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Steph Viera

(Diné and Salvadorian)

Steph Viera (they/them), is Diné and Salvadorian born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Steph is a writer, producer, organizer, and storyteller with a deep commitment to aid in the intentional storytelling of Indigenous people behind the camera, highlighting the reconnecting, multi-racial, queer, and urban Indigenous communities. They have completed several competitive programs and certificates dedicated to the growing need for Indigenous creatives and filmmakers, such as the Production Assistant Certification Program for BIPOC Storytellers with Justice for My Sister and the WarnerMedia Access Early Career Bootcamp in partnership with Illuminative. Steph was also recently named Resident Facilitator for the LGBTQ and Two Spirit Talking Circle with International Indigenous Youth Council, Los Angeles for 2023. They hold a bachelor’s degree in Film, Television, and Media from California State University, Dominguez Hills, where they studied screenwriting, digital media production, and media representation. Steph remains steadfast in the pursuit of justice for all people and the planet.

Indigi::queer the future by sharing this story.
Downloadable images for Steph's story:  Wide | Square | Tall

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Indigenous people have to be valued as the original caretakers of the world and be put back in that place. At the same time, queer Indigenous people have to be at the forefront and be recognized as leaders [in order] to get to us to the future.

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Today's world is so binary. It’s so black and white in the so-called United States legislation. And I see cis-Indigenous people fighting for [a binary world]. No. This doesn't fit our traditional ways.

I would love a future [where] Two Spirit and queer Indigenous people are cherished and protected, [and where] they can shapeshift into whoever they’re supposed to be. A lot of Two Spirit folks [embody] a different way of living and they should be able to share their wisdom. I would also love to see Two Spirit elders living a long and full life [with] their histories documented.

It's exhausting being an afterthought as a queer, Indigenous person. Sometimes it's exhausting being left out of spaces and [creating] your own. It's tiring to hear we don't have a seat at the table, so we gotta make our own table. That can be empowering, right? I think a lot of us advocate for allyship and I appreciate all of the effort our allies [created] and continue to make, but it needs to [manifest into] permanence in the future.

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I always look forward to meeting youth because in the Talking Circle I run I learn a lot. I learn from them about who I can continue to shapeshift into. I hope our queer Indigenous adults and elders listen to the youth because we learn from them.

I have a few friends who are non-binary parents. They want to raise their kids with the choice to step into who they'll become. I'm seeing all of this legislation pop-up about erasure and trans violence. What I want the youth to know is just because the world is binary doesn't mean you have to be.

I felt safe enough to express what I thought was just being a tomboy or butch. But it was much more than that. Those memories of seeing people who I could become really stayed with me.

I’m in space with somebody that I…some things were going off in my head, like this kind of feels like me. I was a kid and I didn't really understand what that meant at the time, because I definitely had friends who were queer. [But] I think seeing other [adults] out and proud made me feel like this was possible for me one day.

I was fortunate enough to be in a family that was accepting of queer friends and relations. My mom actually had a lot of…I guess you could say butch lesbian friends. And for some reason when I would go shopping with them, or go to dinner and meet my mom's friends, I'm like, “I've never met an adult like this.” And for some reason I just felt seen.

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Curiosity is a big part of the journey. That's how it was for me. I was trying things on, trying out different pronouns, trying out different clothes, and exploring new places, like a queer bar or queer spaces. And [for] spaces that are public and safe, I would definitely encourage someone with a curiosity to go for it and seek support. And if they're afraid to go, especially if parents are not supportive, seek resources or other friends who offer support.

I am comfortable with fluidity, mostly with gender. I think I'm definitely on a continuous journey with gender identification, embodiment, and sexuality. I definitely think that could evolve. It could change, or it could be permanent at one point. I also understand that the term “transgender” is an umbrella and I also identify as trans because I'm actively in transition, being a fluid person most of the time. 

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I describe myself in a number of ways and I see that continuing as a cycle throughout my life. The newest term I've been stepping into is Two Spirit. What I was told and taught is that it's a community role. It's something that is earned. It’s based on tribal affiliation, which I want to honor and respect. I also describe myself as Indigqueer, gender fluid, and at times non-binary, polyamorous, and just plain old queer. <Laughs>. So I feel like it depends on the day and the week.

Later, I was like, “Hmm, do I really feel like a girl?” Was I trying to step into a different gender? Was I also embracing masculinity? Things aren't so black and white. And they don't have to be.

I grew up playing sports, and that helped me step outside typical gender roles of a girl, in which you have to be soft, nurturing, polite, sit a certain way, and look a certain way. But when I played sports, I could be aggressive and get dirty and hit things really hard.  And I would still feel like a girl, you know?

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That definitely carried with me into adulthood. I'm so much more comfortable with public speaking and telling people what's behind the stage curtain. That's why I have so much confidence around coming out. At one point I didn't care if anyone was going to support me or not. I just was like, “You know what? I'm tired of pretending this gender assignment is me.” I think back to that theater kid and I’m provided with the confidence to not perform, but rather [to] understand what it means to be me.

As a kid in this afterschool program—where it was highly encouraged to try different hobbies, like playing an instrument, painting, drawing, or forming your own basketball team— we had a theater program. So I was like, “Oh! I wanna try that.” I wanted to pretend to be somebody I don't get to be. It was a natural fit for me and I got cast as the lead in a play. Stepping into a new character was so fun. It felt natural. I could be somebody else. That was my first memory of confidence [building] and “Ooh, I get to pretend.”

When I was a kid, maybe kindergarten or first grade, I knew I was different from a racial standpoint, being Native in an urban setting. But I also knew I wasn't attached to the female gender I was assigned at birth. I knew there were other parts of me that I would welcome into my spirit.

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