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June 8, 2023
Despite overcoming many obstacles, the grandmother of Manitoba’s Two-Spirit movement says there’s still more work to be done
In the summer of 1971, Albert McLeod had an epiphany. He never wanted to be this bored again. While his peers attended high school, he lay on his mother’s couch for months watching old black-and-white movies. Earlier that year, McLeod dropped out of Grade 10 because he could no longer stand the near-daily homophobic bullying and shaming at school. It was not easy being a feminine, gay teenage boy, much less a Métis one (from Cree and Scottish families), in his repressively colonial town of The Pas, Man.
Life had not always been this way. McLeod was born in the village of Cormorant, Man., and spent his early years surrounded by his family and culture. Here he felt accepted. His Cree grandmother, Mary Madeline McIvor, taught him what it meant to maintain his authentic self. Despite colonial pressure, she refused to give up her culture and language, showing her grandson that you can be who you are without shame.
As he got older, started high school in The Pas and the torment got worse, McLeod knew he had to escape. “So I quit school in Grade 10, and I left the North at the age of 19 as a way to sort of preserve my identity as a queer person, but also my spirituality and integrity,” recounts McLeod.