The Colonial Origins of the Concept of “Whiteness” / How Bisexuality is Treated Within Native Communities

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The Colonial Origins of the Concept of “Whiteness" / How Bisexuality is Treated Within Native Communities

In light of the recent Fourth-of-July holiday, Eleanor’s first guest – historian Gerald Horne – shares his analysis of a likely motive for independence on the part of colonial America’s white elite: the desire to preserve slavery in the colonies, despite the rise of abolitionism in Britain. He also looks at the colonial origins of the concept of “whiteness,” and follows this theme forward to present-day events, including the Supreme Court decision striking down affirmative action programs at universities.

Then in the second half of the program, Eleanor speaks with Jen Deerinwater. Drawing on their own life experiences, they discuss how bisexuality is widely misunderstood or dismissed, even by other queer people. Deerinwater also adds her observations about how bisexuality is treated within Native communities, and explains that the Native concept of “two-spirit” is about more than an individual’s sexual orientation.


Gerald Horne is Professor of History and African-American Studies at the University of Houston. He has written more than 30 books and 100 scholarly articles; his latest work, published this year, is Revolting Capital. Jen Deerinwater is a member of the Cherokee Nation, a writer and an organizer. Her web site is;  she is also the founding Executive Director of

Video of Interview with Gerald Horne

Video of Interview with Jen Deerinwater

Below is a Rough Transcript of the Interview with Gerald Horne

Eleanor: Thank you everyone for joining us at the Project Censored radio show. We’re very glad right now to be joined by Dr. Gerald Horne, who holds the Moores Professorship of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston.

His research addresses issues of racism in a variety of relations. Involving labor, politics, civil rights, international relations, and war. Dr. Horne is the author of more than 30 books and 100 scholarly articles and reviews. His current research includes two forthcoming books, the Counter-Revolution of 1836, Texas Slavery, Jim Crow, and the Roots of US fascism, and Revolting Capital, racism and Radicalism in Washington DC 1918 to 1968.

Dr. Horne, thanks so much for joining us.

Dr. Horne: Thank you for inviting me, and I’m happy to report that both of those books have been published.

Eleanor: Oh, fantastic! Well then, folks, you can add that to the long list of books by Dr. Horne to check out. So, Dr. Horne I want to, I know that we’re recording this and obviously airing it after July 4th, but I want to, turn the clock back rough some 250 years ago at the founding of the United States, as you put it, as an apartheid nation that you mention in your book, The Counter Revolution of 1776.

And now we’re taught in this country, but I can also say as somebody who grew up in Europe that we’re also taught that the American Revolution was a huge step forwards for egalitarian ideals. Now, anybody who does even a little bit of research will find out things like, for instance, at the founding of the nation, only 6% of the population was allowed to vote.

That’s white property owning men. So that immediately demotes that pedestaled revolution from the heights and that it’s placed, but there’s more to it than that. And as you note the Africans living in what was then the American colonies were used as threats against colonists, i.

  1. we’ll arm enslaved Africans and use them against against you. And so Africans overwhelmingly sided with the British in the war. A Britain where by 1774, some 10 to 15, 000 slaves had gained freedom. But this freedom did not apply in the British colonies. Now, Dr. Horne, I’m wondering how much did this, these abolitionist threats and what the colonists were were, were getting from the crown.

weigh in the ultimate push for that quote unquote, you know, revolutionary war.

Dr. Horne: Well, I think it was significant as I point out in my book and as has been validated by other researchers and scholars. In order to understand 1776, you have to understand 1772. That is to say Somerset’s case where the settlers led by George Washington had reason to believe that England was moving to abolish slavery in England itself.

and that was thought to hold jeopardy for major fortunes based upon enslaved Africans in the colonies. But it’s not only that question keep in mind as well that 1762, 1763, you have the so called Royal Proclamation whereby London cast doubt upon continuing to expend blood and treasure waging war against the indigenous nations in order that real estate speculators like George Washington could profit, and that too was outrageous to many of the settlers, and as validated by subsequent events, we know that after the triumph of the so called patriots, they precisely began to steamroller through the rest of the continent, which helps to explain during round two Of the battle for North America.

Why Tecumseh, the great Native American leader who was seeking to organize a so called pan Indian confederation, fought shoulder to shoulder with the Redcoats against the settlers. That’s why in August 1814, when the Redcoats invaded Washington, D. C. and torched it, they were joined by a countless number of Black people.

who of course were laboring under enslavement and then fled on British boats to Trinidad and Tobago where their descendants continued to resign. Now I think that many of our friends on the left, they would like to see all of us on the same page and therefore they tend to gloss over the fact which you introduced, introduced in your opening remarks that obviously all of us were not on the same page, but I understand the sentiment.

And what is more difficult to understand is why the formation of the United States could be seen as a great leap forward for numerous Europeans. After all, you had religious dissidents, Catholics, and those who were Jewish in the first instance who were persecuted. On the shores of Europe, but once they crossed the Atlantic, they were redefined and this identity politics of whiteness and then did not face as much persecution on these shores as they did in Europe, although to be fair, they did not escape persecution altogether, there were torching of convents.

In the United States post 1776, reflecting the, what one historian called the Protestant Crusade. And, of course many Jewish people continued to be persecuted on, on these shores despite the promise of, of the First Amendment. And so, it’s well past time for a re evaluation. of 1776. I say this in particular since we’re facing the prospect of what many analysts consider to be an onslaught of fascism or neo fascism.

And the history that we’re taught today, it seems to me, was very helpful. in helping to undergird the movement against Jim Crow in the 1960s. But that was more than 50 or 60 years ago. And we all know that history changes. That helps to explain why W. E. B. Du Bois, the founder of the NAACP, the great Pan Africanist, helped to change our perception of Reconstruction in the United States, the post U. S. Civil War period. which to the point that W. E. B. Du Bois published his book, Black Reconstruction, was portrayed as an era of Negro corruption and cupidity. But after his book, it was portrayed as an era of democratic promise. And that is the prevailing interpretation today. And so we need a new interpretation of the founding of the United States that helps to shed light once again on why we may be on the verge of a unique and peculiar form of fascism.

Eleanor: Yeah,

absolutely. And I wanted to touch on something that you mentioned briefly, because I think that’s also part of part of the problem with how we learn history. It’s very it’s very much siloed, you know, okay, like the enslaved Africans were here and the indigenous were here. But you made the point there was a lot of crossover there and as folks have written in a variety of books, like the Indigenous Peoples History of the United States, for instance runaway slaves would sometimes find their way and be welcomed into Indigenous communities.

