2SLGBTQ+ members of Auviqsaqtuq celebrated at conference for 1st time

2SLGBTQ+ members of Auviqsaqtuq celebrated at conference for 1st time

2SLGBTQ+ members of Auviqsaqtuq celebrated at conference for 1st time

Elder Levinia Brown held a workshop at the event

A portrait of two people smiling.
Levinia Brown, left, and Maxine Anguk. Both spoke at a conference workshop where 2SLGBTQ+ members were celebrated. (Submitted by Levinia Brown)

For the first time ever the Auviqsaqtuq Inuit Studies Conference celebrated its 2SLGBTQ+ members.

It came in the form of a workshop where people could gather to share their experiences being gay in an Inuit community during the event, held in Winnipeg in mid-June.

Auviqsaqtuq (Ouuuv-vick-suk-took), can be translated to cutting blocks to make an igloo, according to the event’s website, or working together to build an igloo. Its theme is around collaboration, Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, sharing intergenerational knowledge, and building together.

The conference began with a keynote lecture by Juno award-winning Inuk singer/songwriter Susan Aglukark, and continued with a range of keynote speakers on art, language, health, governance and reconciliation, climate and youth, from across the north including Nunavut and Greenland.

“One of the things I am most proud of with this Inuit Studies Conference, in particular, is our strong emphasis on both youth and elders,” said Heather Igloliorte, with Concordia University, and one of the co-founders of the event alongside the University of Winnipeg’s Dr. Julie Nagam.

For Maxine Anguk, it was a chance to speak out about some of the challenges of their past.

“I was in the closet for a long time,” said Anguk, while sharing her experience growing up gay in Whale Cove, Nunavut, during the event.

“It’s scary growing up in a small town where, you know, everyone’s super religious and I grew up Catholic, I had to go to Sunday school.”

Anguk said the small religious community made it hard to be herself, and she wanted to know why Inuit didn’t talk more about 2SLGBTQ+ issues.

Anguk coordinated the workshops for members of the LGBTQ community to speak with elders at the recent conference to learn more about how being gay fit into Inuit culture before colonization.

A portrait of a woman standing in front of a sign reading 'Tea with Elder Livinia Brown, a LGBTQIA2S+ safe space.'
Levinia Brown held a 2SLGBTQ+ workshop at an Inuit conference in Winipeg in June. (Submitted by Levinia Brown )

Elder Levinia Brown said traditionally in Inuit culture, everyone was accepted.

“From the stories that were gathered and what I saw with my own eyes growing up, it was completely different from today,” Brown said.

“Because everybody was accepted and quite often we noticed the behaviour of how they act.”

She added Inuit before colonization “didn’t make a fuss” if people expressed themselves in various gender roles or over who they chose to be with. “We just loved them,” she said.

That’s partly why, Brown said, there is still no proper terminology in Inuktitut to reference the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

“We have to accept everyone and make room for them … they are just like us and I hope we can find more safe spaces for them.”

Brown hopes that more elders will help find a term that is inclusive and represents everybody.

With files from Pauline Pemik