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Women Empowered – Volume 3

Lacing Up the Skates Again

A personal story by Laura Crossley.

I thought my hockey career was over when I (formally) came out as Transgender in 2018. I hadn’t played in years. Who would I now play for? I had played for a men’s team, while on feminizing hormones and nobody could tell I was secretly in transition starting in 2015. That’s what happens when you play with guys you have grown up with all your life.

So, when we decided to leave Alberta in late 2018 and head back home to BC, I knew I had to create a supportive community and sooner than later if possible.

After doing some homework, I posted on a few hockey sites under my female alias. I had not done the name change but knew it would be after the 3-month waiting period upon arrival in BC. I didn’t immediately want to scare away any potential teams by posting as Grant. As a result, I received a couple of emails in response.

I have always been open about being transgender. I do this with the esthetician, hair salon, laser hair removal, spot, makeup artist, doctor, dentist, etc. I have been criticized for this but, at the same time, people are allowed to make a living and not deal with people they may not like.

Back to hockey. I wrote an email explaining my situation on hormones, not fully transitioned yet, that I have played in the past etc. I didn’t mention, I am overweight but, I am not perfect.

Surprisingly, I got some replies back saying this would be totally fine. I wanted to ask again, and I think I did, but I wanted to make sure that it was a team decision. Even if one individual did not feel comfortable, then I would get that and respect it. They have that right, and really, they do have more of a right to be there than me.  Maybe I can be a little pragmatic but that’s how I feel.

I would rather be respectful in this manner because I know it’s a delicate issue.

After some back and forth, I got an email and phone call offering me one last opportunity. In the midst of a move, I wasn’t really thinking about hockey, but I took the opportunity. Now I was scared!

Waiting for that first meeting of the team was terrifying, filled with anxiety, but it went pretty well I think. Then a week later my first actual game. What dressing room do I use? The response was, “the same one as the rest of the team”. Okay, a little scary. I tried to position myself in a corner, somewhere away from everybody out of respect. I tried to get dressed and keep a low profile. It was wonderful but at the same time, hard.

Every game I am still full of anxiety, walking into that dressing room. I start thinking about comments that pop up during the game. And of course, I am active on social media and so I see how there are groups that specifically do not want transgender people on women’s sports teams.

Not only, do I have my own thoughts and anxiety, now I let others creep in and it’s incredibly hard. I have thought about quitting because maybe I am that fraud and imposter and invading a space?

Ultimately, the team is amazing and the players have been awesome. They’ve been so supportive and caring, but it is different than a men’s team, that’s for sure. The dressing room talk is a lot more subtle, the game is different, and the environment is still unfamiliar.

It certainly hasn’t been easy, but it’s worth it in the end.

Self-Isolating in an Artist’s World

As a queer artist who identifies as gender non-binary, I sometimes find it difficult leaving the house. I personally feel comfortable in my male body but often identify moreso as a woman or sometimes genderless even.

As an individual who loves staying at home, there is nothing better than the feeling of having a fully stocked kitchen and a canvas ready to paint in the studio. No pressure to leave the house and plenty of activities planned at home.

I often wear a mix of male and female clothes when I’m at home (and in general). I’m a drag queen and it comes naturally to me. However, I sometimes feel anxious about going out because I have been harassed, physically attacked, and sexually assaulted while presenting as non-binary in Kelowna.

I am a strong individual, large and in charge, but sometimes I don’t feel safe or just don’t want to risk being harassed or gawked at. So, in a sense, these troubling times are old hat for me.

As an artist, I also know how to cook on a tight budget, make things last, and I’m always eager to get creative in the kitchen. So, anyway, I know not everyone is as well-equipped for self-isolating as I am so I thought I’d share my pro-tips on thriving during these challenging times.

1. Get creative! Draw. Paint. Play that guitar that sits in your corner. Develop a new skill or hobby. There are literally so many things you can do with your free time. You don’t need to be an artist to be creative. Sew/sing/anything!

2. Create a routine. Set small goals ie. Today I’m going to start one painting and finish it within at least 3 days. A few hours painting. A few hours doing chores. Practical things. Fun things. BALANCE is key.

3. Get out of the house. Even if it’s just for a walk down the street or a short bike ride. We all need fresh air and sunlight right now. Do it!

4. Exercise at home. Stretch. Do yoga. It all helps.

5. Write. And not just for FB. Write for yourself. Explore your inner worlds, your fears, your passions. Get to know yourself for the first time. Writing is so important trust me.

6. Call your friends and family. Reach out. Communicate. Connect. We all need it.

7. Think of how you’re going to improve your life when this is over. Make a plan, work towards that plan: you got this.

8. Ration your food and supplies. We are so used to being greedy and wasteful. Get creative in the kitchen and make things last. Do not waste.

9. Breath. Stay calm. Meditate. Lay on the floor for ten minutes a day and try to clear your mind.

10. Go easy on yourself. Our minds can be our biggest enemies. Practice self-love and self-care. Focus on your good qualities. If you don’t love yourself reach out to those that do. We are all in this together. Always.

Be sure to follow my social media for regular updates on my art, cooking, drag, and music. I’m sharing as much as possible right now so please enjoy.

Cheers and stay safe!

