A newlywed Indigenous couple is working hard to destigmatize queer love in Eeyou Istchee and create the safe spaces they themselves needed.
Annie Decontie is a Cree-Algonquin who works organizing sexual health workshops in Cree communities in northern Quebec.
Falicia Green is an Ontario Ojibwe, youth advocate and has worked as a sexual health outreach worker.
“There is still a lot of healing that our people need to do,” said Decontie, who uses the pronouns they/them, she/her.
Both Decontie and Green said intergenerational trauma is at the root of homophobia in many Indigenous communities.
“Enough of the lateral violence. We need to focus more on lateral love,” said Green, who uses the pronouns they/them, she/him and him/her.
The couple married on September 2 in Ottawa. Although it was a day full of joy, the couple also decided to celebrate their wedding outside the territory, so they could feel safe on their special day.
Decontie and Green moved to Mistissini to be closer to their family in July 2020, but after being the target of several homophobic comments, they decided to move away from the community in August 2021.
“Especially the year we lived in Mistissini, it was very difficult,” Decontie said, adding that they were once walking hand in hand on the way to buy snacks at the store when someone jumping nearby shouted homophobic slurs out the window.
“That’s my home and I felt totally left out,” Decontie said.
The homophobia the couple faced didn’t just come from strangers.
Decontie first confessed to her grandmother when they knew things were getting serious as a couple. Her grandmother turned them away and told them not to bother coming home to visit.
“[I told my gookum] It breaks my heart that you can’t see how much love we have for each other,” Decontie said, adding that she will always love her grandmother.
Green grew up in Sault Ste. Marie has and has openly gay members in her family.
“Where I grew up, it was normal to see queer people. It was celebrated. So moving and going to a space where there wasn’t the same safety net that I knew was definitely scary,” Green said.
Decontie said the decision to leave Mistissini was made to protect the couple’s peace.
“Mistissini will always be a little piece of our home. Even if we are not there, we are still very integrated into the community and the territory,” Decontie said.
Working for change in Cree communities
The couple travels together to Cree communities to engage young people and talk about healthy relationships, consent and gender identity.
They also train health professionals around two spirit and LGBTQ sensitivity to help organizations become more inclusive.
“It’s going to be difficult when it comes to learning, unlearning and relearning… but it’s not impossible,” Green said.
They say access to sexual health workshops is a form of suicide prevention and harm reduction.
“I was one of those young people who had a lot of internal homophobia,” Decontie said.
“It’s very important. Teaching this, learning about this, is saving lives.”
The power of unconditional love
While acceptance may be harder for some, like Decontie’s gookum, many members of their family remind them that they are on their side.
The wedding ceremony in Ottawa was beautiful, with many friends and family present, allies who helped create safe spaces and gave the couple the wedding of their dreams.
“I’m still trying to find words to describe how loved I felt that day… It was amazing to be surrounded by everyone who supported us as a couple,” Green said.
The couple plans to shorten their last names to Decontie-Green.
“I couldn’t sleep. I was so excited to finally see my best friend and say ‘forever,'” Decontie said.
“We are here and we will always be here. Love will always win,” Decontie said, adding that the two-spirit people and the Indigiqueer existed before colonial contact.
Your message to Indigenous youth who may be questioning their gender identity or sexual orientation? You are not alone.
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you… and if you have a family that doesn’t accept you, we’re your family now,” Decontie said.