THEY: Interview with dåko'ta

Posted on December 09, 2015

ill Weaver and Wes Taylor have developed and are sharing a new line of apparel for Emergence called “THEY”. “THEY” is a strategy for signalling one’s self-identification with the gender nonconforming pronouns “they” and “them” in an affirming and aesthetically bold way. As part of the launch of this new apparel, ill discussed the “they/them” pronouns with other inspiring individuals who use “they/them” pronouns.

Read on for ill’s summary of their conversation with dåko'ta. Read more thoughts from ill Weaver on the THEY campaign here.

About dåko’ta

Born in Snohomish Territory (Everett, WA), raised in Tscha-kole-chy (Whidbey Island, WA), and Duwamish Territory (Seattle, WA), dåko’ta’s ancestry is Chamoru (Songsong Tomhom Manggåffan Che’ yan Songsong Mongmong Manggåffan Eggeng) and Ilokano (Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Philippines).

dåko’ta graduated from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University with a Masters in Performance studies and is one of Guåhan’s most creatively fierce activists innovating creative pedagogies for Chamoru empowerment.

A nationally competitive slam poet, and a First Wave Hip Hop Scholar at University of Wisconsin-Madison, dåko’ta pursues creative forms of community mobilization igniting audiences with a passionate connection to indigenous issues. Their most recent performance work, Guåhu Guåhan (I Am the Place of Existence), is a 40 minute contemporary indigenous bi-lingual physical theatre work, written, composed and performed by dåko’ta, that renews the collective shards of sacred identities in this, a trans-pacific ceremonial activation.

ill discusses THEY with dåko’ta

“It's really a simple thing but people tend to overthink it” dåko'ta said, “it just comes down to basic self determination..that shouldn't be that hard to grasp.”

dåko'ta can't remember exactly when they first started using “they/them” pronouns, but it was around the time when they were first asking real questions about redefining their gender for their self, beyond societal definitions of manhood, to feel more of the multiple energies within them. “They” felt like a more fitting pronoun.

From an indigenous and spiritual standpoint, dåko'ta is conflicted by they pronouns “they” and “them” for a few reasons. They shared that they’ve been thinking alot about the difference between a gender binary and a divine duality. They define “gender binary” as a structure for societal categories, while “divine duality” is about multiple energies that compose our being.

dåko'ta shared with me how their partner challenged them that if they are to use the “they” pronoun, then they should also use the pronoun by “we”. This challenge helped dåko'ta consider that this identity is also about their ancestors and multiple energies that are part of them, which they carry with them.

“‘They’ takes us out of the individualism of this society.” dåko'ta reflected.

Their relations are from Guåhan (Gwa-han), known in English as Guam, and they don't have gendered pronouns in their language. Fino' Håya (Fee-new haw-zda) is known in English as Chamoru (a term which is derived from Spanish language).

They explained that in their indigenous language, when you refer to someone you say “guiya” or “gui” for short, which doesn't have the same gendered connotations as “he” or “she”. The latter are gender binary terms which immediately categorize a person within the power dynamics of the society. In contrast, “guiya” or “gui” defines your role in family or community. So by using they pronouns dåko'ta realizes it is still within the limited framework of English, but seems to be a more accurate translation of their indigenous language.