Six Nations woman shares her transgender experience

News Jan 19, 2015 by Colleen Toms Brant News

Aiyyana Maracle is an accomplished writer, an award-winning theatre artist, an opera director, a visual artist and a scholar.

Yet she lives in poverty.

Born on Six Nations, Maracle recently returned to her birthplace to build a home with her adult son and his wife. After years of being estranged from her family, Maracle is building new connections and a new life.

“In the last few years I’ve reordered my perception of family from something that had been a terrible thing and something that I wasn’t a part of for most of my life,” she said. “I now have not just my son, I now have my grandchildren and great-grandchildren and nieces and nephews. It has allowed me to come back to a positive place in terms of relationship with family.”

Maracle’s life journey has been rife with ridicule and abuse. Categorized as a male at birth, the Haudenosaunee grandmother began her gender transformation after her last divorce at age 40.

She raised four children, two are biological, and all were grown and gone.

“I was in a moment of great turmoil and transition and at that point the grandmother spoke to me and said ‘it’s time,’” Maracle said. “I wrote in my book that the safe cocoon that we had made for Aiyyana inside was slowly becoming a death shroud and if Aiyyana didn’t emerge, neither one of us would have survived.”

Now 64, Maracle serves as a voice and activist for young trans or gender nonconforming individuals. She co-facilitates Gender Journey, a peer support group run out of the Grand River Community Health Centre since 2012.

Her gender journey was compounded by the fact that she was a native growing up during the 1950s.

“I hid this from the world, from myself, from everyone,” she said of her belief that she was female. “I learned early on that it was hard to be an Indian in North America and to broach that subject, even with family, was at my peril. They would lock me up and I was aware of this even as a small child and I lived in fear of being locked up well into my 20s.”

When Aiyyana’s transition was complete, she was not received well. She threw herself into theatre and directing.

“The more confidence I gained as an artist, the more confidence I gained to be out and speak about it,” Maracle said. “There is no mirror for who I am. From necessity I became the mirror for all the younger ones.”

While small, incremental gains are being made in the acceptance of LGBTQ individuals, Maracle said transsexual women are still struggling.

“Transsexual women are still at the bottom of the heap,” Maracle said. “We are the only ones who have not really significantly, really to any degree, (advanced in terms of acceptance).

“When we go in to apply for a job the humiliation of having every f***ing person in the place trot themselves out to look at you and then, when that’s done, they come out and say ‘we can’t hire you.’ I live in poverty and I’m not the only one.”

Maracle is featured in a documentary by Remy Huberdeau called Transgender Parents that will be screened at the Brantford Public Library on Jan. 20 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. A question and answer period with Maracle will follow from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free.

“(People) don’t generally think about transgender people as having children,” Maracle said. “We need and want the same things as anyone else.

“Love, affection, acceptance, respect – to love and be loved.”

Six Nations woman shares her transgender experience

Aiyyana Maracle, 64, featured in documentary film; city screening Jan. 20

News Jan 19, 2015 by Colleen Toms Brant News

Aiyyana Maracle is an accomplished writer, an award-winning theatre artist, an opera director, a visual artist and a scholar.

Yet she lives in poverty.

Born on Six Nations, Maracle recently returned to her birthplace to build a home with her adult son and his wife. After years of being estranged from her family, Maracle is building new connections and a new life.

“In the last few years I’ve reordered my perception of family from something that had been a terrible thing and something that I wasn’t a part of for most of my life,” she said. “I now have not just my son, I now have my grandchildren and great-grandchildren and nieces and nephews. It has allowed me to come back to a positive place in terms of relationship with family.”

Maracle’s life journey has been rife with ridicule and abuse. Categorized as a male at birth, the Haudenosaunee grandmother began her gender transformation after her last divorce at age 40.

She raised four children, two are biological, and all were grown and gone.

“I was in a moment of great turmoil and transition and at that point the grandmother spoke to me and said ‘it’s time,’” Maracle said. “I wrote in my book that the safe cocoon that we had made for Aiyyana inside was slowly becoming a death shroud and if Aiyyana didn’t emerge, neither one of us would have survived.”

Now 64, Maracle serves as a voice and activist for young trans or gender nonconforming individuals. She co-facilitates Gender Journey, a peer support group run out of the Grand River Community Health Centre since 2012.