How much is that how much do you feel that that, that solidarity and that potential was also a threat to the settlers around the time of the Revolutionary War?

Dr. Horne: Well, that is one of the more unspoken chapters in the history of the United States, although I would salute your reference to the indigenous people’s history of the United States, because it’s one of the few texts that actually addresses that issue.

In the book, I mentioned at the top of our discussion, my book on Texas, I talk about the relationship between The Caddo people, C A D D O, on the Texas Louisiana border, who basically had an interlocking directory with Black people. One of the major threats to U. S. seizure of Florida, approximately 200 years ago, was the fact that the people we refer to as the Seminoles, By the way, rather disgustingly, that is the nickname used by the athletic teams of Florida State University in Tallahassee.

That’s another story for another day. But in any case, the Seminoles likewise had an interlocking directorate with black people. There were those on the scene in the 18 teens who suggested that actually the Seminoles were a Black led Indigenous formation. And certainly they wanted nothing to do with the United States of America because the United States of America had a well merited reputation. of exacting genocide against the indigenous and enslaving Africans wherever they could be found. What I find interesting about Native American history in retrospect is that those who sought to accommodate the settlers, I’m speaking of the Cherokee, Once occupied in profusion, the Southeast quadrant of North America, they, many of them converted to Christianity, many of them became sedentary agriculturalists, many of them actually enslaved Africans in order to accommodate themselves.

To the settlers, many of them occupied mansions, but they had to go. Oftentimes, their mansions were then occupied by Europeans fresh off the boat, which, by the way, helps us to understand why it’s been so difficult to revise the interpretation, the traditional interpretation of the United States, because many Europeans did benefit and profit from crossing the Atlantic.

So those indigenous who accommodated themselves to the settlers, oftentimes got it in the neck. And then those indigenous who fought. I’m speaking of the Comanche in the first place, some of the most fierce fighters in North America, the Lord to the planes, particularly in the Texas, Oklahoma region. They too were subjected to genocide.

So it was very difficult, to put it mildly, for Native Americans to survive in the face of this settler onslaught and perhaps to make an excuse for many of the histories that have been written since. Perhaps one of the reasons why it’s been so difficult to grapple with Native American history is because so many of them have been disappeared.

And so therefore, it becomes easier to ignore their previous existence. Obviously, the presence of enslaved Africans, such as my ancestors, makes it difficult to ignore our history, our presence, because you have to be able to understand why so many Black people are walking through the streets of North America.

How did we get here? How did we survive? And those questions, I’m happy to say, have captivated a newer generation of historians.

Eleanor: Yeah, absolutely. And I, I am curious because you’ve mentioned in, in a couple of different contexts, religion and the United States then being a place to escape to in terms of religion.

I’m also curious with that, the question of slavery, it seems like some of the cases that were happening in Britain where they were asking Oh, well, should this be allowed? Were, because these these former slaves had then been baptized and so, oh, well we can’t, we have to recognize their freedom.

Now, what did that play a role in the question also in the United States? I know that, the role of religion was also used to keep them enslaved, because the Bible has slavery in it. But was there this question of like, well, if they’re baptized, then was there a role for religion there as well?

Dr. Horne: Religion is one of the most important factors in seeking to explain the history of the United States of America. Religion is an important factor in terms of the fundamental question of why it is, in this hemisphere, the Protestants prevailed in what is now the United States of America, stretching north into Canada.

But south of the United States you see countless numbers of Spanish speakers, of Spanish, Portuguese, and French ancestry. And in order to understand that you may want to consult my book on the 16th century, because what basically happens is that the rise of Martin Luther, 1517, and the Protestant secession, from the Catholic Church happened simultaneous with the European invasion of the Americas.

Protestantism, as we well know then sweeps through England in the 1530s. It helps to generate countless conflict. between English Protestants and Irish Catholics and Scottish Catholics. At the same time, England is trying to emulate the Iberian powers, Spain and Portugal, in setting up settlements in North America.

Now, Spain in particular had a religious qualification for settlement. That is to say, officially, in order to settle Spanish Florida, which they occupied in 1565, you had to be Catholic. London, the Protestant power, the scrappy underdog, moved in a different direction. That is to say, that it did not mandate a religious qualification for settlement.

If you look at the history of Maryland and Baltimore, for example, there are English Catholics, Lord Baltimore, who settled that particular region beginning in the first few decades of the 17th century. And so what you see Is that that leads to a certain kind of reconciliation between English Protestants and Irish Catholics and Scottish Catholics, as they join hands in a new identity politics of whiteness, which then morphs into white supremacy and ultimately allows those who have been warring on the shores of Europe, not only English versus Irish and English versus Scots, but British versus German and German versus Pole and Pole versus Russian and Northern Italian versus Southern Italian and Serb versus Croat.

All of a sudden, when they cross the Atlantic, they adopt this new identity of whiteness, which morphs into white supremacy, which is something that is still, I’m afraid to say, endemic on these shores. And that also helps to explain why the Protestants, in the first instance, were able to prevail in North America, or at least in what is now the United States and Canada, but not necessarily South.

Of the US border. Now, with regard to the, the enslaved, it was something of a false promise to the enslaved. That is to say, initially, the idea was these Africans were being enslaved because they were pagans, so called, because they were non Christians, and so one would think that after they were converted, Or did convert that somehow that would be an escape hatch allowing him to escape enslavement.

But no, no, no, no, no. It was a false promise. And so you still see that a disproportionate number of black people in the United States are Protestants. But because of the inadequate teaching of history in this country, Many of them oftentimes are unaware of why they are Protestants, given the fact that Governor DeSantis of Florida is making a big to do about what he calls woke history, which translated means accurate history.

It’s doubtful if many of these black people, or any people for that matter, will be enlightened. He’s been one up by Mr. Trump. Who in the waning days of his administration appointed a so called 1776 commission to make sure that more accurate and adequate interpretations of history of this country would not Emerge and of course the United States is facing its 250th anniversary in 2026 and already there are signs and glimmerings that this will not be an occasion for the emergence of a more accurate history.

