ICEIS Rain is opening doors for indigenous gender-nonconforming artists, reports Canada's CBC News. This week, the entertainer -- who identifies as both female and male -- became the first two-spirit person to perform at the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards.
ICEIS Rain is also Massey Whiteknife, a 35-year-old member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, who identifies as as a man sometimes and as Rain, a woman, at other times. Being two-spirit, he explains to CBC, means "you have accepted both your masculinity and femininity and you embrace both your spirits."
"Two-spirit" is an identification used by some First Nations people to describe their nonbinary gender identity. Some consider it most closely synonymous with the Western concept of "bi-gender" people and include it in the "transgender umbrella" of identifiers. Other sources, such as the CBC report below, equate "being two-spirited" with being "gay." The term, however, is not exactly equivalent to either "transgender" and/or "gay."
For Whiteknife, living his two-spirit identity means that, by day, he is a gay male business owner in the sub-arctic Alberta oil sands. At night, she is ICEIS Rain, a female karaoke performer. Whiteknife and Rain share the same body, he explained to CBC, but each has their own passions and pursuits.
As Rain, she gained notoriety last year as a featured performer in the documentary Oil Sands Karaoke, and is working on a singing career. As Whiteknife, he gained accolades as a business tycoon, building up several oil sands-based businesses very quickly into a multi-million dollar operation.
Whiteknife says Rain, as his formidable, "queen"-like second spirit, helped him overcome childhood sexual abuse, bullying, and gang rape to become highly admired in both his careers as a businessman and as an entertainer.
Rain, who is known for her anti-bullying anthem, "The Queen," has now been nominated for two Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards. Whiteknife tells CBC he is humbled by the attention and to be the first two-spirit person to take the award ceremony's performance stage.
"I don't even have the words to express the emotions," he added. "I'm overwhelmed, I'm honored."
Watch more of Whiteknife's story below.