Insta: @shannonlesterart

FB: Shannon Lester Art
Sasha Zamolodchikova

YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/serendipityweeps

Website: www.shannonlester.com

Contributor, Shannon Lester: Shannon Lester aka Sasha Zamolodchikova is a Kelowna-based visual artist, drag queen/entertaintrix, event producer, and teacher.

Women Empowered – Volume 2

A personal story by Rose Caron

Shadows hunt the ones afraid of the dark, the ones that hold secrets, the ones scarred by the “light”. You see, I was traumatized by a young experience that taught me how I loved was wrong. It taught me the side of me that loved other women was my shadow self.

But oddly in Kelowna, of all places, I have come to learn that only the shame perpetuated by lies is the shadow. And this hasn’t been because the community is accepting. Its been because I was lucky enough to be in the presence of those who chose to stand in their beautiful truths despite the shadows of this city.

I think something integral that must be spoken of is that bisexual people don’t just suffer under internalized or externalized homophobia, but by bi-erasure as well. And that biphobia often comes from the LGBTQ+ community itself.

As a teenager, I thought my attraction to other girls didn’t count because I also liked boys; that is bi-erasure. And as an adult, claiming my bisexuality, I’ve heard countless untruths about me by people who don’t even know my name. I’ve had straight men ask me about my history with women before even asking me how I was that day. And that’s a whole other issue: the fetishization of queer women.

Bisexuality was a truth that was hard for me to claim. I wanted so desperately to be a lesbian. People took me seriously when I said I fall in love with women.

But when I tell the truth, that I am bi, I’ve had many remarks that I would “just find the right man”.

Bisexuality is just as valid and beautiful as homosexuality or any other sexuality. I think a lot of biphobia that comes from the queer community comes because they are afraid that my label somehow invalidates theirs. And this speaks to the larger issue at hand. We live in a society that marginalizes everyone who isn’t a white straight cis-gendered Christian abled male.

I’d like to point out that being any of those things isn’t inherently wrong. It is beautiful in its own right. But what we teach people of privilege, that they are better, inlays the shadow I speak of.

Kelowna is not an easy city to live in and be queer. I have felt a lot of pain living here. And yet, again and again, I am awed by the strength of my queer peers who live honestly despite everything.

Having visited other parts of the country that accept me without question, and then coming back here to a city overcast with heteronormativity, I can say “Yes, I’ve seen my future home but I’m grateful for this one too because it has made me strong.”

I still struggle with the internalized hate, I will be honest about that, but I am not afraid of the dark anymore, I hold no secrets, and the “light” I first spoke of, I see now isn’t real light; it’s staged and manmade by those who would oppress.

I believe, no matter who you are, claiming your truth (as long as it doesn’t put you in danger) is one of the bravest things you can possibly do. It has the power to change the world. It had the power to change mine.

Thank you to those who came before me. I can only hope to carry with as much strength and pride, the true light you have passed me. 

Women Empowered – Volume 1

The Day the Lying Stopped.

A personal story by Darrien McWatters

For years I had certain thoughts in my head. Simple harmless adolescent thoughts about one’s sexuality. Since I was a teen, I had tried crossdressing but had no interest in men, so I figured it was unlikely I was gay. The era was the late 80’s early 90’s so the only terms I had ever heard of were crossdresser or transvestite.

I felt I was neither of those. 

Years went by and I got married—had kids. The occasional crossdressing alone at home was still happening, but I thought nothing of it. I imagined those stolen moments were simply passing sexual fantasies. The thoughts never stayed in my head long and I would not crossdress very often.

Fast forward past the end of my marriage into a couple of different relationships. I was in my mid 30’s and I was more open about my fantasies with my partners, which consisted of a couple of girlfriends over a few years. One thought perhaps I was bisexual and just would not admit it to myself.

I still did not think so, as I still did not find myself attracted to men.

Now in between these relationships, I began to question my beliefs about myself and found myself venturing into some experimentation with the same sex. Every time I couldn’t get out of the situation fast enough. So was I gay? I still would have said no. Was I Bi? I thought not.

So why these feelings?

On to the next relationship. This one lasted for many years. We even lived together. I was much more open with her, but underneath it all, my mind was getting the best of me. I even considered the possibility that I was a sex addict. So I ended that relationship.

It was time for some real soul searching. Also, a bit more experimentation. But still, I just did not feel attracted to men. Why then did I feel the urge to dress up and feel feminine? Me, a divorcee, father of two teenage boys.

It was time to reach out to a good friend who was very well educated with the LGBTQ+ community as an advocate for teens. This was the first step to trying to figure out who I was.

I laid it all on the table in our conversation. I spared no details. I asked her to give me a label. She said if she had to give me a label, she would guess that I might be “gender fluid”. I had no idea what this meant until she explained it to me. She said it was part of being on the spectrum of being transgender.

After that conversation, she sent me numerous articles and explanations and terms about the LGTBQ+ world. There was so much to digest.

For days I read and re-read the terms, the articles, the “Gender Unicorn” illustration. Wow, could it be that I was part of the LGTBQ world? I’d had no idea it was so diverse! As my friend said, “We grew up with straight and gay and were okay with that, but there is so much more to the rainbow. That’s why it is a spectrum and the colours can blend. There is so much in between the red and the violet.”

After a few days of letting it all sink in, I knew it was time to come out to the most important person, the person that could make sense of it all. I looked in the mirror and said to the reflection, you are transgender.

That was the day I came out to myself and all the lying stopped.