Particularly, once again, if you look at Virginia, where Governor Youngkin, a former titan of Wall Street is able to become elected governor of the Capitalist State, speaking of Virginia, on the premise that he’s campaigning against so called critical race theory, he’s campaigning against so called woke history, any kind of history that makes little Johnny and little Jennifer supposedly feel bad about themselves.

That includes reading the novels of Toni Morrison, the late Nobel laureate. So I think your audience should understand that history is about an accurate and adequate interpretation of the past, but as my invoking of these elected officials and politicians tends to suggest, it’s also about the present and also about shaping what kind of future we’re going to enjoy.

Eleanor: Yeah, absolutely. And I’m reminded of the James Baldwin quote, although I might be butchering it, the history is not past. And I’m, I’m kind of curious because you talking about current politics made me think of this, that, you know, in the U. S. we’re very much stuck in a binary, like, oh, well, if you’re not for the Democrat, you must be for the Republican.

And so I’m wondering in this, in this read or in this diving into U. S. history and this deconstructing it. Is there a worry that you might make, that we might see, that students might see Great Britain as… a really benevolent power. Like, oh, well, the Revolutionary War was bad. But see, Britain was trying to abolish slavery, and they didn’t want to get into the indigenous lands in the West, so they’re the good guys.

Like, do you, do you find people trying to latch on to that as like, as an alternative to the The Revolutionary War as a positive.

Dr. Horne: Well, I think what you’re pointing up is that history is complicated. It’s not a simple tale of good guys and bad guys. If you look at World War II, the United States was allied with the Soviet Union.

That’s the way it was able to prevail against Nazi Germany. I pointed out on a previous book that it was President Roosevelt himself that encouraged Warner Brothers to produce the movie Mission to Moscow, which you can find online. which portrays Mr. Stalin, now viewed widely in the United States as a tin pot dictator, as a benevolent leader, much beloved by his people.

And so the United States is not necessarily innocent when it comes to revising interpretations. And with regard to Britain, the fact of the matter is, That just like the United States owes a debt of gratitude to the Soviet Union to helping to defeat Nazi Germany. The fact of the matter is, is that Britain was more advanced than the United States on the question of enslavement, which is not to say that it was a progressive nation, which is not to say That it was the savior of humanity, it is to say, speaking factually, that Britain abolished the slave trade before the United States in 1807, the British abolished slavery in Jamaica, Barbados, etc.

In the 1830s, the United States had to wait for a civil war, a bloody civil war, in order to reluctantly abolish slavery. Those are just the facts. Now, I know U. S. patriots they tried to twist that, make you seem, make it seem as if you’re an apologist from London, but it reminds me of what the comedian Stephen Colbert once said, that the progressive politics oftentimes has a bias, for example.

That is to say that seeking to tell an accurate story can get you painted as an apologist, but I think it’s time for the U. S. patriots to wake up and realize that the United States Was not necessarily seen by black people in particular as some sort of savior, although that’s what we’re supposed to believe in school.

And once again, turn to Canada, for example. Now when I juxtapose Canada, the United States I opened myself up. For attacks from the left with regard to Canada’s maltreatment of the indigenous. But the fact of the matter is that Canada is a control group, as the social scientists might say. It did not rebel against London’s rule.

And yet Toronto just elected a socialist mayor a few days ago. Canada has the single payer health care system for health for medical care that we can only dream about in this country. And folks should draw some inferences from that juxtaposition. And as long as you style yourself as some sort of a blind, unseeing patriot devoted to the United States, defending it from the right, defending it from the left, I don’t think that we’ll be able to dig ourselves out of the deep hole in which we find ourselves, which once again has us barreling down the track towards the neo fascism.

Eleanor: Absolutely. And I don’t honestly know how you can defend the U. S. from the left. And kind of, kind of like wrapping up here, I’m curious, this is, I suppose, a bit more of a philosophical question, but I mean, even just particularly recently, as we saw with the affirmative action case and having read Justice Jackson’s dissenting opinion she did a, what I felt was a pretty good job of condensing some of the history of Affirmative action, as she puts it, in maintaining the role of white people and, as I would say, like, white supremacy, quite clearly.

And so the question is, if the foundation of the country, in this case, is rotten, an apartheid state based on slavery and genocide, and the history leading up to the present has failed to rectify that original horror, do you see a future for racial equality in the United States?

Dr. Horne: Well, absolutely. And since this is being taped insert after my comment about Stephen Colbert, where he said that reality has a progressive bias.

And that’s the point that I was trying to make, that when you try to paint a realistic picture it inevitably, I would hope, leads you towards a progressive interpretation. Now, with regard to Justice Katonji Brown Jackson’s dissenting opinion in the Affirmative Action case, I recommend That your audience peruse that opinion because she zeros in not only on what you mentioned, which is that United States history up to this point has been a massive program of affirmative action for the settlements.

They were the ones who benefited, benefited from in the first instance from seizing the land of the indigenous population, particularly after the passage of the home so called Homestead Act. In the 1860s, recall what I said about mansions of the Cherokees and the Southeast Quadrant of North America, which were turned over in mass to settlers of European descent. The Columbia University political scientist, Ira Katzenelson, wrote a book called When Affirmative Action Was White, for example. And then under immense pressure, both globally and domestically, you have these halting and tentative steps toward a new kind of affirmative action, which the Supreme Court has wounded severely.

However, As Justice Brown Jackson pointed out in her opinion, there’s a footnote in Chief Justice Roberts opinion, majority opinion, that has a carve out to continue affirmative action for military academies, for West Point, for the U. S. Naval Academy, for the U. S. Air Force, for the Academy Colorado Springs, presumably for the Citadel in South Carolina, Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia in light of the fact that as we speak, the leading uniformed and civilian leaders of the U. S. military are both of African ancestry, speaking of Lloyd Austin, Pentagon Chief, C. Cooper Brown, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, so as Justice Brown Jackson said, The United States, per this opinion, is saying that it’s okay to integrate black people and other people of color into the bunker, but not the boardroom.

I would say it’s suggesting that we can still be conscripted to defend the empire as we have been forced to do all of these countless wars over the decades of Vietnam, not least, where for the longest period of time, Black mortality rates were much higher than non Black mortality rates. And that’s sending a very disturbing signal, to put it mildly.

