Until recently, my career in journalism had been limited to the music and nightlife scene, a community in which I have been deeply involved for almost two years. I have worked with friends and colleagues that I have known since I started playing, mainly musicians, bartenders and business owners. Since writing for the publication Prism, I have been introduced to a new community, teeming with activists and advocates, beautiful people who want nothing more than to see other souls who share the same same ideas. One of those beautiful people is Will Bean.
Will works with several nonprofits focused on supporting marginalized groups and providing education and tools to those who might not otherwise have easy access. Constantly busy with their community efforts, Will told me, “Work is a big part of my identity right now. As a community organizer, work hours are sort of all the time, and of course I’m a board member of the Identity and Poor Peoples’ Alaska campaign, so things can happen at the last minute. and we have to jump into action the next morning.
Will began volunteering with Identity at the age of nineteen as a chaperone for youth groups. “We provided leadership training, information on restarting a GSA in the event the club breaks down. We really grew to include healthy relationships, I did some decolonization training last spring, and of course just time to connect. We bring young people from across the state here to Anchorage, ”they said. “The other chaperones don’t just tell the kids what to do, they get their opinion on creating this program, which is really important, I think.
They also work as a community organizer for Native Movement, a small nonprofit organization with offices in Anchorage and Fairbanks. As part of the Gender Justice and Healing program, Will primarily focuses on advocating for indigenous LGBT rights, offering training on decolonization, gender and sexuality, and the importance of pronouns. “I want my events and the work I do to be inclusive for everyone because everyone has their own culture and rich ideas. I’m always welcome to have more spirits at the table, get more perspectives and new people, ”they said.
“Will offered a lot of knowledge to those attending their training and their youth groups, but also had the privilege of learning from the people they work with. They told me, “When I was volunteering with Identity, I discovered the term non-binary. I had played with my gender expression for a while, but I was never really fixated on a man or a woman. I heard one of the kids talk about it and something kind of clicked in my head. I was really excited and grateful to be able to learn this from the young people. As a chaperone I was there to give training, but being able to learn something from them was really amazing.
As an Alaskan native member of the non-binary community, Will identified himself as Two-Spirit. They said, “I really like the term because it’s short, sweet, and straightforward, and pretty much encompasses my entire identity. It doesn’t really warrant too much explanation, so it makes things a little easier. When asked about the origins of the term, they told me, “It was coined in 1991. The indigenous LGBT community wanted to find a term, so they came up with a generic two-minded term, which included anyone under the LGBT Umbrella who is also indigenous. After learning more about the term’s colonial roots, Will now uses the term indigiqueer. “Indicating brings my two identities together much like the two spirits do,” they said. “A few years ago I heard of some native Alaskan words, but of course those words were lost throughout history after colonization. It got a little tiring having to explain their roots and the history behind them, so I’m talking about indicating now.
Will has become very self-confident and involved in community activism, but things haven’t always been that way in their lives. As of now, they have spent years battling internalized homophobia and transphobia since their education. “I haven’t really talked about it much, but it’s just been a lot of thinking about where my thoughts and values come from and where I hang out with them. In my head there was a lot of writing, a lot of journaling that got me through it, ”they said.
Fortunately, Will has found their community and has tremendous support and approval from his friends and colleagues. They told me, “My friend and the community groups have been very supportive of me. In my work, we always try to reach out to other people, people who would not usually attend training on gender and sexuality. Most of the people I have met who are generally perceived to be on the other side of the table seem very open to learning these new words and terms and how they can be allies, which was really great. I have seen a lot of changes since I was growing up.
As a seasoned speaker and youth group leader in the LGBT + community, Will gave some advice to those who may be struggling with their identity. They said, “Recognize that it’s okay that you’re struggling right now, it’s going to take a while to get comfortable with yourself and that’s perfectly fine.” It’s okay to reach out to other people. Just make sure you are doing it with a friend who is safe, a safe person who won’t accidentally tell on you. Be very patient with yourself. It took me probably almost a decade to get to where I am now and be myself very without excuse. “
Learning who we are as individuals can be a difficult and frightening process. Some of us may need to train our minds to think differently from what we were brought up to be and work to find communities that will understand and support us. Fortunately, there are many groups and programs in place to help us on the path to self-acceptance and becoming the people we were meant to be, and I personally look forward to getting more involved in such groups. Because our community is wonderful and full of love. It can be a long journey to find them, but there are a lot of great people out there who just want to help. Because they’ve been where some of us are now, and they know how powerful and beautiful we can become with a little help.