now. And like, you know, with all the kids and blah, blah, blah. And I was just like, sorry, what? Like.

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trying to get his family back together. Who my chop liver like what the fuck is happening here? You know, no one can really give me a straight answer. And at that point, you know, I I already like wasn't again, like it's not like I've been looking to talk to this man my whole life. Right. And so I kind of just like talked with my parents about it, talk with my mom about it and like really thought about it and was like, you know what? Like, I don't need this. Like I have a dad. I have a dad who shows up for me every fucking day and then some, you know, like.

My father is the only father I need at this point. And if he doesn't want to like, you know, put in the effort of time, you know, part of it felt like he was just doing it, like, relieve some kind of guilt or, you know, say that he finally got to meet me or I don't, I have no idea. But I was just like, I don't need this. My mom, you know, my birth mom had this conversation with him to make sure he wasn't going to do this. And, you know,

he's doing it and she was pissed about it too. And, and you know, he gave her a bunch of excuses too. And I was just like, you know what? Nah, I'm done. So I stopped and I keep in contact with his brother. His brother is very, very cool. He's also queer. He's gay. He lives in LA with his boyfriend. And he's like, I don't know what happened. I was like 12 when you were born. Like my mom didn't tell me anything. All I knew is that he went to jail and then like something about a baby. I don't know.

He's like, I don't know what my brother did, but all I care about is that I have a good relationship with you. Like that's all I care about. And, you know, because when I got in contact with my, with his mom, like her whole, her right out the gate was, Oh my God, they stole you from us. Like, you know, just immediately shit talking, like my birth mom's family and my adoptive family, just like they took you from us. They didn't tell us anything, all this. And it was like, that's your first impression you want to give me right now. Like the first impression wasn't great. And.

So I only really keep in touch with that uncle. My grandmother is a nice person, but she's also like very evangelical Christian and I can't, I can't with that. Yeah. So I didn't talk to my birth father for like about four years. And then my birth mom called me and she's like, yeah, your dad called me out of the blue and he's asking for your phone number. I told him I would ask you permission first and.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

I talked to my dad and I talked to my birth mom and I talked to my boyfriend at the time and everything and just everyone's opinions about what I was feeling. And I told my mom, I was like, tell him things, but no things. Like I have a dad. And then like a few months later, my dad passed away, which really sucked. But I was just like, no, like I don't need someone coming in and out of my life when it's convenient for them. I'm not interested in that. That's so much energy and a waste of my time. I have not heard from him since.

And I've already explained to my uncle that I'm not interested in, you know, please don't tell him when I'm visiting you. Like I don't, I'm not interested in him. Like he tried to come down one time when my uncle flew me out to LA and I was like, no, like I'm not, I'm sending a hard boundary of like, I am not interested. He had a chance. I just really am not interested in playing this game. I'm, I'm already over it. So, you know, it is what it is, but it's, it hasn't really impacted my life in any way.

negatively as, as mean as that sounds. I don't, I don't think it's mean at all. I mean, you just described the way I feel about my birth mother's sister. She's been amazing to Corey and me. She's a lovely person. And you know, if my birth mother doesn't want to have contact with me, it's okay. Five years, you know, later to your point, I'm kind of over caring.

At this point, you know, it's, it takes so much energy and effort and I can't love my on my team more than I do. So, you know, that's the beauty of it. You know? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I have some connection to that side and that's great. You know, I got the answers I needed from my grandma and that's really about it. You know, I have the family I need already. So I feel like I'm already taken care of. So you mentioned earlier about your dad, you know, braiding your hair when you were little.

And you're keeping the braid is part of that sort of like tribute to him. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. You know, this man like dealt with lice three times with this hair, like nitpicked with this hair. I can't feel most of my scalp because of it, but like, I, if he went through that length, no pun intended to make sure that I keep my hair like this, like I owe it to him, but also like,

