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Miseducation of Cameron Post Finds a Home for LGBT Native Americans

'Miseducation of Cameron Post' Finds a Home for LGBT Native Americans

'Miseducation of Cameron Post' Finds a Home for LGBT Native Americans

Star Forrest Goodluck opens up about the film, what it means to be two-spirit, and appropriation. 

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Sexual confusion is like an iceberg, say the counselors of God's Promise, a pray-the-gay-away conversation therapy camp for LGBT teens. Cameron Post may believe she likes girls, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. The root of the problem is what lies beneath the surface. Each camper at God's Promise is assigned an iceberg illustration where they write the causes of their alleged homosexuality; "too much bonding with dad on sports" or "not enough physical affection from mom." 

Cameron has no fucking clue what to write on her iceberg. 

Directed by Desiree Akhavan, The Miseducation of Cameron Post offers a tragically funny peek inside a fictional 1993 conversation therapy camp. When Cameron Post gets caught hooking up with a girl at the prom, her religious aunt and uncle send her to God's Promise to cure her of her homosexuality. As Cameron struggles to juggle the intersections of her sexuality, faith, and identity, she meets other queer kids for the first time and pieces together a family that helps her survive on this island of misfit toys.

One of those kids is Adam Redeagle (Forrest Goodluck), a shaggy-haired stoner who is uncompromising in who he is despite how much the counselors chastise him. When Adam and Jane (Sasha Lane) advise Cameron to just write something generic on her iceberg like she didn't get enough love from her parents because the counselors "love that shit," Cameron informs them that her parents are dead. "Even better," they shrug.

Cameron quickly bonds with Adam, and in a small moment a bit later in the film, the young Native American boy comes out to her as not exactly gay, but two-spirit. While softly and subtly introduced, the inclusion of an LGBT Native American character is a groundbreaking move not often explored on the big screen.

"You never really get, as a native actor, roles like that," Goodluck told PRIDE. "This was something I'd never seen before."

"My character, Adam Redeagle, is a Winkte male. It's a Lakotan word literally meaning 'killed by woman.' The identity feels that their spirit, their internal male spirit, is being killed by a female spirit and that's embodying them. It's kind of this beautiful poetic metaphor of how it feels for some people to have this static in them and this battle of identity."

Understanding the cultural impact the character could have, Akhavan initiated a meeting between Goodluck and a Native American who identified as two-spirit, or more specifically to his tribe, Winkte. "We went to a Friendship House, which is like the Native American meeting place in certain cities, in bigger cities. Just sitting down and talking with someone who was in the period the film took place through that whole feeling, just being in his presence and hearing what he had to say helped me the most. It really solidified who the character was to me. 

The aboriginal definition of two-spirit has changed throughout history and is still evolving. "In his day and still to an extent now, Winkte is kind of equivalent with the word faggot in many ways and is used as a put-down," Goodluck explained. "Back in the day, it was something that was accepted, but through our own people's influence with western culture and learning from someone else's narrative of what's right and wrong, we adopted that being Winkte was bad. Now, people are reclaiming the identity and you're starting to see a lot more acceptance." 

Two-spirit has leaked into pop culture recently with the coming out of indie-singer Jason Mraz, who seized the term in a Billboard interview earlier this month, "I’ve had experiences with men," said Mraz. "It was like, 'Wow, does that mean I am gay?' And my wife laid it out for me. She calls it 'two-spirit,' which is what the Native Americans call someone who can love both man and woman. I really like that."

But if you're not Native American, it might be best to stay away from using the phrase. 

"I'm not two-spirit or Winkte, so I don't know if I want to speak to that," Goodluck made clear, "but for me, the word Winkte is a Lakotan word. So much of Native identity draws from the feeling and from the upbringing and the culture and for me, it would be inappropriate to see somebody claim to be two-spirit when they aren't of that culture. In the same way, I'm uncomfortable with the appropriation of other native cultural items or lifestyles that I see that people adopt when they think it's cool but they don't really understand where it comes from or the influence of what it means."

With the little to none representation of Native American people in film, Goodluck was honored to take on the two-spirit character in Miseducation and credits director Desiree Akhavan for sharing Adam's story so beautifully, "It was really special." 

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is out in theatres now. 

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Taylor Henderson

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one! 

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one!