Arielle Twist. (Alex Van Helvoort) As a Cree, two-spirit and transgender woman, Arielle Twist has every reason to be afraid of love.
"I feel like love, for me, right now is love outside of sexual relationships," she said. "I’m trying to figure out how to navigate being a sexual person but also dealing with the things that have been happening in my relationships."
In 2018, 36 per cent of the women killed in Canada were Indigenous, despite representing only five per cent of the population.
Transgender people are almost twice as likely to experience partner violence in their lives, according to the Canadian government.
But that doesn’t mean Twist is always afraid. "I wouldn’t be able to exist in this world, as cool and fabulous as I am, if I was scared all the time," she said.
The writer and sex educator, originally from George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan, finds love in kinship and relationships with community.
Twist has been open about her transition and life before and after — she often writes about sex, love and relationships from her perspective. She said she receives a lot of support from trans youth, many of whom appreciate seeing a similar perspective to theirs out in the open. The cover of Arielle Twist’s upcoming book, Disintegrate/Dissociate, out in March. (Arsenal Pulp Press) But Twist’s voice isn’t the only prominent Indigenous trans person making waves — a far cry from what Twist remembers when she was younger. "I had never seen Indigenous trans women, growing up," she said. "And now they’re reading books by us, which is kind of incredible."
Twist’s first book, Disintegrate/Dissociate , will be out in March. It’s a collection of poetry that’s all over the map. She writes about her transition, sex, love, violence, and displacement, among other things.
She uses metaphors and vagueness in her poetry to describe things in her life — describing her body as land, for example — which gives Twist the creative freedom she needs to express herself.
But ultimately, Twist said what she wants out of a romantic relationship is the same thing everyone else wants.
"I think love looks like being able to be messy, and sad, and grieving constantly and having someone take care of you and love you through that."
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