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

from a cultural identity aspect too, right? Like I was lucky enough to be born into a family that unknowingly let me have traditional hair. And that in itself, I always see as such a blessing. And I'm so thankful for like you ask anybody, like the braid has always been my trademark. It's the braid and the bangs. And that's like, I've looked the same for like 25 years. I've always had the braid. I was born with like,

four inches of hair. Like I've always had long hair. So yeah, like it's just the braid has always been like a core aspect of my identity. And, you know, it's an important bonding tool as well. Like culturally, only family is allowed to touch your hair. It's seen as like an extension of our soul, our thoughts, our being. So like right now with my current partner, I'm teaching him how to brush out my hair and how to braid it. And like, that's our night routine now. And it's, it's,

It's such like an intense bonding experience to have him be able to brush out my hair. And he's terrible at braiding, but he's really trying. He's getting better. I made him like, you know, like those little friendship bracelet things that you can like, you do, you tie it to like cardboard and you like do it. I made him one of those to practice braiding. Like any practices, he has this little practice braid board and then he practices on my hair. But like it was, it was a, it was a really like important bonding thing. There's so many pictures of my dad, like brushing out my hair or braiding it or whatever. Like,

It was an important bonding experience for me and my father growing up. And it was like a way of him showing and taking care of me, you know, and showing love to me and to be able to pass that on to my partners and like show them like, this is a way that, you know, not only culturally, but that I grew up, you know, having someone show me love and care and like a bonding thing for me, I feel connected to you and trust you enough to touch my hair and to braid it. And like, you know, not everybody gets to do that. Everyone wants to touch my hair, which is really annoying.

Really annoying. Please don't touch people without their consent. I can't believe I have to say it, but there it is. It's not a petting zoo. Please stop. You know, there's something very intimate about that and very special. And, and, you know, my partner understands that and is very, you know, he gets a little, a little emotional about it sometimes, but yeah, like I really, I really try to keep it. I kept it for him. And the only time I've ever really cut it, my.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

My previous partner passed away about three years ago. And also traditionally when someone passes away, we cut our hair. But when my dad passed away, I hadn't started doing that yet. I used to like trim it. I trim it once a year. So I would trim it on the anniversary of his death. But then when my partner passed away, I cut my braid in half and went through ceremony with that and everything. And so now I'm starting to get some length back again. My hair grows pretty fast, but you know, I still trim it.

And now I trim it on the anniversary of my partner's death instead. So it's a way for me to express mourning. I also say like long hair is a really good lesson in patience. Like a really good lesson in patience. Like I've had to cut chunks out of this hair before because of swimming in chlorine and not taking care of it and salt water and all this shit. Like I have been through journeys with this hair. This hair is not all one length. I have to learn to deal with that.

But it's also like my father passing down how to take, he taught me how to braid when I was in sixth grade. So I was starting to take care of my own hair by the time I was like 12 or 13 and then learning. And now I continue to take care of it myself, but now I have a partner to help me, which is great. And also like, I don't have to go through all this. So it's awesome. But yeah, it's a very important thing to me. And I think it's, again, like it's one of those like weird things of the universe that doesn't feel like a coincidence that I come from a culture where your hair is very important.

And then I was also raised in a household that really wanted me to have this hair and went through great, great effort to make sure that I got to keep this hair and have that passed down to me, have these skills passed down to me that I would have otherwise had to learn, probably not till my 20s. And then attempting to grow all this out. So yeah, it's very, very important to me. It's very special. Well, we're definitely going to keep up with seeing.

Amazing work that you're doing and we will link to the, to the radio show, the show notes on this episode. I mean, you're doing so much right now. You know, you're a broadcaster, an educator, a social worker. Where, what's the next five years look like for you, Jack? Where do you want to go? I'm not sure. I'm mostly doing freelance consulting at the moment and kind of trying to like, re -figure out stuff. You know, my, my life has taken quite a turn in the last three years, obviously.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

And I'm trying to just regain my footing and see what I want to do next. So I'm kind of in a weird in between, but if y 'all are hiring, let me know. I'm gonna put that out there. But yeah, at the moment I've been doing a lot of DJ work. I've been doing a lot of drag performances. And I still do consulting on the side. Like I've, I've done presentations for Washington state child welfare services in Eastern Washington. And I did one for Oregon child welfare.

as well. And so like, I still do Two Spirit 101 if, if anyone is looking for that as well, you know, happy to provide resources or whatever you need. I do, I still do talks and stuff like that. So we'll see. I really don't know, but I'm hoping it's still something, you know, still being part of the community, still being here, still being queer, still, you know, joint pain, moderate to severe, just, just trying to live my life and, and, and be as visible as possible for others like me, you know, so.