Her gender journey was compounded by the fact that she was a native growing up during the 1950s.

“I hid this from the world, from myself, from everyone,” she said of her belief that she was female. “I learned early on that it was hard to be an Indian in North America and to broach that subject, even with family, was at my peril. They would lock me up and I was aware of this even as a small child and I lived in fear of being locked up well into my 20s.”

When Aiyyana’s transition was complete, she was not received well. She threw herself into theatre and directing.

“The more confidence I gained as an artist, the more confidence I gained to be out and speak about it,” Maracle said. “There is no mirror for who I am. From necessity I became the mirror for all the younger ones.”

While small, incremental gains are being made in the acceptance of LGBTQ individuals, Maracle said transsexual women are still struggling.

“Transsexual women are still at the bottom of the heap,” Maracle said. “We are the only ones who have not really significantly, really to any degree, (advanced in terms of acceptance).

“When we go in to apply for a job the humiliation of having every f***ing person in the place trot themselves out to look at you and then, when that’s done, they come out and say ‘we can’t hire you.’ I live in poverty and I’m not the only one.”

Maracle is featured in a documentary by Remy Huberdeau called Transgender Parents that will be screened at the Brantford Public Library on Jan. 20 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. A question and answer period with Maracle will follow from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free.

“(People) don’t generally think about transgender people as having children,” Maracle said. “We need and want the same things as anyone else.

“Love, affection, acceptance, respect – to love and be loved.”

Six Nations woman shares her transgender experience

Aiyyana Maracle, 64, featured in documentary film; city screening Jan. 20

News Jan 19, 2015 by Colleen Toms Brant News

Aiyyana Maracle is an accomplished writer, an award-winning theatre artist, an opera director, a visual artist and a scholar.

Yet she lives in poverty.

Born on Six Nations, Maracle recently returned to her birthplace to build a home with her adult son and his wife. After years of being estranged from her family, Maracle is building new connections and a new life.

“In the last few years I’ve reordered my perception of family from something that had been a terrible thing and something that I wasn’t a part of for most of my life,” she said. “I now have not just my son, I now have my grandchildren and great-grandchildren and nieces and nephews. It has allowed me to come back to a positive place in terms of relationship with family.”

Maracle’s life journey has been rife with ridicule and abuse. Categorized as a male at birth, the Haudenosaunee grandmother began her gender transformation after her last divorce at age 40.

She raised four children, two are biological, and all were grown and gone.

“I was in a moment of great turmoil and transition and at that point the grandmother spoke to me and said ‘it’s time,’” Maracle said. “I wrote in my book that the safe cocoon that we had made for Aiyyana inside was slowly becoming a death shroud and if Aiyyana didn’t emerge, neither one of us would have survived.”

Now 64, Maracle serves as a voice and activist for young trans or gender nonconforming individuals. She co-facilitates Gender Journey, a peer support group run out of the Grand River Community Health Centre since 2012.

Her gender journey was compounded by the fact that she was a native growing up during the 1950s.

“I hid this from the world, from myself, from everyone,” she said of her belief that she was female. “I learned early on that it was hard to be an Indian in North America and to broach that subject, even with family, was at my peril. They would lock me up and I was aware of this even as a small child and I lived in fear of being locked up well into my 20s.”

When Aiyyana’s transition was complete, she was not received well. She threw herself into theatre and directing.

“The more confidence I gained as an artist, the more confidence I gained to be out and speak about it,” Maracle said. “There is no mirror for who I am. From necessity I became the mirror for all the younger ones.”

While small, incremental gains are being made in the acceptance of LGBTQ individuals, Maracle said transsexual women are still struggling.

“Transsexual women are still at the bottom of the heap,” Maracle said. “We are the only ones who have not really significantly, really to any degree, (advanced in terms of acceptance).

“When we go in to apply for a job the humiliation of having every f***ing person in the place trot themselves out to look at you and then, when that’s done, they come out and say ‘we can’t hire you.’ I live in poverty and I’m not the only one.”

Maracle is featured in a documentary by Remy Huberdeau called Transgender Parents that will be screened at the Brantford Public Library on Jan. 20 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. A question and answer period with Maracle will follow from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free.

“(People) don’t generally think about transgender people as having children,” Maracle said. “We need and want the same things as anyone else.

“Love, affection, acceptance, respect – to love and be loved.”