Couple fights for equality and safety for gay people on tribal land
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
Felipa Deleon Mousseau and Monique "Muffie" Mousseau grew up miles apart on the Pine Ridge Reservation, but they didn't connect until they were in their 30 seconds. Felipa had never dated a woman before. But when she spotted Muffie in a crowded bar, it set her on an unexpected path. They came to StoryCorps to recall that night and what followed as they confronted prejudice and the persistent threat of violence.
FELIPA DELEON MOUSSEAU: What I remember is seeing you in the bar and just falling head over heels in love with you. And I had just said, I'm going to be with her. So I went over and I gave you my car keys and told you, you was driving me home.
MUFFIE MOUSSEAU: It was totally black and white until I seen you that night. Everything became colorful and bright, like a lightning bolt.
F MOUSSEAU: After we started dating, I was working as a preschool teacher. And we were having our family picnic. And I let them know that you was my girlfriend, not realizing what kind of effect that was going to have on my job. That Monday, when I got back to work, I was called into the office. And the director advised me that I was no longer needed. I asked him why, and what did I do? And he told me that it was unethical for someone like me to be working with children.
M MOUSSEAU: And I was threatened that you would be raped every time I left to go to work. I couldn't take that. You couldn't take that. And I jumped off. My main objective was to pass laws to ensure the safety of our people.
F MOUSSEAU: Yeah. And it was scary...
M MOUSSEAU: Oh.
F MOUSSEAU: ...Talking in front of the tribal councils about everything that we've been through.
M MOUSSEAU: Yeah. But we had elders stand up and really embrace us and say, we've been waiting for you girls to come and do this. And they passed that law.
F MOUSSEAU: Yes, they did.
M MOUSSEAU: You know, prior to pilgrims touching on this land, we were accepted because Two Spirit, we are the Wo Wakan, sacredness of our people.
F MOUSSEAU: Yeah. And we're giving our Tiospaye, our families, and the generations yet to come a safe place for them. Like you always tell me, Muffie, this is a spiritual journey. We have to keep each other strong. And as long as we're doing it together and it's me and you, we have this.
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MARTÍNEZ: That's Felipa Deleon Mousseau and Monique "Muffie" Mousseau, who are now married in Rapid City, S.D. They helped pass marriage equality and hate crime laws on the Pine Ridge Reservation and in several other tribal nations. There's more to their story, and you can hear it on the upcoming season of the StoryCorps podcast. Get it at npr.org.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.