Keioshiah Peter on Stigma Around Sexuality & Self-Love

We chat with sex educator and aerialist Keioshiah Peter, who works to create an open atmosphere for young Diné people to learn about sex while practicing self-love with movement arts.

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Keioshiah Peter is a Diné non-binary queer femme and a sex educator and aerialist. They work with Rez Condom Tour to try and reverse the stigma around sexuality on the Navajo Nation by promoting healthy sexual expressions for Navajo youth, raise awareness about the need for sexual education and increase access to contraceptives for Navajo youth. They also practice self-love and explore their own intersectional experiences within their surroundings with circus arts as an aerialist. 

A little about Keioshiah…

I grew up running in the hills and swimming in the San Juan River in the Four Corners region of Kirtland, NM.

Working with Rez Condom Tour…

Matthew Skeets founded rez Condom Tour in May 2013 after successfully securing our first 2,000 condoms from the New Mexico Department of Health and handed out all the condoms in Gallup, New Mexico, and Ya-ta-hey, New Mexico. They saw this as a need in our Nation, and soon after, the Rez Condom Tour was launched as a grassroots community project. Rez Condom Tour has been spearheaded by myself and Faith Baldwin, alongside so many amazing volunteers and supporters of our work. 

Photo by Hannah Manuelito

Why sex, sexual expression, sexual activity, and sexuality are all taboo subjects on the Navajo Nation and why it’s essential to raise awareness about the importance of sexual education along with increasing access to contraceptives for Navajo youth…

Sex is something not talked about in the Navajo Nation. Sexual expression, sexual activity, and sexuality are all taboo subjects. Yet we know that more than half of high school seniors have been sexually active, and 36% of those seniors did not use a condom (Navajo Nation and the Indian Health Service. Navajo Nation High School Youth Risk and Resiliency Report. 2008). According to the Navajo Area Indian Health Service 2012 Annual HIV/AIDS Report, we also know that HIV cases on the Navajo Nation are one the rise at a dangerous level. 

How Rez Condom Tour tackles these issues…

The Rez Condom Tour was launched to try and reverse the stigma around sexuality in the Navajo Nation. It is the mission of the Rez Condom Tour to promote healthy sexual expression for Navajo youth, raise awareness about the need for sexual education, and increase access to contraceptives for Navajo youth. We utilize a decolonial sexual health framework to initiate conversations on body autonomy, reproductive justice, social justice, and wellness through Diné-specific knowledge systems that guide our work alongside the community.

Keioshiah and Rez Condom Tour on Instagram

Other significant issues and causes that Rez Condom Tour and Keioshiah address…

  • Encouraging safer sex practices for our relatives 
  • Helping other Native Nations and organizations learn from our Diné knowledge-centered approach
  • Providing increased access to harm reduction materials such as condoms, lubes, and testing 
  • Our co-organizers are invested in removing the stigma surrounding conversations about sex and sexuality on our reservations. By protecting our bodies, we are protecting our people.
  • Promote healthy sexual activity 
  • Young folx invested in removing the stigma around sexuality
  • We have a right to have access to harm reduction material for free. Protective measures must be taken to ensure our safety. In this way, we are putting control back in the hands of our people, communities, families, and individuals
  • Rez Condom Tour also acknowledges the 2012 spike of human immunodeficiency virus in our Nation to the elevated rates of HIV/AIDS in the Navajo Nation, as reported by Dr. Iralu. We want to address the stigma of talking about sex and our right to HIV education 
  • It is our inherent right to be able to feel safe in our territories free of racism in border towns and environmental violence against our land and people
  • We deserve the necessary access to these materials and resources to protect our bodies, thus protecting our people. Our inherent rights as Indigenous to these lands is to be able to live without fear, discrimination, or relation 
  • With this in mind, we strongly understand that what happens to our bodies, happen to our people, and what happens to our land, happens to our womyn and genderqueer relatives. The impacts of environmental violence against our bodies directly affect our bodies and violate our sexual and reproductive rights. This includes the violence caused by resource extraction and extractive industries within our homelands (mining, gas, oil, encroachment on our sacred sites). Fighting for our lands is fighting for our people

Introducing Reproductive Justice [for more information: sistersong.net/reproductive-justice]…

I want to take some time to acknowledge and honor the work of the Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice, who created a term grounded in addressing the intersectional experiences that POC womyn have faced and continued to such as forced sterilization, abortion rights, healthcare. 

Reproductive Justice is defined by SisterSong based in Atlanta, GA, as the “human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” Reproductive Justice combines reproductive rights and social justice. Reproductive Justice means to Rez Condom Tour: #SexIsCeremony.

The future of Rez Condom Tour… 

As of right now, in 2020, I believe that our focus is to find balance and to be gentle with the process of finding additional ways to stay connected with our community and find ways to do outreach within our Nation.

What Keioshiah does besides Rez Condom Tour…

My narrative demonstrates admiration towards our creation stories, land, inherent knowledge systems, and love for our Holy People. I understand that our land, people, ancestors, and relatives are also supporting my efforts as I navigate through a reality filled with settler colonialism, genocide, racism, and more. I’m highly motivated by my love of water as a holder of knowledge; as a young person, I worked as a river guide and use many of the teachings that I learned within health promotion as a way to navigate this reality. Fluidity and compassion are leadership traits that I work to incorporate into my understanding of accountability to our territory, knowledge, and ancestors. In this life, my critical consciousness has grown in ways that I am still in awe as I continue to be in this world. 

Healing with movement arts…

The act of movement allows for me to practice self-love as I weave my body around queer apparatuses to explore my own intersectional experiences within Dinétah, border towns, and as a visitor currently taking space on Tewa Territory. Circus arts continue to heal each wound inflicted by trauma stemming from settler colonialism, heteropatriarchy, racism, white supremacy, and land/gender-based violence. My understanding of meeting new goals informed by creativity and movement arts has allowed me to acknowledge my potential to realize my goals and to navigate through difficult situations. I hope to continue this pathway to more areas in my life as I move away from my full-time position in the non-profit industrial complex, and return to organizing for our relatives while also navigating a world alongside the COVID-19 pandemic. In my community on Tewa territory now, my role is to learn all that I can and bring it back to our territory as a Diné queer femme for the sake of liberation. 

Admiration for my homelands and the San Juan River has embedded fluidity into my understanding of my movement building, as I realized that my passion and heartwork is grounded in the knowledge I have engaged and grown from through Indigenous feminist theory, being in solidarity with my LGBTQ2S+ relatives, and organizing for our relatives. 

The possibilities are endless, and I’m continually working to understand my past to gain insight into the power of my autonomy underneath societal expectations built over years of survival, which can only be further supported. My creative and organizing process is informed by movement and critical consciousness; to understand my gender identity, I must also work to expand my analysis of the structures of oppression and dismantling settler colonialism and heteropatriarchy. It has been a few years since I’ve been introduced to circus arts, and I also feel as if I am still at the beginning of my organizing and movement building through movement arts even more so with the current pandemic.

Follow Keioshiah and updates about Sex Is Ceremony on Instagram.

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Native Max is a brand and publication which features positive talents and stories of indigenous peoples of Indian Country.

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