Hey guys, I got asked to be apart of an interview from an online Austrian magazine. Here are the questions and here are my answers. Now you guys get to see what I said and what will be edited, enjoy.
VANGARDIST – Progressive online Magazine
Indigenous Peoples & Homosexuality - Interview Questions
Name: Charlie Ballard
Place of residence/birth: Oakland, California.
Name of indigenous community: Anishnabe of Michigan and Sac & Fox of Oklahoma
Occupation: Stand Up Comedian
In a relationship? Single
What is generally the situation of indigenous peoples in your country nowadays?
That is a really broad question because there are so many Indian tribes spread out threw the United States and each community has their own problems. There are also the urban Native American communities that live off the reservation, which is where I was born and raised. Right now I’d say the racist bake sale put on by the Berkeley Republican College club at the University of California in Berkeley was pretty offensive to Native Americans and not only to us but to the rest of the minorities in this country as well. Basically what happened is the BRC sponsored a bake sale demonstration on the CAL campus to show how unfair it is that White students have to pay more for University admissions compared to the lower admission rate minority students pay in the California college system. So the BRC sold cupcakes according to your race and their socio-economic standing in society, White students were sold cupcakes for 2$, Asians were sold cupcakes at 1.50, Latin’s 1$, Blacks .75 cents, women for .25 cents and Native Americans get cupcakes for free.
The word, “free” , gets tossed around a lot with us in this country mostly because the American public is ignorant to the relationship Native American tribes have with the United States Federal government. Most of the ignorance that people have for Native Americans comes from inaccurate history books in schools, television or what the public see’s in the movies.
Right now the Glen Cove issue in Vallejo, California is a hot issue; pretty much the city of Vallejo wants to build a park in an area that is considered to be a sacred burial site to the Native community. This is a typical relationship that most American mainstream communities have with Native American tribes; they don’t care about our land, our sites and our ways. If the residents of Vallejo want a recreational park so badly, then let them go dig up the graves on their cemeteries, put a playground on it and see how they feel about it.
What does it mean being indigenous to you, positive/negative effects?
This is such a great question, I feel like I just answered on one of my facebook status updates, so here it is: Whenever I hear a woman call herself a feminist I usually laugh because they almost always refer to themselves to make their point. Good examples of a real feminist are Native Women activist because they care about both genders, our communities, future generations, and the greater well being for all. I have been very fortunate to know a handful of these community leaders and I do my best to follow their lead. That goes without saying I’m not perfect and I let it show in my comedy, my status updates on twitter & facebook or anywhere else. My thing is not to shy away from my feelings and to express them. My chosen profession is to be an entertainer and to give a reason for people to laugh, so for me finding humor isn’t always going to be politically correct and sticking to the status quo.
When did you first find out that you are homosexual?
I’ve always known I was attracted to the same gender. My parents both knew from an early age I was gay because of my feminine characteristics, I didn’t turn out be one of those masculine gays where it was harder to tell if I was gay or not.
My coming out story wasn't that different from anyone else's, I’m just very thankful that I wasn’t shunned by my mother and given a chance to live my life. Of course I had members in my family who weren’t thrilled about it but with time and understanding, it blew over.
How does your indigenous community feel about homosexuality?
For me, I really didn’t find my place as being a Gay Native American until I went to a boarding school called Sherman Indian High School in Riverside, California. That school literally changed my life, I found other people like me, and being around other community members from other Native American tribes gave me a stronger sense of purpose.
In the olden days, various Indian tribes revered there Two Spirited community members and they had their place within the respective communities. Not all tribes were accepting of the gays back then, the Washoe Indian Tribe of Nevada use to kill them off.
At present time, the Indigenous community is split about there gay community members just as any other community. We have our supporters and we also have people who condemn our lifestyle. A lot of our Indian Nations who have been colonized into Western religion ie Christianity & Catholicism are probably the most critical.
There are quite a few legends and myths varying from tribe to tribe about how the Two Spirited people came into being, for instance, if you ever come across a Navajo tribal member, ask them about what the, “Corn Guy” , has to do with the Nadleeh.
