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Two-Spirit Joy (and Pain) Examined in New Doc Being Thunder

Two-Spirit Joy (and Pain) Examined in New Doc Being Thunder

Being Thunder

Sherente Mishitashin breaks the bounds of gender -- just as their ancestors did hundreds of years ago.

Imagine a world where a parent, upon seeing their young child moving in and out of the gender binary, becomes excited and proud, and when a dad comes home to see little Alejandro wearing his mom's dress, immediately rings his own parents to tell them the great news, or when Mariposa asks to work construction with her dad, mom beams with pride at her beading circle. Historically, that was the way Two-Spirit children were honored by many tribes. This beautiful documentary film by Stephanie Lamorre, shines a light on one such teen.

Being Thunder is a new documentary film that focuses on Two-Spirit dancer Sherente Mishitashin ("Being Thunder") Harris of the Narragansett tribe (Rhode Island). They are the dynamic force behind the film as they step and spin their way from competition to competition. We witness this 17-year-old championship eastern war dancer finally allowing themselves to follow a more authentic path, honoring their father and mother as they become a fancy shawl dancer, a dance more commonly performed by those assigned female at birth and female presenting people. This seemingly non-traditional way not only keeps the beat of the drum but keeps the beat of this community of Native peoples, who challenge gender norms just by existing as their authentic selves.

Partially a revitalization of Two-Spirit joy, Being Thunder reminds us that this identity was once welcomed in tribal communities. Being Thunder is challenged by narrow minded judges who deliberately manipulate Harris's scores, or outright disqualify them, and the filmmaker catches their star in incredibly vulnerable moments. The graceful waving movement of the fringe becomes a metaphor of Harris's personal resiliency as they move from tears to stoicism and reclaim their power against the harm and injustice being perpetrated. We are empowered watching Harris bask in the joy of dancing, rolling like thunder around the circle, caught up in the joy of being themself with their extended Native family, all basking in the joy of being Native. Perhaps this is the secret of Being Thunder: taking in the lessons taught by this brave adolescent daring to feel joy.

Watch the trailer for Being Thunder below.

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