Darrell Joe – gay Navajo tribe member provides services for gay tribe members – Brief Article
Challenges the Navajo people to once again embrace their gay members
Historians may contend that “two-spirited” gay men in pre-Columbian America held positions of honor and enlightenment in their tribes, but the Navajo culture in which Darrell Joe grew up had no such tradition. Indeed, the “rez” (the Navajo reservation) was highly intolerant of its gay members. Without role models, Joe survived what he calls “a big dark cloud” of alcohol and drug abuse after he tested positive for HIV at age 19. When, two years later, he got into rehab and came out as both gay and HIV-positive, he says it was “a double blow” to his family. Now he’s launching an unprecedented grassroots effort on the rez to “bring gay Navajos back so they don’t feel so separate from their native culture.” Building on his experience and contacts from his job as HIV services coordinator with the Navajo AIDS Network, Joe is working with a number of other activists–including a gay medicine man–to create educational events to “integrate both [gay and straight] communities back to where it used to be.” He’s also launching a second pilot program to provide support for gay and lesbian Navajo youth–beginning in January at a tribal high school near Gallup, N.M.–in an effort to establish mentors, improve understanding, and offer counseling to teens. “I don’t get harassed, probably because I don’t look `gay,'” Joe says, “but if you come here to the rez, you’ll see many flamboyant Navajo. Those are the people that I have a lot of respect for and that I surround myself with, because those are the people who are proud of who they are.”
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