South Shore Palliative Care secretary, Lydia Brake, wants biracial, queer youth to know that they’re not alone in their journey
Growing up for the average teenager can be a confusing and conflicting time for most. This is a formative time in one’s life filled with the trials of self-acceptance and exploration, finding your footing and purpose in life and carving out a place where you belong.
These challenges are only amplified for biracial and queer youth who face a greater hurdle of internalized “otherness” due to lack of acceptance and representation. Each of these factors brings its own unique and specific set of challenges to one’s journey towards adulthood.
For South Shore Palliative Care secretary Lydia Brake, growing up wasn’t an easy experience as they struggled with both of these factors throughout their formative and teenage years. Brake was born on Ktaqmkuk (Newfoundland) to a white mother and Indigenous father and was raised in Kespukwitk (Western Nova Scotia).
Brake self-identifies as a gender-queer lesbian and goes by the pronouns they/she/he and is slowly walking down the road towards being two-spirit.
Growing up Brake said they struggled with their biracial identity in particular after witnessing first-hand the discrimination their father faced for being an indigenous person. This led Brake to feel isolated from their own family and reinforced the idea that there was something wrong with who they are.
“I grew up rejecting my Indigenous identity because I was so insecure in my skin and how it felt,” said Brake.“I took advantage of having lighter skin from my mother to pass off as just white. I thought, ‘I’m not going to touch the language, I’m not going to touch the culture, I’m just going to be a white person and then I will fit in.’”
Brake said they realize that this was doing more harm to them and to their people than they ever thought at the time. “Growing up I just wanted to be accepted and I thought the way to do that would be to just be white … This was my logic at the time of course, looking back now I realize how wrong I was,” said Brake. “So now I’m working on rebuilding that and reconnecting with that identity.”
Brake is currently the co-chair of the Western Zone Diversity and Social Inclusion Committee and also sits on the provincial committee. These committees help facilitate diversity and inclusion progress in proactive ways.
The Western Zone Diversity and Social Inclusion Committee (with help from the Nova Scotia Health/IWK Pride Network) was able to change the gender-restrictive washroom signage at Fishermen’s Memorial Hospital to that of all-gender-use washrooms. Brake takes much pride in being a part of this work.
“All-gender-use washrooms make the hospital a safer and more welcoming space for trans and non-binary patients, visitors and staff members. Really, all hospitals should have these options,” said Brake. “Starting with Fishermen’s we can move towards other hospitals in the Western Zone; I’d really like to see that change.”
Brake said this is an essential step in making sure that patients feel safe, secure and accepted when they visit a hospital in an already vulnerable state, with the goal of achieving healing.
“When you’re healing a person you should be considering the whole of that person, right? Their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of them. Gender and sexuality can apply to all four of those, which is why it is so crucial for health care workers to approach queerness with openness and understanding,” stated Brake.
Brake said that their personal experience as a queer person is deeply tied with their decolonization journey of self-acceptance. “The way gender is viewed in society is so intrinsically linked with colonization. The idea that what is ‘male’ is the default setting of a person and the definition of what is masculine and what is feminine (what we use today) was brought to the Mi’kmaq by the settlers,” said Brake.
Brake feels happiness, as they said they have been so blessed to be a part of a supportive team that accepts them and is always receptive to making positive changes towards acceptance and inclusion for members of the 2SLGBTQIA+* community.
Brake also wants to encourage peopleto not be afraid to reach out to the Diversity and Social Inclusion (DSI) Committees for guidance or assistance they may be able to offer as they are there to be a supportive change. To find the DSI committee closest to you, reach out to email@example.com.
When asked what they would tell their younger self or a young, queer, biracial, gender-fluid kid growing up that feels conflicted, confused and alone Brake said, “I would really want that kid to realize that they’re not alone. It feels isolating, like you need to separate all these parts of your person … You don’t have to let someone else define you as these boxed-off categories. You can figure it out with time … You’re going to be accepted. You will find the right community for you. You just have to wait for it; it’ll come.”
*2SLGBTQIA+ = Two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual and other gender identities or sexual orientations