When it comes to understanding diversity and acceptance of others, Ponoka’s Chevi Rabbit has a way of explaining it that brings a feeling of acceptance.
Rabbit was at the Ponoka Jubilee Library recently during the Life Stories series. They spoke on not only being transgender but being a two-spirit First Nations person, who is also an activist.
There are quite a few other labels that have been attributed to Rabbit, but for them, quite simply: “I’m Chevi.” When it comes to pronouns Rabbit suggests the use of ‘ze’ or ‘they’.
Just being Chevi also happens to mean being on Edmonton’s Avenue Magazine Top 40 Under 40 list as well as being one of 25 most influential human rights advocates in Alberta. It all stemmed from an attack on Rabbit while studying at the University of Edmonton in 2012 that ended up changing their life forever.
They spoke briefly on that and how it changed their focus to advocacy. “Do I self destruct and have self pit or do I get angry and so something about it?”
“I was not going to take it lying down…and I benefitted from it because I learned about myself.”
That’s how Rabbit works; growth and doing more.
The attack did have a negative affect on Rabbit, however, and they had to work through PTSD. Sometimes walking down the street and seeing a group of men would trigger that fear. To combat the fear and to raise further awareness Rabbit created the Hate To Hope rallies, which have been going on for seven years now.
Rabbit told attendees that they left Ponoka a boy and returned as a two-spirit identity. They’re also in transition and hormone therapy.
Speaking on the two-spirit identity, Rabbit pointed out that this is not a new idea, and in the past a two-spirit person was highly respected. When settlers first arrived in North America, two-spirit individuals were the first to be eradicated, explained Rabbit, as they didn’t fit settler labels.
“Two-spirit culture has been fighting for their rightful place for quite some time,” said Rabbit.
“Now we’re in a cultural re-emergence of two-spirit identities.”
In Maskwacis, Rabbit, whose family is closely involved in Maskwacis and local politics, has been advocating for youths in the community. They want to give these youths a voice and an understanding of the two-spirit identity. The goal is to rewrite the two-spirit story.
This advocacy extends to individuals who are on the fringe of society, explained Rabbit. They want to ensure these people, who have not had a positive foundation, get past the negative narrative.
Rabbit feels these individuals have been robbed of a healthy, positive life where they can be accepted.
How does Rabbit deal with negativity? For Rabbit, it’s about mutual respect.
“It’s not my right to choose their belief systems, but it is my right to be treated with respect and dignity,” said Rabbit.
Within all this advocacy is a person who works in high fashion and make up artistry.
Rabbit is highly sought after and being able to make money following that passion is something they are proud of. “Fashion is my other life and that one is going to be fun.”