by Alexandra McKay
On November 19, Rutgers University welcomed activist and public speaker Chino Moon Hardin. The program was titled “Indigenous and Queer” and was held at the Livingston Starbucks. Jannah Handy, the Administer Director of Intercultural Initiatives, reached out to her friend Chino to ask him to speak to students. Chino, age 35, took center stage and spoke openly on both subjects on being Queer, (or transsexual), and Native American. Chino has travelled around the country and has appeared in many media outlets and magazines such as City Limits, Caribbean Life, and BET. That night, he spoke passionately on a length of topics ranging from gender identity, racial identity and frustrations of being oppressed in America.
“Native American is the only heritage you need to legally prove what you are,” Hardin said to the group sitting in front of him. Furthermore, he said that this was the first time he’s been asked to speak as someone who is part Native American. He is never told that he looks part black. “I always get Latino, or if I’m on the West Coast then it’s Chicano. But it is what it is, you know.” Chino is Black, Italian and Native American. He feels very deeply about his Native American heritage and said that when he meets other people who are Native American there is a feeling inside of him and a connection between them.
Chino was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He was raised by his grandmother who frequently tried to bargain with him as a child to get him into dresses. His mother was absent for most of his childhood and was also queer, but had drug issues. She passed away when Chino was thirteen years old. Chino’s grandmother was slow to accept his trans identity, “I could have all the guys in my room”, but it took her awhile to adjust to him dating girls. Chino gets his Native American heritage from his great-great grandmother who was a Blackfoot Indian. To be able to claim his heritage he had to provide legal documentation showing his lineage to his great-great grandmother.
Native American is the only heritage you need to legally prove what you are.
Today, Chino works with at-risk youth who are labeled “dangerous”, “gang affiliated”, or “hopeless”. He has a partner and two children that they are raising together. He said he won’t stop advocating until there’s equality for everyone. Chino said “I want to create space for some people to explore and [be safe in]”. He mentioned white privilege and a country set up for mostly white people to succeed. He joked that he will throw eggs at any white person dressed in a Native American headdress during this time of year (Halloween and Thanksgiving). Furthermore he states, “I don’t call it ‘Thanksgiving’, I call it ‘Thanks-taking’ because they took from us”. Chino also supports states that rename “Christopher Columbus Day” as “Indigenous People Day”.
Chino’s open and informative talk seemed to enlighten and inspire the students in attendance. According to Jannah Handy, this is the first ever celebration of Native American Month at Rutgers, but hopefully it will not be the last.
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