And I should also say that understandably, there’s this focus on black people when it comes to affirmative action, but as a number of studies have shown, perhaps the leading recipient of this positive discrimination, to use the term from London, would be women of European descent. And then the question becomes. Is that on the chopping block as well? Will programs, as they sought to have in California, to have corporations that do business in California, have a complement of women on the board? Is that now on the chopping block, for example? Attempts to recruit women into STEM fields of science, technology? engineering, mathematics. Is that on the chopping block right now? I think that a Pandora’s box has been opened, and understandably now the progressive movement is going after legacy admissions, which is a lingering aspect of affirmative action for wealthy white families. This is the program whereby if your grandparents and parents attended Harvard, you get affirmative action points, for example, that boost you over those whose parents and grandparents did not attend Harvard.

That is still intact. It’ll be interesting to see what the Supreme Court does if If and when that comes before them, but I think that the message should be clear, particularly to communities of color, particularly to black people in particular, that if you look at our history, one of the ways we’ve been able to advance is not only through domestic alliances, it’s been through international alliances.

That’s the import of the Haitian Revolution and its impact on slavery, the Haitian Revolution 1791 to 1804, which has enormous impact on these shores. That’s the impact of the coming to independence of African and Caribbean nations simultaneously and not coincidentally with the rise of the civil rights movement because they were joined and interlocked.

And that’s the lesson that’s precisely been lost in 2023, which is one of the reasons, one of the many reasons we’ve been enduring and suffering so many setbacks.

Eleanor: And so do you, I guess, like, do you feel that as an institution, as a nation state of the United States, is racial equality, could black folks, could the descendants of the enslaved on these shores ever experience full citizenship in a country like the United States?

Dr. Horne: Well, I’m glad you asked that question again, because I didn’t respond directly when you first posed it.

My simple answer is yes. But obviously, I can be accused, perhaps understandably, of being a naïve. For saying that, in light of my previous remarks about barreling down the tracks towards neofascism, I can be accused of, as the lawyers say, pleading inconsistent counts. That is to say, your honor, my client didn’t do it and he won’t do it again.

As a person who studied history, 16th century, the 17th century, the 18th century, the 19th century I don’t have a whiggish view of constant progress, but I have seen the erosion of the slave trade, the erosion of slavery, the erosion of U. S. apartheid, and I think that part of getting us to the goal line of the kind of equality that’s implicated in your question Is rethinking how we got to this point and particularly stressing international alliances.

That’s the way historically we’ve been able to circumvent and do it in run around this right wing hegemony that obtains amongst too many in this country, and so I guess I would revise my remarks to say yes, I do think the kind of equality that you suggest is possible, but it will involve a re jiggering or recalibration or recalculation of the kinds of strategies and tactics we pursue to this point.

Eleanor: Yes, absolutely. A shift away from fascism, clearly.

Dr. Horne: Well, to begin with.

Eleanor: Yes, at the very least. Dr. Horne, thank you so much for taking the time. Where can folks find your work?

Dr. Horne: Well, most of my books are still in print and they’re Easily and readily available thus far, but given the trend towards book bans, who knows how long that’ll last as of now, I have a number of Facebook pages that are devoted to my work, and this talk will probably wind up on that Facebook page. And then I have YouTube lectures, which thus far can still be accessed, but once again, who knows what the future may bring.

Eleanor: Yes. Well, as, as Project Censored, we are unfortunately well acquainted with censorship. So if you can’t find Dr. Horne’s books easily, then it’s worth digging, because if they’re going to ban them, then they’re worth reading.

Dr. Horne, thank you again for joining us at the Project

Dr. Horne: Thank you for inviting me.

Below is a Rough Transcript of the Interview with Jen Deerinwater

Eleanor: thank you so much for joining us at the Project Censored radio show. This segment is a bit different than the typical interview setup. Today we’re going to be talking about what I’ve named queer journeys.

Not least of all, the bi and or pansexual journey is one of the ones that is often censored and shown as confused, reckless, slutty, etc. And since this is Project Censored, in the interest of bringing forward the lived experiences that are not in the Lockheed Martin funded pride parades and news coverage, I’m very glad to be joined once again on the show by my dear friend and partner in bi-ness, Jen Deerinwater, who is a bisexual, two spirit, multiply disabled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and an award winning journalist and organizer who covers the myriad of issues her communities face with an intersectional lens.

Jen is the founding executive director of Crushing Colonialism and a 2019 New Economies Reporting Project and 2020 Disabilities Futures Fellow. Jen is a regular contributor to Truthout and her work has been featured in a wide range of publications as well as anthologies. Jen has been interviewed for numerous outlets and her work on And on her work, and the advocate named Jen a 2019 Champion of Pride.

Jen is also a 2022 member of the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame. And while raised in rural areas of her nation’s reservation Oklahoma and in rural Texas, and a nomad at heart, Jen currently lives on occupied Piscataway land known as Washington, D. C. Jen, thanks so much for joining us.

Jen: Yeah, thank you for having me here.

Eleanor: So, again, this is a bit of a different It’s basically like inviting people to have to creep on a conversation that you and I are having. But I, I thought about when we were at Baltimore Pride together and I thought, you know, this is really something that should be discussed, because it is very censored, this this bi in particular, this bi journey.

And I know we’re outside of Pride Month, but I’ve always colored outside the lines anyway. So I wanted to start off just… Asking and talking about that initial time. I don’t want to say moment because that’s too much like, oh, that was July 2nd. Where you started to have questions about this, this heteronormative structure that you were brought up in.

Jen: Oh, that’s a question. That’s a question. I would say. When I was a child, honestly, is when I started questioning it long before I ever knew had even the slightest inkling that I could be queer, you know, I saw a lot of not not all of my family, but I saw some very gendered roles around who does what in the household.

You know, I come from a family where the women had to work outside of the home. It wasn’t financially possible for women to just be quote, stay at home moms and wives. But at the end of the day, when they’d come home, they were still expected to cook and clean and do all the childcare. And so there were a lot of things I saw growing up that I just.

I didn’t understand and it didn’t make sense to me. I was like, why would I want to take part in this? From what I’m seeing, the women in my family are run ragged while the men just have one job, you know? So there were just, there were a lot of things there that I already was just like, no, thanks. I don’t, I don’t want any part of this.

Like I decided when I was quite young that I didn’t want to get married and I didn’t want to have children. And I’m 44 and I’m still very thankful every second of every day that I am single and child free.

Eleanor: And when you were growing up, was the concept of bisexuality or was the concept of two spirit something that you were introduced to?

