coming out, gender identity, labels, phase, gender expression, clothing, bullying, depression, suicide ideation, conformity, uncomfortable, puberty, Catholic school, transphobia, violence, homophobia, arts school, transition
Vincent: So I realized at a young age that I wasn’t like the other girls.
Vincent: And I know that’s that story you hear often. Um, I realized around four or five that, okay, I don’t feel like a girl, I feel more like a boy, and it would be really cool to have a penis. I kept thinking, I want one of those. And I want to be just like the guys. And I really admired, my heroes growing up were Bart Simpson and Tom Sawyer because I loved to go on adventures, and I just never really felt like that label girl fit me. But I didn’t think much of it. I thought, maybe it’s a phase, and I tried desperately to fit in with everyone else. So I went through these princess phases where I was, you know, I have a vulva, so I better be a princess. And it just wasn’t me, and I hate crinoline and pantyhose. I can’t imagine why crinoline is still a thing. You know that two thousand women used to die annually in the United Kingdom alone in the 1800s because of crinoline.
Tara: I didn’t know that.
Vincent: Because it’s highly flammable.
Tara: Of course.
Vincent: And I look back at my first communion, because I was raised Catholic, going, they put in crinoline in a room full of candles, were they trying to kill me? Is that how they kill off the surplus Catholic children? But, um, I--I still hate crinoline, pantyhose and strapless bras. I don’t know who the sadistic bastard was who invented strapless bras either. So for me, I would go through these phases where I’d put up with those things so I’d fit in. And in grade five, um, I was still in a more masculine phase. I really loved wearing jeans and t-shirts, and all that, and because I was different from the other girls I experienced a lot of bullying.
Vincent: And I became very depressed in grade five, and I started thinking about suicide for the first time. And grade six wasn’t any better, although at one point in grade five and in grade six I said, “Okay, I really need to try to fit in. I need to try for conformity, to be like everyone else. And I was so uncomfortable, and I could--I would never feel comfortable in anything that I wore and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I hated what was happening to my body with puberty. I decided to change schools. So grade seven I switched to a Catholic all girls school. And my experience there was horrendous. I went through hell at that school. Because instead of experiencing the bullying from my classmates, I started experiencing bullying from my teachers and from the principal. And when I came out as bisexual it just got worse. And when I started dating one of my classmates, it got even worse for both of us. So it was a situation where we had to get out of there.
Vincent: And fortunately my parents, they made a deal with me. They said, you can exit the Catholic school system if there’s a program that is only offered in a public school. I started playing guitar when I was in the fifth grade, and in Sudbury there is an amazing high school that has a specialized performing arts program. I auditioned. The next day I got in, and it turns out I was the only guitar major that was accepted that year.
Vincent: And my girlfriend ended up getting the last spot for the visual art program.
Vincent: So we were both going, “Yes!” when we finally got in, and all the stars were in alignment for us, because we got in, I--that was my ticket out of that school that I was in, and it was the best decision of my life. Because—and if you’re from Sudbury, I’m obviously talking about Sudbury Secondary.
Vincent: But I have nothing but good things to say, although, and I said there are things that you can’t control in high schools. You can’t control where students are coming from. So in grade nine and grade ten I did experience some homophobic bullying from students. So, my girlfriend and I, we’d be holding hands in the hallway, and people would yell dike or something like that. However, whenever it happened in front of a teacher or a principal, it was dealt with immediately.
Vincent: And we were supported by our teachers at the school, and I remember in grade eleven when I came out as trans--I first realized I was trans, it finally clicked when I was in grade nine. And that’s when I started my transition.
Vincent: I started gradually, so, slowly replacing my clothes, cut my hair, came out to my girlfriend, came out to a couple people online. That was it. But I decided that summer between grade ten and grade eleven, I would only use men’s washrooms. I was living full-time as a male, and this is it. So school started up. A few weeks in I came out to all of my teachers.
Vincent: And all of their responses were, alright Vincent. It was not an issue. I was the first kid at that school to transition at school, and to be out about being trans. I know there were people...there were likely people before me, but nobody had transitioned at school.
Vincent: So for me it was being that student who had to go through that learning curve with everybody. So it was a process. For the teachers there it was something they had to figure out as they went. And I, I understand that. So it took a while for them to figure out the whole bathroom situation, but when they did--this was before the school had major renovations. When I graduated the school was 99 years old.
Vincent: And when you have a building that’s 99 years old, e, 99 years ago, now 109 years ago, um, there are limitations in terms of facilities.
Vincent: Let’s put it this way, there was, apparently there’s an underground bomb shelter in this school. It was that old. And there, there were no gender neutral washrooms. You know, the change rooms and the showers for those finishing gym class is all open, so there were some structural challenges. But they had said, okay so you can use the staff washroom, and that’s what I was most comfortable with, but my school is amazing.