‘Learning about this is saving lives’: Newlyweds travel to Cree communities to teach about sexual health

A newlywed Indigenous couple is working hard to destigmatize queer love in Eeyou Istchee and create the safe spaces they needed themselves. 

Annie Decontie is a Cree-Algonquin who works hosting sexual health workshops in the Cree communities of northern Quebec.

Falicia Green is Ojibwe from Ontario who is a youth advocate and has worked as a sexual health social aid worker.

“There’s still a lot of healing that our people need to do,” said Decontie, who goes by they/them, she/her pronouns. 

Both Decontie and Green said intergenerational trauma is at the root of homophobia in many Indigenous communities. 

“Enough with the lateral violence. We need to focus more on lateral love,” said Green, who goes by they/them, she/her and he/him pronouns.

The couple tied the knot on Sept 2, in Ottawa. While it was a day filled with joy, the couple also decided to have their wedding off territory, so they could feel safe on their special day.

Green, left, Decontie, right, celebrate their special day with close friends, family and allies. (Darren Brown/Kathi Robertson Weddings)

Decontie and Green moved to Mistissini to be closer to family in July of 2020, but after being targets of several homophobic comments, decided to move away from the community in August of 2021.

“Especially the year we lived in Mistissini, it was really hard,” said Decontie, adding one time they were walking holding hands on their way to get snacks at the store when somebody diving by yelled homophobic slurs out the window. 

“That’s my home and I just felt totally ostracized,” said Decontie.

Faced homophobia

The homophobia the couple faced was not only from strangers. 

Decontie first came out to their grandmother when they knew things were getting serious as a couple. Their grandmother shunned them and told them not to bother coming home for a visit.  

“[I told my gookum] it breaks my heart that you can’t see how much love we have for one another,” said Decontie, adding that she will always love her grandmother.

Green grew up in Sault Ste. Marie with and has openly queer members in their family. 

“Where I grew up, it was normal to see queer people. It was celebrated. So moving and going to a space where it wasn’t the same net of safety that I knew was definitely scary,” said Green. 

Decontie said the decision to leave Mistissini was made to protect the couple’s peace.

an Indigenous couple smiling to pose in front of am Inuksuk, a figure made of piled stones.
Green, left, Decontie, right enjoy being in Decontie’s Eeyou Istchee homelands, but moved away for safety reasons. (submitted by Annie Decontie)

“Mistissini is always gonna be a little bit of our home. Even if we’re not there, we’re still very much woven into the community and the territory,” said Decontie.

Working for change in Cree communities

The couple travels together to Cree communities to engage youth to talk about healthy relationships, consent and gender identity. 

They also train healthcare professionals around two-spirit and LGBTQ sensitivity to help organizations be more inclusive. 

“It’s going to be difficult when it comes to learning, unlearning and relearning … but it’s not impossible,” said Green. 

A classroom full of Cree youth learning about sexual health.
Decontie and Green tour Cree communities in Eeyou Istchee to talk about sexual health, LGBTQ inclusiveness and gender identity workshops for Cree youth and health care professionals. (submitted by Annie Decontie)

They say that access to sexual health workshops are a form of suicide prevention and harm reduction.

“I was one of those youth growing up where I had a lot of inner homophobia,” said Decontie.

“It is so important. Teaching this, learning about this, is saving lives.”

The power of unconditional love

While acceptance might be harder for some, like Decontie’s gookum, many in their family remind them that they are in their corner.

The wedding ceremony in Ottawa was beautiful, with many friends and family present — allies helping to make safe spaces and giving the couple the wedding of their dreams.

“I’m still trying to find words to describe how loved I felt that day …  It was so amazing to be surrounded by everyone who has supported us as a couple,” said Green.

A newly-wed Indigenous queer couple kiss after saying their vows.
Family, friends and allies gathered on Sept. 2 in Ottawa to help celebrate their marriage. (Darren Brown/Kathi Robertson Weddings)

The couple plan on abbreviating their last names to Decontie-Green.

“I couldn’t sleep. I was just so excited to finally see my best friend and say our ‘forevers’ to one another,” said Decontie. 

“We’re here and we’re always going to be here. Love is always going to win,” said Decontie, adding that two-spirit and Indigiqueer people existed before colonial contact. 

Their message to Indigenous youth who may be questioning their gender identity or sexual orientation? You are not alone.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with you … and if you have family that doesn’t accept you, we’re your family now,” said Decontie.

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