Jen: No, no, not at all. Kind of like in our conversation at Pride recently, you know, I did not knowingly, like I didn’t know an open queer person until I was 21 when I had left home and was living in Los Angeles. You know, there was some talk about someone I worked with in high school who was supposedly bi and, you know, but that was kind of it, like there was no recognition whatsoever of queerness outside of just the Christians that I grew up around saying how horrible queer people were.

So. You know, I thought the feelings that I had for women when I was younger, honestly, I thought they were just because men were such sexist and, you know, abusive people. Wasn’t until I got older and realized, oh, no, wait, I’m bi. I, I just intensely dislike men as human beings, but I’m actually attracted to all the genders, so yeah, that’s what’s going on.

Eleanor: Yeah, I mean, I remember, because my mom’s an artist, and I remember I would look through her art books very often, and there are, of course, a lot of nude women in art books. And I just thought that, because my mom would point out, oh, isn’t this beautiful art? I was like, oh, so every woman thinks that other naked women are really beautiful and also attractive in that kind of way, and that’s just a thing.

And so I guess that’s, that makes me straight, right? And it wasn’t until I was older that I was like, oh, you guys don’t feel the same way? Yeah. Oh, that’s weird. Like and I was, and, and I was also, I mean, I, I didn’t grow up in Oklahoma or Texas, but I grew up in North Carolina, which is also very, very, very narrow in terms of, and the school that I went to was in you know, like I, people threw food at me in the cafeteria just for saying no to the Iraq war.

So the idea of being queer was absolutely not up for discussion. And. I just remember trying to really be very outwardly straight, and I’m not even sure, like, how you can do that, but I tried to be, like, very, no, I’m definitely straight because I played softball, and everybody thought that the theater kids were gay, so I had, like, two strikes against me, and people would call me dyke, and I was like, no, I’m straight, I just also think that women are attractive, is this weird?

Is this, This is normal, right? But, like, I had nobody to talk to about it because nobody else was openly queer. And then, of course, later on Facebook, like, you know, a bunch of people that I went to school with are now openly queer. But we were all just kind of like, no, we’re straight. We’re super, super straight.

Okay, please, please don’t throw food at me or beat me up after school. I mean, there was nowhere to, to discuss these thoughts and these feelings. And I imagine had there been. Any professors or any teachers that they would have been fired if they even entertained the conversation with a student, asking them, like, if these feelings were normal?

Jen: Oh, absolutely. I can’t imagine having asked anyone that I went to school with, student or faculty, for help. I mean, I struggled a great deal with, with suicidal ideation. I tried to kill myself several times as a kid. Like I already wasn’t getting help and support as like a native child and one who was chronically ill and suicidal.

I can’t imagine if I had realized I was queer as well. Like I almost kind of think that my subconscious maybe, Kind of like subverted it to keep me alive. I kind of wonder sometimes as well as just, you know, not having anyone to talk to and not have anyone to look to, you know, even coming out as bi, it was, you know, later in life, it was really difficult for me because there was still very much this attitude that I would sometimes get from people of, Oh, well, you’re just confused.

You don’t understand. You’re really just straight. I’d get that a lot because I’m more feminine in my appearance or I would sometimes get, well, you’re just really gay and you don’t know it yet or, and I’ve gotten this one, including from a therapist that I’m just bi because I’m a rape survivor because you know, that’s how sexuality works.

You know, I lost it on that therapist, you know, I was like 26, 27, I think when that happened and I said to her, I was like, first of all, if women became queer for being raped, every woman on this earth would be a lesbian. Let’s be real. All of us would. And second, like, I know this is going to terrestrial radio, so I can’t actually say what I told to her, but you can imagine it was colorful.

You know, so even as an adult. There’s still, like, even now that I know who I am and I’m confident in that, there’s still that nonsense. There’s still people to this day acting like bisexuality isn’t real or they don’t want to date me because of it. You know, I remember all the jokes as well when I came out of, Oh, you’re bi all your options have increased.

And I’m like, actually they decreased. Like, I don’t have extra options. Just call me a bitter bisexual. I hate everybody.

Eleanor: And it’s so true that, well, the trope is like, Oh, you’re bi. So you’re slutty. First of all, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying sex. That’s the first point. But secondly, no I am like, the most picky person that I know. So I’ve probably had sex with way less people than my straight and just gay friends have.

Because I’m so picky, like, bi does not mean that you are just like, yeah, I’ll have sex with anything. But this also was a common trope with… with gay folks and back in the day, like, oh, well, they’re what’s next having sex with donkeys. And and the mental health issue is something that we see a lot with particularly trans kids like, oh, it’s because you were abused as a child or it’s because you have mental health issues.

That’s why you’re trans as opposed to this is really who that person is. And yeah, I mean, it’s not okay, but it’s more predictable in the straight male community for the, you know, when I’ve dated guys, they’ve been like, well, you’re with me, so you must just be straight. But in the queer community, there were a lot of women that would say, well, you’re with me, so you’re just a lesbian.

Why can’t you just accept it? Really just trying to blot out the B in LGBT. Like, wait, that’s not a thing. And I don’t understand where this animosity comes from. And one woman I dated said, well, I just can’t imagine. Like, penis actually scares me, so the fact that you interact with that at all makes it creepy for me to interact with you.

And I was like, okay, well, I understand having a lot of fear and trauma around male genitalia and maleness in general but as a whole, like, What is it? Why is it still so prevalent? You know, like, a few years ago I went into a lesbian bar and they were like, you know, one woman said, kind of jokingly, but kind of not, like, well, why are you here if you’re bi?

And I’m like, Ah, why are we doing this? Why is there so… Like, why are we infighting? Like, enough people hate us anyway. Like, why are we infighting each other?

Jen: Yeah, I really kind of pulled away from queer community years ago because of the biphobia and then just the anti native racism and now as a disabled person, I can’t even go to most queer bars or events because no one bothers to make anything disability accessible.

So I in general am just like, I feel like I’m just a queer out here on an island by my own. You know? Like, I don’t quite feel wanted and accepted by the queer community, but I’m sure as hell not accepted by the straight community.

Eleanor: Well, and I wanted to dig into some of those intersections as well. In terms of being two spirit, was that a journey that happened in parallel, or was that something that came about because you did your own research after you had already embraced being bi?

