Two Wyoming Activists Recognized For Queer Advocacy

Jun 6, 2019

Credit Photo by Benson Kua via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

Layha Spoonhunter and Ashlynn Kercher have never met, but they've been fighting for the same cause: LGBTQ equality and visibility. For their activism, the Advocate magazine named the Wyoming residents among their 104 Champions of Pride list for 2019.

For most of his adult life, Spoonhunter has dedicated himself to two-spirit advocacy, working to educate others about the identity he claims as a Native American. A two-spirit individual has both masculine and feminine identities but the term is distinct from other LGBTQ labels because it carries spiritual and cultural connotations.

Spponhunter has worked with the International Tribal Youth Council and UNITY, a native youth advocacy group he's been involved with for the past 12 years. He has also attended White House pride receptions - an annual event during the Obama years - and hosted workshops on two-spirit identity throughout the United States.

He said he tries to stay as active as possible.

"It's been about building bridges so native youth could feel proud of who they are and be loved for who they are," Spoonhunter said. "And it was such a high honor to be recognized for that."

The activism of Ashlynn Kercher, the second Wyoming resident on the Advocate's list, is more local.

As a McCormick Junior High School student, Kercher spoke out when Gay-Straight Alliance club members in her school were told they could no longer wear rainbow flags or other LGBTQ-related clothing.

At 14 years old, Kercher has faced pushback for being as involved as she is.

"Well, I feel like it has its pros and its cons," Kercher said. "Being younger, people will be like, 'Oh my god, look, they're like this age and they're doing all this stuff,' so you get looked up to. But at the same time, people are like, 'You don't understand this because you are a child.'"

The Advocate is the country's oldest LGBTQ magazine. It's Champions of Pride list seeks to honor activists who carry on what they call Stonewall's "spirit of rebellion."