Screen talent Mary Galloway is helping to fill a void, one that made her feel invisible growing up.
“I had absolutely nothing to turn to and watch and see myself represented,” the writer-director-actor told the Georgia Straight by phone. “Not seeing positive role models in the media of Indigenous queer women, or Indigenous women in general, I think made me feel like I was being erased and that side of me didn’t matter and was shameful a bit.”
Galloway, who identifies as a cisgender Indigiqueer woman of mixed Cowichan and settler heritage, was born on Vancouver Island and now lives on Treaty 1 territory in Manitoba.
In overcoming internalized homophobia and racism that she had absorbed over the years, she said it took a lot of “self-work and intentional connection to my community to embrace that side of me”. What was fortunate was that her family was supportive, embracing, and loving after she came out a few years ago.
Furthermore, within the film industry she found Indigenous female role models such as actor and producer Jennifer Podemski (Degrassi: The Next Generation) and screenwriter and producer Marilyn Thomas (“Shi-shi-etko”), as well as Indigiqueer mentors like filmmaker Adam Garnet Jones. She credits Jones’s queer male love story in Fire Song, in which she acted, with being a “life changing” experience for her.
Now Galloway is bringing images and stories to screens that are making a difference in the lives of viewers.
She’s currently in Toronto filming her latest project, a short coming-of-age romance-dramedy called “Better at Texting”, about a rebellious, feminist Indigenous girl and a Black Mormon queer girl who are paired up on a school assignment and have to figure out how to work together—as they fall for one another.
What’s more, her web series Querencia, consisting of eight 10-minute episodes, launched on APTN lumi on June 1. In this Vancouver-filmed show, Galloway stars as Abe, an urban young woman who remains disconnected from her Indigenous heritage and very guarded after being burned by former flames too many times. Kaitlyn Yott (Charmed), portrays her polar opposite: the open-hearted and culturally connected Daka, who has moved to Vancouver to become a professional dancer. When the closeted and inexperienced Daka is matched up with the out and self-assured Abe, they find themselves drawn to one another despite (or perhaps because of) their contrasting yet complementary differences.
Galloway explained that she wrote the story during a tough period in her life when she was heartbroken, had lost her job, and felt alone. When a friend convinced her to focus on something she felt passionate about, she decided to create what she wished she could have seen when she was younger.
Interestingly, both Abe and Daka are based upon Galloway’s own experiences: she said she drew upon what she underwent moving from a small town to Vancouver and being “shell-shocked by the big-city life” (until she moved to L.A. and realized what a true big city is like).
Galloway has great praise and appreciation for Yott, with whom she felt “an automatic kinship”, and she said that Yott’s generous presence and collaborative approach enabled her to easily transition from director to actor and “just be in the scene with her”.
She said that although they are in talks for Season 2, to make Querencia “bigger and better”, she also has lots of ideas she still wants to explore, so she thinks it will last for a few more seasons. Although she has seen some homophobic comments about the show on social media, she says “it’s all a part of the game” and that she believes the show is helping to “open up their minds”.
When it comes to mainstream Indigenous representation, she said she believes that we’re only at the “tip of the iceberg” and that there’s still a lot of “growing pains” to undergo.
“The world and country is waking up to the really sad and brutal, harsh truth of the treatment of Indigenous people in this country,” she said. “The Indigenous community is still in a lot of pain and is still going through a lot of trauma and simultaneously having to mourn and grieve, especially with all of our children that were taken away from us…and having to simultaneously…also teach and explain to people what it is that we’re going through and try to educate and bring people in as allies.”
Although she said she thinks that there’s lots of work and learning still to do, she noted that “it is happening” and she does see light ahead: “I can see it slowly morphing into a world where Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can coexist in harmony.”