‘I want them to look at me and say hey, there’s someone like me, this is who I am’ says Orene Askew
Orene Askew, who is both Indigenous and black and identifies as both male and female, has always been proud of her identity and eager to show how other people can find their unique way in the world.
But she was still surprised when she found out she won a Stand Out Award from this year’s Vancouver Pride Society.
The Society awarded the DJ, teacher, motivational speaker and Squamish Nation council member, the Kimberly Nixon Trans, Two-Spirit, Gender Non-Conforming Contribution to Community Award.
“I know there’s people out there watching me and they’re hiding and I want them to look at me and say hey, there’s someone like me, this is who I am,” Askew said.
Askew grew up in a supportive household on the Squamish First Nation in North Vancouver.
“They already knew so basically my coming out experience was they kept eating their steak dinner the whole time,” Askew recalled.
I’m just really proud and really loud about it.
– Orene Askew
But it was a much different experience for her aunt who was born male and transitioned later in life.
“Watching her and how she was teased and kind of ridiculed … and what she went through was really really tough but now I see it as she was a huge role model in my coming out,” she said. “Now I’m just really proud and really loud about it.”
Askew’s family was also an important influence in her music: she and her siblings were raised by her single mom and music was an essential part of the household.
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She’d spend hours listening to music as a youth and writing out lyrics. She was asked to DJ at an early age and has had a business for six years and teaches at the Remix School.
Orene Askew says says beat mixing comes naturally to her. (Orene Askew)
Askew says beat mixing comes naturally to her.
“I compare it to you learning your traditional songs right, and you stand in a lineup and you’re drumming and you wait for your cue and sometimes you fall off so the beat gets a little mixed up but you get back on track. That’s DJ-ing.”
The Squamish First Nation will have a float for the first time ever in this year’s Pride Parade. The parade is slated for August 9.