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Meet Charlie Amáyá Scott, a transgender Indigenous scholar and social influencer

Scott, a doctoral candidate at the University of Denver, produces social media content about issues facing the queer Native American community.
NBC News; Courtesy of Amber B. Scott

In honor of Pride Month, NBC Out is highlighting and celebrating a new generation of LGBTQ trailblazers, creators and newsmakers. Visit our full #Pride30 list here.

Navajo Nation citizen Charlie Amáyá Scott, 27, is a transgender social media influencer, scholar and advocate. Scott, of Aurora, Colorado, who uses she and they pronouns, leverages her platform to highlight issues affecting the queer Indigenous community. She is also focusing on her Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Denver.

In one of her most recent Instagram videos, Scott shares “trans joy” with a story involving her grandmother who saw her dressed in traditional clothing worn by Navajo and Diné women for the first time. Scott had not previously shared with her grandmother that she is transgender.

“Thinking about it makes me cry, because for the first time in my entire life my grandmother saw how I see myself, and she called me ‘beautiful' for it,” Scott says in the video. 

What is the most important thing that you want to share on your social platforms?

My tagline is “inspiring joy and justice,” and that is the most important thing I want to share, is that when people see my videos, they feel inspired and motivated to change the world. But I also want them to smile. I want them to have an amazing day. It’s those moments of joy that I think are the most impactful for movements of justice and refusal.

Can you describe what your scholar side entails?

The reason why I describe myself as a scholar is because I’m a Ph.D. candidate. So I’ll be focusing on my dissertation for the next two years. …  It’s going to be a blend of using photography and letter writing to really get Native students, undergraduate students, to sort of describe or portray or represent to us what settler colonialism is. … I want them to write a letter to someone, either to themselves or a community or someone that they really love and cherish, to explain to them why they’re going to a university or to a college, to share their purpose. And the end goal is to make it into an exhibition made into a book, something that’s fantastic.

What are some of the experiences and challenges you face as an Indigenous person and as a transgender individual?

I both have to deal with the reality of settler colonialism but also the experiences of trans misogyny, both from my own community and those outside my community. So I guess one of the challenges is really trying to get people to realize that trans misogyny, anti-trans rhetoric and anti-queerness are really rooted in the violence of settler colonialism [and] heteropatriarchy.

What can allies and the media do to shine a light on queer Indigenous people and the challenges they may face?

The best that allies and the media can do is don’t ignore us. Don’t look away, don’t try to ignore the discomfort that folks feel when they encounter such issues of violence when it comes to queer Indigenous people. And I also want folks to realize that they are both part of the problem but also part of the solution to supporting and advocating with Indigenous LGBTQ and Two Spirit peoples. Because as someone who thinks about the future in the long run, I know that it’s going to take so many people to change this world and make it better. So at the end of the day, we’re going to need you to support and advocate and help us.

What does Pride means to you?

I often describe Pride as both a movement and a celebration of justice and refusal. And what I mean by that is that we live in a world that denies the most basic human rights to Black, brown, queer, trans and Indigenous people. But we’re still here, and there’s so much beauty and brilliance to honor and to celebrate, and there’s so much joy. And all of that encompasses our demands for justice and our acts of resistance, resilience and refusal. So that is what Pride means to me.

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