History was made in 2018 when Trudie Jackson became the first out trans and two-spirit Native woman to run for president of Navajo Nation, a Native American territory occupying portions of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. Her platform included renewable energy, transparency of elected leaders to uphold accountability to the tribal members, and the pursuit of education to help sustain the Navajo Nation.
Nowresiding in Albuquerque, N.M., Jackson founded the Southwest American Indian Rainbow Gathering, which is currently in its eighth year and addresses health disparities of American Indians that identify as two-spirit (SLGBTQ). A board member for the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico, she's received awards for her tireless work in Native communities -- including the Marty Prairie Red Ribbon Award from the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center and the Equality Arizona Skip Schrader Spirit of Activism Award from the It Gets Better foundation.
This year, Jackson was selected to be part of the first cohort with the 2018 Tribal Researchers Cancer Control Fellowship Program under the Portland Area Indian Health Board, where she will explore public health research addressing American Indian transgender women on gender affirming hormones and how they interact with liver health.
"My hope is to produce scholarship in the academy that would lend a voice for American Indian transgender women," she explains. Another focus examining why Native trans people relocate to urban areas; are rejected from families, friends, and their community; and face discrimination in employment and housing.
Though Jackson lost the 2018 election to Jonathan Nez and his running mate Myron Lizer, she says, "It was a rewarding experience. I never forget the struggles the Navajo Nation continues to encounter in a society in which they are considered wardens of the federal government. My identity as a candidate gave hope and inspiration to many young [and] older Navajo 2SLGBTQ 3rd, 4th, and 5th gender individuals to embrace their identity, but most importantly is to exercise their right to vote in the Navajo Nation Primary and General Presidential election to share their voice, opinion, and ask questions for the betterment of the Navajo Nation."
The activist continues to blaze trails. This year, Jackson earned a doctorate degree, making her one of the few American Indian two-spirit trans women to hold an advance degree and continue to work and live in Indian Country.
Reflecting on the 50thanniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Jackson says, "I acknowledge the trans women of color at the Stonewall riots that were on the front line by standing up for their right to exist and using their powerful voice, action, and leadership," acknowledging the many Indigenous two-spirit trailblazers who have "paved the way for my existence in a colonial society, in which we continue to fight for our existence within the boundaries of our Sovereign Tribal Nations."