Jen: So, it came Yes. So all of the natives that I grew up around were pretty anti queer. They either said things that were outright anti queer or they just made it very well known that queerness was uncomfortable and unacceptable. You had to behave in a certain way or you weren’t a real man, you weren’t a real woman.

I now recognize that that thought process is not in line. With the traditional values of my tribe. It’s not in line with many nations, but that is how some of our relatives are now as a result of colonialism. But the first time I heard the word two spirit was when I was in college, I was an undergrad at USC and I have many thoughts on that school.

I will save them, but. There was a professor who was a wretched human being, Walter Williams was later arrested as for pedophilia yeah, lovely, lovely human being, and he’s still considered to this day one of the lead researchers on two spirit people horribly misogynistic. An abuser and completely racist and had no understanding of what two spirit actually is.

So everything I learned about two spirits originally came from this really atrocious. White man, this really awful white man who has done awful things to our communities and have stolen so much from us. And so that all of my concepts of indigenating queerness up until my 30s, like that was kind of all I had was either we hate queer people or it’s this one narrow interpretation by this racist, abusive white man.

And then I started meeting more openly queer people. It was actually a lot of friends in Canada who were the ones who really started explaining to me like what gender looked like amongst different nations, where the term two spirit came from, how it was applicable to me. And that was really kind of, it was a long journey of, of learning that I was two spirit and realizing that versus being bi.

That, that just kind of came to me within a couple of months. It was like, oh, hey, I’m bi, but Two Spirit was a longer journey, but that’s also because being Two Spirit, it’s not just like a gender identity. It’s a role within tribal community. It’s a role within indigenous community. It’s it’s not the same as I just check a box like this comes with roles and duties within my people that, that I am obliged to do.

So I did not publicly come out as Two Spirit until I was I don’t know, somewhere in my late thirties.

Eleanor: I think that also says a lot about traditional communities, indigenous communities versus colonialist communities, because checking a box, it’s like, okay, well I just check a box and I don’t have any accountability to any community or any people.

I’m just me, my individualist self. And you know, that, that, that it’s all about me and how I see myself. And, but to actually embrace a term it was somebody at a pipeline protest that was explaining to me that, you know, you can’t just call someone auntie in the indigenous community, like that is a role.

And so you, that’s not just something that you would say like, oh, this person’s a– no, that is. A lot of a lot of responsibility. Whereas in, of course, in the colonialist perspective, it’s like, oh, that’s just an aunt, that’s just a thing that happened because your sibling had sex with someone else and had a kid.

It’s a very passive thing. And I wish that the the queer community had more of a sense of that responsibility to each other. And which is really the grassroots of pride anyway. You know, these riots that demanded justice and human rights.

But now it’s just a corporatized bleep.

But so with regards to those intersections too I’m curious because in my history of being both Nordic and Jewish I feel like most of the Nordic Has gotten lost, because I do feel at some point in everybody’s history, there was an embrace of these queer identities, but it’s been lost with the colonialism that happened in these nation states as they formed, you know, when Sweden became a nation state and by that, you have to, you have to dictate who belongs and who doesn’t belong.

And that’s very, you can see that along the, the indigenous lines, but also means along like gendered lines. So what was lost? And I know that a lot of people will point to like, oh, well in Viking mythology, Thor dresses up as a woman and da da da, and it’s like, but that wasn’t considered a good thing.

Viking… Viking society was very, very gendered, and that didn’t mean that women didn’t have power, women had a lot of power as seers, and as you know, as people who had power inside the home and on farms and things, but it was very, very gendered and when it came to government, women were not part of it, and if they were, it was, you know, the exception that proved the rule, So this trying to, trying to twist Viking mythology for a leftist perspective is, can be romantic, but there’s absolutely nothing historically to show for that.

And I am saddened to think of everything before that, you know, in the hundreds and hundreds of years before when that part of the world was settled by people. what was lost, like what kind of ideas about gender and what kind of acceptance and embracing of different identities was lost because of these more militant and gendered perspectives.

But do, do you feel any connection to your non Indigenous background in terms of queerness or?

Jen: Not really. You know, I’ll be honest, a lot of the The European background, I don’t know as much about that part of my family they’ve just not been as interested in, in knowing those roots and where they come from.

I, one of these days, if I can ever find some free time, I’m going to do a big family tree and learn about all of all of my ancestry, but I know there’s a lot of German and some Swedish and Dutch in parts of my family, but. In terms of queer identity or anything, like I just, I don’t really identify with it a great deal.

I look at whiteness and I think about some of the racism I saw within my family as a mixed native kid. Like, and I just don’t really want anything to do with it. To be honest, you know, I, every time I hear white people say like, well, I’m not racist, my grandchild is black or my, this is that, and I’m just like.

I grew up with white family members who were like horribly racist. So what? Like, so I just, I don’t know. So no, I don’t have any connection to like any queerness and that side of my family. But I mean, the white part of my family is pretty anti queer as well. Like I, I’m sure they didn’t think anything of it when they said things when I was a kid, but there’s a reason I, Disconnected and have not spoken to my family.

I think about some of the things they said, including things that were anti queer. I don’t want anything to do with them and all of that. Like, thanks, but no thanks.

Eleanor: I can totally, totally see that. I, when I was growing up, my parents were definitely not anti queer. Both of my parents have queer friends particularly my mom because I don’t know any artist who doesn’t have a bunch of queer friends because we’re, we’re very artsy, aren’t we?

But it was just never, really talked about. And then of course, you know, my brother became a big male model and his agent was gay. And so I, You know, I met a bunch of, bunch more of queer folks through that, and that it was never, it was never discussed negatively. It wasn’t just, just like, wasn’t discussed.

It was kind of like who cares? And so I kind of adopted that, but that also, made me kind of quiet down my own questions because it wasn’t even a thing. And I think that, like, especially with my, my brother being in that space, he was metrosexual. For people under the age of 30, you have probably have no idea what that means, but that was like the term given to like the, the backstreet boy type thing where you spend four hours getting those perfect little spikes on your hair and you might put some foundation on, but you’re super straight.

That was my brother. And so I was like, Oh, well, I guess I’m just straight and then also find women attractive. And then, you know, as I’ve gotten older, I realized, well, all of this is just so muddied. I mean, even just me, to this day, grappling with bi and pan, like, I’m like, well, it’s all just very fluid, gender is fluid, and my, my preferences are fluid, and, and it just seems like, as I continue to learn more about these terms and these ideas, and I reflect it on my own childhood, I continue to question where do I fit in?