Hopefully I'll, I'll have some more exciting stuff than just saying, I don't know, but you know what is midlife crisis. I'm in my thirties now. I can say that. Right. No, not quite. But said the guy in his fifties, but, but we're, we hope you could connect with us again, too. And we could follow up and see where you are in your journey. And before we let you go, I mean, I almost forgot to ask and shame.

shape of me being kind of like being huge drag fans. Yeah. But, but please tell us a little bit about your drag persona. Yeah. So my drag persona is HeLa Suspectum. It's also my DJ name. So my birth father is from HeLa River Indian community. I also kind of identify with a HeLa monster because I love heat. I don't know how I've lived in Oregon for like over 30 years. I'm always cold. I wear a hoodie all through summer. So I.

I have created a drag persona. I'm what they call a drag cryptid. So I'm not a drag king. I'm not a drag queen. I'm a drag creature, if you will. So it's more of a like lizard amphibian type of thing. And I say it's like a creature from the black lagoon meets Gila monster persona. Yeah. Yeah. So I'm a member of the drag house of smokes here in Portland. And I've just started to do in -person performances. I've done a few on zoom.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

during COVID and things I used to stream on Twitch and do Creature Feature, which was my DJing and drag streaming show that I did on Twitch for a while that I hopefully will bring back. We'll see. Stay tuned. Yeah. Yeah. I hopefully will go back to Twitch and do Creature Feature again. I want to do Creature Feature here in Portland live as well, which would be great. But yeah, I wear my traditional shells and things like that.

along with creature full face, creature makeup, fins, the works, fishnets, and contact lenses, all of that. So I really enjoy FX makeup. I've always enjoyed it. And I decided that this was one way for me to like fully express myself and not wait till Halloween to do it. And I have other friend drag performers who were very supportive and, and also, you know, getting some more representation out there again, like for non -binary folks like me and

I didn't even know that I could be a cryptid until I joined a Facebook group and met other people who did creature drag because I was like, I don't want to be a drag king. I don't want to dress up like a dude. I'm not interested in that. I'm not interested in gender in general. Can I just be a monster, please? Turns out you can. You can be whatever the hell you want. Drag is whatever the hell you want. So that was really cool for me to find out. So that's what I've been doing currently. And...

HeLa Suspectum is a play on the scientific name of HeLa monster. So it's actually HeLa derma Suspectum. Um, but instead I did HeLa as in HeLa river, not HeLa dermum. And Suspectum was just really cool addition to that. Yeah. It's the most poisonous lizard in the United States. So that's pretty cool. And they're also seen as sacred to my tribe too. Cause they're very respective. So that's pretty cool.

But yeah, and their colors are Halloween, which makes sense because I love Halloween. So there's a lot going on there, but yeah, so that's my, that's my drag persona and the things that I do. I do creature drag here in Portland and hopefully gonna, well, I also did it in Seattle, so hopefully I can do it more nationally and expand my creature domain. For sure. Yeah. It's, I don't know if you've traveled down to the Bay area. Well, I know you lived in the Bay area very briefly, which is funny because I worked in Hayward for eight years.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

Before moving to New England, we were in the Bay area for nine years and love it. And we hope to go back. So if you haven't, if you haven't taken Heela down there yet, not yet. I want to take it to the baits to spirit powwow. 2020 was my first year going to the two -spirit powwow down in San Francisco, but then COVID hit.

So eventually maybe one day I'll be able to bring it down to the Bay Area. I did Seattle Pride this year. That was my first in -person show ever, which was awesome. But yeah, hopefully I'll be able to come down and I miss California anyway. Well, it just seems like I've just got a really good vibes and exciting things are coming down the road for you, Jack. I hope so. Oh, thanks. But I mean, in the meantime, you've been.

Wonderful guests. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing so much of your story. Yeah, thank you so much for having me. This was a blast and I really hope again like we can follow up at some point. Yeah, I'm very, very happy to be on the show. Thank you so much for having me. Family Twist features original music from Cosmic Afterthoughts and is presented by Savoir Faire Marketing Communications.