Our Native culture is still thriving, we still have quite a few older Native traditionalists who have passed on our trademark Indigenous values such as kindness and caring for others to the younger generations, without them and those teachings we would be lost.
I definitely think the younger Two Spirit generation have it a little easier then generations passed mostly because of the Internet, the world wide web has made it really easy for them to do social networking. They still endure the same problems as we did while growing up, homophobia, gay bashing, sexism, hatred but they also have a wider support system at their finger tips in case they need it.
How does your indigenous community/peoples feel about partnership in general?
Honestly, I’m single and have never been in a relationship. That’s been my personal choice to remain single. But I can tell you this, our gay partnerships are just like straight couples, it’s nobody’s business but our own. That really is sort of a ridiculous question, I wouldn’t expect to walk up to a straight couple and ask them if they need my approval to be happy.
Native American culture is matriarchal based, the women are the bosses. So for us being Two Spirited that basically means we’re on double duty.
This question wasn’t asked but from my experience, I’ve noticed Native Lesbian have a higher tendency to be coupled in the communities, and 90% are raising kids.
I have many straight friends who were raised by Native gay couples that grew up normal liking the opposite sex. Whenever to raising kids and you have two loving parents or a single parent, gay or straight, you can’t go wrong.
Hopes / dreams for the future / your future?
My hopes and dreams for the future remain the same, I still wish we could all live without the hatred, violence, and embrace each other as brothers and sisters of the world living in peace.
Everything else you want to add?
Yeah, I’m totally single and very into Austrian men, beginners welcome.
Being a comedian, is it harder for you in the business or does it give you an advantage?
Being an out and open queer comedian hasn’t hindered my stand up comedy career, being a foul mouth, shit talking, no holds barred stand up comedian has hindered my career, which is fine because those are the kind’ve comedians I look up to. After all, if I can’t make people laugh by speaking from my heart, then what point is there in being a stand up comedian?
I want to remembered as being funny, regardless of how I decided to label myself or how other people decided to label me.
I don’t have any favourite joke per say because I’m never satisfied with what I write or what I come up with but I will tell you guys this, I do love a good dick joke, obviously.
I got asked more questions, so here you go:
- when we asked about your indigenous community feels about partnership in general, I guess you misunderstood our question... We didnt mean to say that gay couples need to kinda justify their relationship in any kind, etc. but rather wanted to know what is traditionally the understanding of partnership, i.e. the role of man/woman or if its considered very important to have a partner, or being married etc.
*I am single and have been single for a long time. I suppose if I did manage to meet another guy and we did live together, I would totally let him be the breadwinner, not because I want to take the housewife role but because I'm lazy and don't want to work. I have heard from older Two Spirits that we had gay marriage in our communities long before, "it was glimmer in the eye", (John Hawk Co-Cke') from of our Western gay counterparts, so that should tell you right there how are partnerships have promoted family and togetherness in our communities. I can say this for sure, our Native relationships are a lot less stringent then Western relationships. I have heard in the Catholic Church that the first time you get married and it ends in divorce, you are considered a failure, where as if you're Native and you're first marriage ends in divorce, you're just getting started.
- plus from what I can see also from clips of your shows, when asked if being native and gay makes you double special so to say, you'd agree. (I sensed that because a lot of times when you tell the audience that your ethnicity is native american, you're kinda jokingly but also seriously wait for applause..same goes for being gay...). Response? ;)
*In the beginning of my stand up comedy career I had to announce my ethnicity a lot because I look racially ambiguous, at least to non-natives, and plus it sets up the audience for the jokes I cover. Coming from the racially diverse San Francisco Bay Area, its hard for everyone to guess my background, I usually get Hawaiian, Filipino, Chinese or Samoan. Its also a little redundant for me to announce I'm gay to my audiences because they usually sarcastically respond back, "oh really, no way, we totally didn't get that, duh" .
I really do appreciate the time you guys are taking to do this write up.
Oh yes, I like my Austrian men a little on the beefy side like Arnold Schwarznegger but taller and do you know what's weird, ever since I started doing this interview with you guys I've been craving Vienna sausage, what's that about?