And I’m curious, do you have that same feeling? Is pansexuality something that you use or are there other terms that you would use to describe yourself?

Jen: I think probably pansexual is more in line with who and what I am. Especially as like my own ideas of gender have expanded over the years.

You know, I still just say that I’m bi because biphobia is real. It’s a thing. Even though some folks like to act like it doesn’t exist, it does. It’s real. It’s still around. I don’t know. I feel, I feel like for me, it’s more the individual than the gender. It’s more the connection I have with someone.

Like you and I are both very sapiosexual. Like we’ve had those conversations. And unlike you though, when I was younger, I was a lot less selective in my, my partners. But as the years went on, I realized more and more, if I just don’t have an intellectual connection with someone, I just don’t have the level of attraction and the interest.

And now at 44. I’m just kind of like, you know, I’ve already been out there. I’ve already done everyone. It’s about the individual, and if you’re not right for me, then I’d just rather be at home with my cats, you know, reading a book, or watching TV. Like, I just, I don’t know, that’s where I’m at.

Eleanor: Totally, totally.

Is there… In terms of the comparison between how we talk about it in a, you know, an English speaking, colonialist perspective by pansexual, are there similar conversations in the indigenous community and similar, like, research trying to dig up what’s been, I don’t want to use the word lost because it makes it sound like y’all just dropped it when you were on a walk or something, that’s been destroyed.

I hate when people are like, oh, the Palestinian people lost land. I’m like, dude, they didn’t like lose, it wasn’t lost. No, I lost my keys. That was stolen violently. Like so is there any kind of research into what was stolen and what was destroyed by colonialism in terms of these these identities?

Jen: Yeah, there’s a growing amount of research being done. Of course I can’t think of the name of the author right now. I’m the worst at names. I just, I’m the worst. Every time I get on an interview and people are like, Oh, who should we follow? Whose book should we buy? I’m like, I don’t know. I wasn’t prepared for that.

so there are people in the community some are academics, some are other types of storytellers who are sort of bringing back some of that knowledge about, you know, different gender identities and different ways of seeing sexuality and gender within traditional Indigenous ways. It’s tough though, because as people who are more oral storytellers, we don’t have written documents to look to.

So, when your people are all being murdered, and there are no documents, like, not that documents can’t be destroyed and aren’t all the time in Acts of War, but It makes it harder. It makes it harder to know that knowledge that was lost and the knowledge of our, you know, multi gendered people was purposefully was purposefully oppressed.

You know, there are some records of the Spanish, for example, taking people that they did not consider to be. You know, the right kind of men and doing awful things to them. There are records of Bureau of Indian Affairs officers requiring that men and women dress a certain way. On the reservations they were forced on to, you know, so there’s, there is some, documentation out there about the suppression of our ways, but it is kind of hard.

You know, I’ve done a little bit of research, but a lot of it just comes down to, you know, Family history, you know, stories shared amongst communities and elders. And so then it really, it takes the time and the knowledge of finding the right people. And it’s, it’s pretty resource intensive to do that kind of.

That kind of research.

Eleanor: Yeah, I, I imagine it is. And I was thinking while you were talking about kind of the modern iterations of something that we know existed. Like for instance in Judaism there’s like the queer mikveh project. Mikveh is a ritual bath. And it’s Today, very gendered, so like the women and the men are separated and they cannot do mikvah together, but if you don’t identify in that binary, then you are barred from partaking.

So there’s like the queer mikvah project that that allows folks who will identify as anything as any gender to partake. There’s the anarcho fagola collective, which I love. Fagola is like the, the Yiddish word for for queer. Outlive them in New York City. And, and a lot of what they’re doing is creating.

A new iteration of what we know as Jews existed and a lot of times had to exist quietly, which is kind of ridiculous because Jews had to exist so quietly for so long anyway, it’s like, could I just at least be myself as a Jew? But this is also part of that emulating the oppressor, which is of course what we see on a grand scale in the creation of Israel as a state.

And I also was thinking about Braiding Sweetgrass, which is a phenomenally beautiful book, but in one of the chapters she talks about how her father used to do a prayer when they were out camping and I’m paraphrasing here, but she was saying that her father didn’t know if this was actually the prayer that his ancestors used you know, to start the day.

But he said that wasn’t the point because the earth still understood him and and the earth understood his intention with that basically new prayer. Do you feel like there’s something similar happening in indigenous communities where, okay, well, that was destroyed. So how can we, as you know, the, the future of our ancestors create something today?

That might not be exactly what existed, but it’s the same feeling and it’s the same vibe and our ancestors will see and respect that.

Jen: Mm hmm. Yeah you know, I see it and I see that in a lot of different spaces. You know, the one that just most immediately comes to mind is the two spirit camp out at Oceti Sakowin, when the Nodapal, Camps were up resisting the Dakota access pipeline.

You know, there were some people out there who did not welcome the two spirits. They didn’t want us there. They didn’t see us as leaders and warriors, but people like Candi Brings Plenty, for example, just kept at it and said, No, this is our place. And we’re here and we’re going to fight for what’s right.

And, you know, so you do see that, that there are spaces in which I see these things, sorts of things happening. There are some ceremonial spaces where they say, you know what, we’re not going to make women go over here, men go over there, we’re going to let you go in whichever ceremonial space feels right for you, you know, but it’s.

A lot of it comes down to more community, you know, are there any large nonprofits or projects or things like that? No. But also let’s be real, like, I think it’s only like 0. 2% of philanthropic dollars. Like it’s significantly less than even 1%. Of philanthropic dollars goes to native causes and then amongst those very little of that goes to queer natives. So we don’t we don’t have those sorts of like formal structures and things in place a lot of times for a host of reasons But people are out here doing things.

They’re trying to decolonize. They’re trying to Take back things and make it more accessible to people, even very, very slowly, way too slowly, in my opinion, but I am starting to see like the beginning beginning kindling of like recognizing disability access. It’s way too slow going but. You know, there are some people up in Toronto who just made a power chair, friendly sweat lodge.

There are some people in Baltimore who were talking to me about like, how can we make us rebuild our sweat lodge to make it more accessible? So there are a lot of ways I see in community in native community where people are, they are working. They are trying to make it more open to all of our relatives, but.

