"It's not just one size fits all."
Pride Month in Canada may be coming to an end, but that doesn't mean discussions about what it means to be LGBTQ2S+ should. In the spirit of Pride, Narcity spoke to two trans women about their experiences in Canada and what it means to be an ally.
Jordan Adrienne is a content creator with a passion for modelling and advocating for trans representation living in Toronto.
The pair spoke to Narcity about their stories, the challenges Canada's trans community is facing right now, and why trans representation is so important.
Julie Vu's story
Julie told Narcity her 'coming out story' is actually made up of two stories.
"The first time was coming out as a gay male," she said. "But as I got older, I realized that I wasn't happy in that male body. I wanted long hair, I wanted to wear dresses, I wanted to wear heels and makeup. And I couldn't do that if I was a boy [...] So I started to transition."
Julie said that she found the term transgender in the library of her high school. "And I was so excited because I was like, This is me, this is who I am."
Eventually, Julie came out to her mom. "It was definitely hard [...] You know, she wanted her son. So that idea of me transforming into a different gender and having long hair and all that stuff was just too much for her to handle."
"But as time progressed, she accepted me for who I was," she explained.
Julie said that coming out on social media was really helpful for her and gave her an outlet to find community and support.
"I shared my story online and people related to my story. And I found this community online where I can feel safe and it could feel like myself."
Jordan Adrienne's story
Jordan began her transition when she was 19 years old. She told Narcity that she didn't really have a concept of what transgender was or what it meant until she came across Gigi Gorgeous on YouTube.
"She explained what she was going through so eloquently and I was like, 'Okay, I finally have diction. I have the dialogue. I know how to describe myself now.' There was a light bulb that went off in my head."
Jordan had come out as gay the year before, but when she began to learn about what it means to be trans, she remembered thinking, "this is what makes sense for me and my life."
Before finding authentic trans representation from creators like Gigi Gorgeous, Jordan only had poor representations in the media to look to.
"They always are the villain in every show, whether it's Friends [or] a movie," she recalled. "They're never the heroine."
Jordan went on to write her thesis on transgender media representation during her fourth year studying at Guelph University. In her interview with Narcity, she referred to her transition as "life-changing," referencing a quote by Elliot Page in his recent interview with Oprah.
The importance of representation
Jordan told Narcity that transgender representation in the media is absolutely necessary, and not just the representation of one lived experience.
"There's not just one cookie-cutter image — there was a lot less [diversity] seven or eight years ago when I came out."
She remembered thinking, "my journey had to reflect Gigi Gorgeous's journey [...] But really, once you go along on your own journey, you figure out what works for you."
"That's why so many voices and images of trans women and men are so important," Jordan explained. "It's not just one size fits all."
Julie told Narcity that when she came across the term transgender it was "a profound moment."
Now, by sharing her story, " it's almost like a domino effect, having me share my story, and then having others feel comfortable and safe to share their own."
Canada has more work to do
There is no question that transgender people in Canada continue to be marginalized, from feeling unsafe and experiencing violence to encountering countless other barriers from the government.
When asked about the challenges trans people are facing in Canada right now, Jordan reflected on the process of getting a new birth certificate after her transition.
"I specifically remember having a hard time with the application process for the birth certificate," she told Narcity, adding it was "the longest process ever."
She said it served as a difficult reminder of the hurdles trans individuals have to face that others may not encounter.
Jordan did note that "Canada has been a blessing being a trans woman" as people are becoming increasingly aware and accepting.
Meanwhile, Julie shared challenges she's seen in Canada's medical services.
"I know a lot of trans friends who [...] can't get the help or resources in a clinic because there's simply not enough trained professionals." She explained that limited options, long wait times, and a lot of red tape can take a massive toll on someone's mental health.
"Not having that medical attention and not having that help right away could be very detrimental," she said. "The biggest challenge is not having enough doctors who are knowledgeable about someone who's transgender."
Julie mentioned that she had some complications after undergoing surgery in 2014 as part of her medical transition.
"My surgery was done in Montreal, but I live in Vancouver. So when I had trouble, I went to my local hospital," she remembered. "The doctor looked me in my eyes and said, 'I don't know [...] I've never had a transgender patient before.'"
Being an ally to the trans community
When asked for advice to offer allies of the trans community on how to better support trans folks in Canada, Jordan noted that education and training is key. Whether by educating yourself or sharing resources to help educate others, she said that sharing knowledge is so important.
She also noted that respecting people's pronouns is a great way of being an ally to trans people. "Being gender-aware is definitely always important," she said.
As for what not to do, Jordan told us that people need to stop asking trans individuals "if they're going to have surgery." She explained that it's not an appropriate or respectful question. Hearing someone's story is an immense privilege, so there's no need to pry for personal information that isn't being readily offered.
When asked about allyship, Julie said it can be as simple as reaching out to a transgender person to check in and ask how their day has been. "Just trying to be a good listener is just what a transgender person needs, "said Julie.
"Using the right pronouns, just being sensitive, and just not overstepping any boundaries," she added. "It's important that we ask questions, and we educate others."