Two-Spirit Suicides

Briony Greenhill
3 min readMay 25, 2022


Sovereign was buried on Friday, in an open casket, their young body wrapped in a shroud, laid over with flowers placed by 250 mourners.

Sovereign, Seren, Siobhan and Jeremy in 2018, captured by Josh Donaldson in the film about my teaching

Sovereign had been Meg when we’d first met. In class one day, I said to them, “you are sovereign”, meaning, you can make decisions for yourself, you can lead your life, you are an independent being.

Meg changed their name to Sovereign.

I talked them out of suicide a few times that year. “I’ll be one of your ropes you can use to climb back to shore when you feel in deep water,” I said on the phone. “Please find some others, I’d rather not be the only one.”

Sovereign ended up flourishing that year, in our little gang of singers who met one weekend a month for a year and supported one another as voices came out and freed up.

But we don’t always have such a supportive community. That was 2018. It’s now 2022.

One can’t always be in year-long programs that wrap us in support.

I’ve often wished we had something more like church, for ongoing holding, that we all need, that we all benefit from, rather than or perhaps as well as these year-long programs of various kinds that we sometimes enlist in.

I would describe Sovereign as two-spirit. It’s a Native American term for those who carry the feminine and masculine spirit equally. They hold a sacred role in Native American communities, able to shape shift and see the world from multiple view points. They often have extra sensitivity or extra open-ness to the spirit world that is welcomed by the community as a resource, as a source of wisdom.

I would also describe Naomi as two-spirit. We sung Naomi farewell in September, after she ended her life.

I have only lost 2 former students to suicide. These two. These two two-spirit students, of a similar age.

On the day of Sovereign’s funeral, I messaged their class group.

One of them replied…”Your message landed in me so deeply… My child who was called Millie and is now called Michael — they also identify as non-binary and they also had a very very close miss when they tried to take their own life the Christmas before last.” (Names have been changed for privacy.)

Tears well (again) at this point.

I’m sure you’re with me when I say, I can’t tell you how much I hate suicide. I feel so much compassion for those so desperate. I want to live in a world where everyone can thrive. Where everyone is loved and supported, helped to heal, where there is a place for all of us and we’re welcome and valued and safe and we know it.

I don’t understand enough about being non-binary, or being two-spirit, to understand why there is, apparently, more susceptibility to suicide. I don’t understand yet what it is that makes this harder.

But I do understand that the only 2 students of mine who have ever taken their life have been non-binary, and I care about that and I see that and I want it to be different.

Love to our non-binary siblings. The non-binary kin among us. Extra support their way.



Briony Greenhill

Briony Greenhill is a folk-soul improvisational artist who teaches Collaborative Vocal Improvisation (CVI); formerly a researcher with a 1st in politics.