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We Are Idaho: Blake Hunter And Jyoni Tetsurō Shuler

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Courtesy of Blake Hunter (L) and Jyoni Tetsurō Shuler (R)"

Jyoni Tetsurō Shuler and Blake Hunter are collecting stories about LGBTQIA+ individuals in Idaho. It’s a project for the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, partially inspired in response to anti-trans bills signed into law this year in Idaho.

The booklet will look at how the “spiral of injustice” shapes attitudes and actions toward marginalized communities. There are five elements to the spiral: language, avoidance, discrimination, violence and elimination. 

My name is Blake Hunter. I use they/them and he/him pronouns. I'm a senior at Boise State studying media arts with an emphasis in journalism and a minor in history. I'm originally from southern Idaho.

My name is Jyoni Tetsurō Shuler. I use they/them/theirs, she/her/hers pronouns and I just started my master's in social work at Boise State. I'm originally from Washington, D.C. My dad is a native Idahoan and my mom is from Japan. And my grandmother, Marilyn Schuler, was a large driving force for me and for the state in terms of human rights. And she's partially why I'm involved with this project with the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights. She was one of the founders of the Anne Frank Memorial here in Boise. So, yeah, carrying on her legacy as best I can.

 

SHULER: So the project that Blake and I are working on currently is with the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights. We are creating a booklet. We're garnering stories from five different folks throughout the state who identify as queer and/or trans to share their stories and experiences with one of these levels of injustice.

HUNTER: Language we have is the start of the spiral of injustice, we literally have to be taught language to use about other people. And so, our author on language was able to bring in an unfortunately really traumatic story about being a young individual in a particular religious community. And the messages that were sent to them about being queer and trans from a very young age were really, really harmful. 

And so they were able to focus on particular words that have been used as slurs in the past, including the word "queer" that a lot of people aren't comfortable with because of prior use as abuse. And that's totally fair. This is a word that myself and I know that this author are comfortable with. So they talked about reclaiming language that was used against them and that being super, super powerful in kind of coming to terms with their own identity. And that gave them a lens through which they could talk to their family, too. 

SHULER: I did not grow up in Idaho. I did grow up visiting every summer, and my father being Idahoan, I was raised with a lot of Idaho values in my household. And I came out as queer right after high school, when I graduated high school. And my family was generally receptive to that. My gender really never played a role in anything until I started therapy, actually, about three years ago and started really unraveling who it was that I really wanted to be and I had always wanted to be, but that I had really deeply repressed. 

It was interesting, too, having a grandmother that was so pro human rights and had been such a strong proponent for equity and justice, and coming to visit her in Boise, but never really having dialogues around how it applied to our personal lives. You know, despite having her in my life, I never really had that as an opportunity, kind of like a beckoning, to really step into who I was until I really parsed through some of the traumas and the ways that the societal milieu that I grew up in had told me that I was not OK. And then it was in Boise that I started transitioning.

 

HUNTER:Documenting the queer and trans resiliency in a state like Idaho is such a powerful thing to be able to witness because we have so many people that just kind of think that we live in a post-equal world where ‘2015 same-sex marriage was legalized, so we're all good’ is a really dominant perspective among people who see themselves as allies. And I think, obviously, especially in Idaho, there have been things in the last year or so that make it very clear that that's not the case. A big part of that role that we can play in unsettling that and unpacking that is through education. So hopefully this project will fit into that.

 

Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio

 

We Are Idaho features Idahoans from all walks of life telling their stories of living here in their own words.