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Salt Lake Two-Spirit dance couple invited to speak at national HRC youth conference

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A Salt Lake City couple who were allowed to dance in a powwow “Sweetheart Special” couples dance, but were disqualified for not being a male-female couple, have been invited to speak at the Human Rights Campaign’s Time to Thrive conference to be held this weekend in Orlando, Florida.

Adrian “AD” Matthias Stevens, who is San Carlos Apache, Northern Ute, and Shoshone Bannock, was raised in Fort Duchesne, Utah on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation. His fiance, Sean Snyder, is Navajo and Southern Ute, from Iowa City, Iowa. They currently live in Salt Lake City and refer to themselves as a Two-Spirit couple, having been together for five years.

Their story spread across the nation when a video of them dancing in the competition went viral. People Magazine featured them in December in a story titled, Same-Sex Native American Couple Hopes to Break Barriers Through Dance.

“There are quite a few Two-Spirit couples, but there’s a generational gap, and there’s a variation about how they present themselves and want to be represented,” Stevens told People. “For us, being that younger generation and the next generation, we have a duty — and with a high suicide rate among Native American youth — a lot of those suicides are related to them being members of the LGBT community.”

The annual HRC conference is in cooperation with the National Education Association and the American Counseling Association “to promote safety, inclusion, and well-being for LGBT youth…everywhere.”

“We are making progress on the road to legal equality, yet young LGBT people in America still face dramatically heightened rates of discrimination in school, at home and within their community,” conference organizers wrote in a statement. “The impact of family rejection, bullying and the messages they hear about being LGBT weigh heavily on our youth. By engaging a broad audience of youth-serving professionals, including K-12 educators, mental health providers, pediatricians, religious leaders, recreational athletic coaches and youth development staff (Boys and Girls Club, YMCAs, scout leaders, etc.), we can create spaces in which LGBT youth are affirmed, supported and have the ability to thrive.”

At the conference, research by HRC and the University of Connecticut will be presented, which shows that only 26 percent of LGBT youth always feel safe in their classrooms. Only 27 percent feel comfortable talking to their school counselor about questions related to their LGBT identity, according to the study. Merely 10 percent of the youth responded that they hear their family express pride in their LGBT identity.

Stevens and Snyder competed last weekend in the Seminole Tribal Fair and powwow in Hollywood, Florida.

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