family, trans, transgender, gay, coming out, TG Innerselves, lesbian, family dynamics, change, gender expression, bullying, violence, withdrawn, shy, labels, suspension, identity, poverty, nursing, mental health, school administration, victim-blaming
Syn: Our family is pretty super queer.
Syn: Um, so, I came out as gay in North Bay when I was 21, so right after my son was born. Um, I ended up, uh, transitioning to male about three years ago. My son is also trans. So, I knew I was trans for years, I was just trying not to… I didn’t want to deal with that. North Bay wasn’t somewhere where you wanted to come out, and it wasn’t somewhere where there was anything available for trans people. So, I stayed in the closet, but when I moved here, my son came out at twelve years old. And, I started bringing him to events in Sudbury. They, uh, TG Innerselves was running, um, like a movie, and it was about trans families. So, as part of introducing him to the community, I got involved in it, and then realized that in this city, I was somewhere where I could come out, and where there would be support.
Syn: So, we ended up both out, uh, transitioning. Um, so I had a partner this whole time I’ve been with for four years. S0, she had identified prior as a lesbian.
Syn: Um, and then had to… We went through some rough goes, because she very strongly identified with that and then realized that she didn’t want to lose me as a person by fixating on what body parts might change. Um, so we’ve stayed together. Um, so yeah, that’s a bit about our family.
Tara: That’s wonderful. Um, so, can you talk a little bit perhaps about your own experience at school in North Bay, uh, knowing that you were trans but not feeling safe to come out, and then maybe move on to your son’s experience?
Syn: Um, sure. Uh, so, I’m going to be 37 in about a month and a half, so when I was, um, starting, I was probably about eight years old when I started, you know, taking my brother’s clothes instead of my own, and wearing what he would wear. Um, I ended up getting my hair cut. My mom was awesome about letting me express myself in any way I wanted. But, an unfortunate side effect of that was that I got the crap kicked out of me constantly. So I went, I ended up going from one school to another starting in grade four, um, trying to find a place where I wouldn’t get beaten up--it wasn’t even just not teased, where I wouldn’t get hurt because of who I was. And, that didn’t really work. Um, come about twelve years old, I met, I got introduced through my mum’s boyfriend to another person my age, and I just started emulating everything she did to see if that would help. Um, but she was gothic. So that brought on a whole different slew of, like uh, visual-based issues I guess, that people thought we were, I don’t know what they thought we were. But anyways, uh…
Tara: Was there bullying related to that kind of, uh, performance?
Syn: There was bullying this whole time, yeah. So um, I struggled in school. Um, my teachers thought I was stupid. Literally, I had that said to me, that I would go nowhere. Um…
Tara: What do you think, you know, uh, what that was about? Why did they make that assumption?
Syn: Because they didn’t take the time to get to know who I was. They judged me based solely on my appearance, and in grade school I was withdrawn constantly. I wouldn’t talk in class, like I…my peers were not good to me, so I wasn’t going to openly say anything, because I was, you know, I was going to class because I was going to school, but I was trying to stay as low profile as possible. Um, come high school, the students that chose to target me, that were the bullies, were also...one of them was class valedictorian. Another one ended up, uh, she was star of their football team, or not football, soccer team. The girls’ soccer. Um, so there was actually a really big fight that happened that I got pulled into where two particular people, who I actually have never forgotten their names – and it’s been 25 years or something--ganged up on me, one of them held me, the other one beat me until I was bleeding everywhere, and then I got suspended from school.
Tara: Why did you get suspended?
Syn: Because they believed that I... the story that these girls said was that I attacked them. So, the school believed that. I got suspended, um, and then tried switching schools. So, I went to a different school in North Bay. Um, I stopped dressing gothic. My mom helped me get a whole new wardrobe and I went to dressing really preppy. Unfortunately for me, there was somebody at that school who I knew from when I was about six or seven years old, and she got in a fight with a pregnant person, and just by being an associate of hers, somebody that was seen with her, I got targeted again because the baby--she ended up miscarrying --the girl that she fought with was carrying a baby, it got miscarried, because of that fight. So it was, like, I don’t know, it was a series of unfortunate events.
Syn: Um, and then my mum got hit by a jeep on the highway. So, I left school at sixteen. I dropped out. And, I stayed home for, I think, it was about five or six months. My mum had to have my help just to function daily.
Syn: And I never went back until after I had my son.
Syn: Because I just wasn’t – school – I was done with school, right?
Syn: Um, so yeah, I worked, uh, I worked a lot of minimum wage jobs. Dollorama, um, Country Style, Tim Hortons. And, then I had my son, and when I had him… like, we grew up...my mum tried her hardest, but we grew up on social assistance.
Syn: So, I didn’t… I chose that what I wanted for him in life wasn’t for him to see the struggle daily of when we, you know, when we get this cheque we have to be really careful of what we buy and we can’t have anything extra. I wanted him to not worry about money. So, I went back to school. I was a student at Canadore. And when…
Tara: This is still in North Bay?
Syn: This is still in North Bay, yeah. And uh, yeah, so I went back. I took my preparatory health sciences, I decided I wanted to go into nursing. So, I took that. I graduated with honours from that, I went on to my nursing, the RPN at Canadore. I graduated with honours from that, and then started working in mental health, because that was kind of my passion. Um, and that was really my school journey in how it went, in a really quick nutshell.
Tara: Wow. Let me go back to the bullying. Um, was there ever an opportunity for you to talk to the teachers about the bullying? Uh, did the teachers or the principal ever show you support?
Syn: No, actually. Not at all. And my mum even tried coming in with me.
Syn: Um, and because that wasn’t working that’s how I ended up hopping school to school to the point where my mum would actually move from one part... one apartment we were in to another end of town just to see if the school at the other end of town would be any better for me. Because she was trying everything she could, and nothing was working to get me. Like, there was no protection for bullying back then. There really wasn’t.
Syn: It was “kids being kids” and you know, “Well, if they’re getting beat up, they should dress a way that won’t get them beat up.” It was very victim-blaming at the time.