by Ethan Butterfield
It’s a delicate topic that is usually tiptoed around, simply because no one wants to address the subject. Everyone deserves happiness. And if someone isn’t happy with who they are, shouldn’t they be allowed to change without fear of judgment? I believe so. Hopefully, what follows will be an eye opener to those going through this and those who want a better understanding of it.
I was fortunate to sit down with a good friend of mine, Ariana Giroux. We had a good discussion and this is just some of what she had to say.
I guess the first question I want to ask is this: the decision to go through this change, was that a long thought process for you?
Yeah, I first started kind of questioning my gender when I was 12 and then I didn’t start coming out to people until I was 18 and about to move away to Nova Scotia. Generally speaking, it was something that was on the back of my head almost every day. Just kind of like, is this something I should be doing? Is this something people do? So, it was never a light decision for me. But at the same time, there wasn’t much of a decision; it was just kind of like one day, “Alright, so I’m going to come out to everyone.” So yeah, there was a lot of pre-thought that into coming out as transgender.
What are some positive and/or negative reactions to when you started to come out?
Yeah, for sure. Negative stories, my mother has been kind of fighting me back and forth for… it’s been 3 ½ years that I’ve been out to her and she’s still trying to convince me it’s a phase and I’m like, “Yeah, since I’ve been twelve I’ve been thinking about it. It’s a phase” (laughs). Anyways, as far as negative reactions it’s always been “Oh, that’s different.” I’ve never had somebody actually get upset and up in my face, which a lot of trans-people do experience. I’ve been rather lucky. Actually, I recently came out to my dad’s side of the family and stepfamily and it was… I walked in, I was presenting feminine. And then my stepsister looked at me and she goes, “Alright, so what pronouns and name are we using?” And I said “Ariana” and she goes “ok, cool” and that was it. And eight years of internal panic over how they would react went away in a matter of seconds and I was able to get on with my life, which was really cool. I’ve been surrounded by positive notes and not many negative notes, which is not very representative of trans-people, at the end of the day.
I’m glad to hear that there wasn’t much case for panic at the end of the day. So, why was this something you wanted to do?
Well, that’s an interesting question, because I don’t view it as something I wanted to do, as in, something that I had to do. As I’m sure you’ve seen doing your own research that suicide rates among transgender people are very high, especially among black transgender women. Like, imagine waking up every day and instead of having a real nose, you had a clown nose and you couldn’t do anything about it. So you just kind of dealt with it and it’s not a really big issue, it’s just kind of there in the back of your head for every single day, every single minute of your entire life. After a point, I came to the realization that either I transition or I can sit here and hate myself for the rest of my life. So there was no choice about it; it was just go.
So how much more comfortable do you feel now?
I used to be afraid of taking off my shirt when I was younger. I used to try to get out of gym class, so I didn’t have to change in front of other boys and I had no idea why. Now, though, I know why things are like that now (laughs). I’ve been presenting full-time for two years now and instead of waking up every day and thinking, “Oh, here’s another grueling day of hell,” I wake up and think, “Alright, what am I gonna do today?” I find am I so much happier and clear-headed since I started presenting full time.
Are there any words of advice that you would give to someone going through the same process and are there any organizations out there that you can recommend to people?
There is one organization that I believe needs all the awareness in the world; it’s actually a Saskatchewan-based organization for transgender people, a support group. You can look up TransSask Regina or Saskatoon. When I moved back to the city, they definitely played a big role in coming out and living publicly, just having a support network of people to say, “Hey, I feel really dysphoric today; today really sucked,” and they’ll understand the transgender issues that are there. For example, once every couple of months they do free vocal training. Most people believe that when you go on hormones and when you start medically transitioning, it raises or lowers you voice based on the hormone you’re taking and that is 100 per cent false. Your voice – and this goes out to any trans-person or any gender non-conforming person out there – will not change unless you’re thinking about it. As far as personal advice goes, and I can’t speak for female to male individuals, but for transgender women anyway, there is not a single person out there who will accept you for who you are until you put in the effort required in the day.
So, last question. Is there anything that you’d just like to say? Something inspirational?
We live in a day and age, where people are told who to be, how to dress, what’s popular, what’s ugly. And I’m sitting here in front of you with tattoos and piercings and black hair, wearing nothing but black clothing. If I had advice for anybody, it would be “at the end of the day, nobody cares. Twenty years down the road, the people you surround yourself with now are not going to be there. Do what makes you happy.” Like, if you were going to work and you’re nine to five in this office job and you’re in a cubicle and you hate it, but it pays well, then why the fuck are you there? I would rather live in poverty, if that meant I could be pursuing what I want to do. In this day and age, do what makes you happy. Don’t sit around and be like, “but that’s not normal.” Right now, people are challenging gender norms, people are challenging entire governments, we’re in a time where you can be who you are and so long as your true self isn’t, like, an asshole or something, people don’t care… If you’re nice, and you smile at somebody and say hello and be polite, people don’t care. “So just do you.” I know that’s what everybody says, but nobody actually does it. Just find your way to make what you do work.
I hope this conversation serves as a gateway to acceptance and respect among the trans-gender community. For everyone out there who does struggle to understand what’s going on or isn’t sure if this is the right thing to do, in the words of Randy Newman, “You’ve got a friend in me.”