You know, we didn’t get like this overnight, and we’re certainly not going to unlearn over 500 years of colonialism overnight, and especially not when we are so purposefully under resourced by foundations and governments.

Eleanor: Yeah, and I, you know, as you pointed out at the beginning, the kind of anti queer sentiment that you experienced within the indigenous community, I think that’s something that that happens across the board.

I know it absolutely happens inside Judaism. I mean, the present on the, on the Passover table there was the addition several years ago of an orange, which is not part of the traditional table, but it’s a joke because I can’t remember his name, but who cares? Because he’s said that the prominence of queer people in Judaism is as likely as having an orange on the Seder plate.

And so now we have an orange on our Seder plate as a. You know as a middle finger to this guy, because obviously there are queer Jews, and you can see it, particularly in Jewish mysticism, which I’m more into than the kind of classic Torah teachings, but like the Sefer Yetzirah, for instance, which is Jewish mysticism talks about wisdom as a feminine entity, but not an embodied femininity.

It’s a femininity that exists outside of body that’s like a web of existence, a network. And there’s a lot of this where it’s like genders are not embodied and things are very fluid, just like the waters and the air, and there’s a lot of that kind of talk. But of course, I remember at the temple that I grew up.

With in Charlotte in North Carolina, my dad was telling me, Oh, well, somebody suggested that, that, that, that we bring in the Sefer Yetzirah. And it was completely quashed by the board at the temple because of these kind of teachings in these concepts, I’m sure. And also just this idea that you know, we are divine as connected to the creator and things like that.

That’s, that’s dangerous talk. But but yeah, so the quashing of teachings that exist in our own communities is something that I think happens across the board and is so for me, it’s incredibly gut wrenching to see, cause I’m like, I

Jen: mm. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, you are already so alienated by the oppressor, and then to have your own people be the oppressor, your own family, your own friends, your religious, spiritual community, ceremonial community, whatever you want to call it, its like you’ve already punched me in the gut and and now you’re just I don’t even know how to describe it It’s like you’ve you’re just stabbing me repeatedly and twisting the knife and oh, isn’t it funny?

Like I I don’t even know like how to explain to people how Unloved I often feel, even within my own communities. How forgotten, how thrown away, and that is so painful for me. Like, it’s more painful for me when a lesbian or a gay man says something biphobic than a straight person. It’s more painful for me when a Native person says something anti queer or ableist, or the disability community does something that’s anti Native, you know, so on.

It’s just another way of telling me over and over and over again that my life has no value. Unless of course it’s for the free labor that I can hand over to movement and then my life has tons of value, which is a whole other conversation I can have about, you know, so called liberals and even some of our radical leftists.

This idea that we can just check a box and use someone up and hey, that means we’re pro queer or we’re pro this or whatever, when in fact you’re actually just extracting labor out of us, you’re taking our trauma and our talents and our time and just Exploiting it. It’s no different than, you know, going to a job at, say, Starbucks or an office building or something.

It’s still exploitation, you know?

Eleanor: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve, I’ve oftentimes felt that people talk about, oh, well, a seat at the table. We want to make sure that these people have a seat at the table. And I’m like, but what’s happening at the table? Because if the seat at the table is just so you can say, Look, indigenous person!

Or look, disabled person! Or queer person Like, then screw your table, I’m flipping it over. Like, I don’t want your table. Like, the seat at the table, It’s another one of those vapid liberal ideas where it’s like, It sounds really nice, But it means nothing if I’m not part of the conversation. If I’m just there as some kind of like yeah, figurehead.

Jen: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. You’re just the window dressing. You’re the weird cousin that we have to invite to the meal, but no one really wants them there.

Elenora: But we have to, to get the, get the diversity dollars. So kind of wrapping up here, I mean, I know that there’s so much that that needs to be done and needs to be discussed in terms of biphobia and bringing bi experiences to the fore.

But what would you, like, what would you say to somebody or, I would hesitate to say, your younger self, because I don’t know that I want to talk to my younger self, but we have way too much to discuss and I don’t, but, like, what would you say to somebody who might be thinking, well, am I bi?

Or is that a thing? Or, because I feel like it’s, maybe it’s not, and maybe I’m just confused, like, what do you wish that maybe somebody who was, had the wisdom that you do now had said to you when you were in your 20s?

Jen: So many things I wish somebody had said to me in my 20s. You can do better. Yeah, that person’s not good enough.

Move it along.

Yeah. Bisexuality is real. Don’t, don’t listen to what anyone else says. It’s real. If you think you may be bi, then you might be bi, you know, don’t let people pressure you in to, you know, picking straight or gay, because that just feels like what everybody wants you to do, you know? And I know it’s easier said than done to say, Oh, you know, be out and be proud when we live in a world where it’s so incredibly dangerous, especially right now with the direction that this trash bag of a country is going, but just know that one bisexuals actually make up the majority.

Of the queer community. We are the majority, regardless of what some people might say. We’re, we’re the bulk. Number one. And number two, like, yeah, it’s real. It’s valid. We’re here. And, you know, all of the stereotypes and that people may say about us, like, it’s all just rooted in anti queerness. It’s all rooted in heteronormativity.

It’s rooted in other forms of isms and oppressions and just like, don’t, don’t buy into it. Don’t believe the hype.

Eleanor: Yeah, absolutely. And I would definitely say because this is again, something that I heard a lot. Regardless of whether you have a partner or regardless of the gender of your current partner, you are still bi.

Jen: Yes!

Eleanor: This is not a switch. I am currently living with a man, and I have a child with that man. I’m still bi. I did not hand in my bi card when I decided that we would live together. Like that’s… It doesn’t matter.


Jen: hmm. Yes. Exactly.

Eleanor: Well, I feel like we could have this conversation for the next four hours, but is there anything, any last little thoughts for this time that you’d like to add that I might not have addressed?

Jen: No, nothing at the moment comes to mind.

Eleanor: Okay. Well folks, thanks so much for joining us for Queer Journeys. Maybe we’ll do this again sometime if it’s something that people enjoy. But if not, I definitely recommend that folks check out Jen’s work. Jen, what are the best websites or Twitter or Instagram or what have you to look at for that?

Jen: So jdeerinwater. com is my website or You can find Jdeerinwater and Crushingcolonialism on all of the social media platforms.

Eleanor: Okay, awesome. Thank you so much, Jen.

Jen: Awesome