Kay Kisto


Santan, AZ

KAY : “ Our group’s name is H.O.P.E. It means Helping O’odham Pursue Equality.

Myself and a few others started this support group on the reservation in 2013. The name of my tribe is Akimel O’odham. In English, this means River People. From what I can tell we are the only LGBTQ group that is recognized by its tribe’s council.

We see some challenges. Just recently we lost one of our executive members to cancer. She and her partner were the first lesbian couple to be married from our community. They were married outside of the reservation, though.

Everyone was so happy when gay marriage passed. We weren’t sure if it would apply to us. Our tribal council told us that the tribal constitution still defined marriage between a man and a woman. Even though marriage equality is a given all across the land, in native land that is not the case. Native American communities have their own sovereignty and this means that when LGBTQ legislation is passed in the United States it does not get passed on the reservations. We have our own legislator and our own amendments we go by. In our communities, it is not recognized at all. You can get married outside of the reservation but you can’t come back and get rights. If both people in the relationship are community members they can get away with certain things but when it comes to owning a home, having land, and having children it is still very rocky. Our sister tribe to the north, Salt River, goes by what the state goes by but in many, many, Native communities it is not recognized.

We and other native LGBTQ folks take on having to educate our Native American communities on stereotypes LGBTQ people face. We are more than what people label us. We want everyone to know that we are all human.


I like being able to connect and support others too! There’s a younger person in my community who is about to be starting hormone therapy. They are kind of scared and only nineteen. They ask me about my experience and I can only share so much as a trans woman with this particular person. There’s a trans woman who I relate with in her mid-twenties. I told her that she needed to warn people about starting hormones. I let her know that she’s going to be crying for no reason. You can look at a jar of mayonnaise and start crying when you start estrogen! I remember this one time during a dumb part of Finding Nemo. I just started bawling… I just broke down. I also remember listening to a dance song and doing mundane things like looking at stuff on Facebook and I would just break down and cry. The mood swings were awful! My brother would be like, “Are you sure you’re not bi-polar?” (Laughing).. But it’s much more under control now! ”


Please follow Kay’s LGBTQ group here!!