I <3 my trans friend...

Ever since I started school, my eyes have been opened to a lot of things I may otherwise never have known.

Like, for example, the difference between RGB and CMYK, Tone and Impression, Leading and Kerning, Gay and Transgender.

Oh… well…to be totally honest it’s a little difficult to explain but kerning has to do with how closely tracked type is between each character and leading has to do with the space between each line of text. Really though, it’s not all that difficult to comprehend once you’ve been exposed to the idea and ask a few questions to get your head wrapped around the concept. Simply put, sometimes things “fit” better, “look” better, “feel” better if you move stuff around a little bit…change it from the way it was made…the way it was “supposed to be.”


You see, the first day Elliott walked into class I thought “yeah, he’s cute” (I’m in my 40’s not dead). Then, after getting to know him a little bit, I wondered if maybe he was gay. Then thought…no…too masculine to be gay…maybe metro.

He likes his clothes. He’s neat and tidy. He wears hats that match his tie and then there’s the shoes…you can always tell from the shoes.

Somehow, all of these external things were making me classify him into a neat little label rather than seeing him for who he was…someone who kept amazing notes in these tiny little notebooks. Someone with fantastic ideas who could  execute them with brilliance. Someone who took the time to show you something you didn’t understand. Someone who could look at an idea, point out the positive and make it so much better.

He is one of my favorite classmates for everything he brings to that creative room.

Then, a few months into the program, we became Facebook friends. One day, between assignments and life, I was creeping his pictures and the further back I went the more different he looked and then it hit me that…OMG, Elliott used to be a girl!

Classmates were starting to put the pieces together as, even though Elliott never said anything, it was there for all to see. Next thing we were whispering about it and then he’d do something or say something…a gesture or a phrase that would make me think “oh yeah, now I see it” and then I realized I was just looking for things and then, over a little bit of time…I just never noticed anymore.

It didn’t matter anymore.

And then he told me.

We were working on a project and out of the blue he told me he thought I was brave to have gone back to school after everything I’d been through and he thought what I was doing was pretty cool.

He thought I was brave.

And cool.

And suddenly I was rambling out something about life being hard. How sometimes it sweeps us off our feet…challenges us and makes us face some things that are tough to face…that everyone is fighting a brave battle and we all have our stories.

And that’s when he opened up and told me that he was very private but felt he could “share something with me.”

When he finished telling me he was Transgender, my response was, “No Shit Sherlock.”

The look of surprise when he said “you knew?” and I said “we all know” and he looked so taken back and I said “you’re in a room full of artists Elliott…we support you…no one cares.”

And why would we?

Why would we care or judge or treat him any differently than the amazing artist…the amazing person…we’ve gotten to know?

I admit, I don’t fully understand and I’m not the most politically correct person and I stick my foot in my mouth on a regular basis so instead of being weird about it…on a few different occasions…I ‘ve asked questions.

And he’s answered honestly.

If I thought I offended him at any time I’ve spoken to him about it but the reality is…I’m sarcastic and ridiculous at the best of times so why would I treat him any different from the way I treat anyone else?

Why would anyone treat him any differently than the way they treat anyone else?

He doesn’t want to be treated any differently than anyone else.

I’m a mom…with big mom opinions and whenever I meet a young person facing challenges I find myself wondering how I’d react if I was in their mom’s shoes.

I accept my children no matter what and want what’s best for them in their lives. I want them to be happy. Fulfilled. Comfortable in their skin. But never would I want them to face the demons that Elliott has had to face. This world we live in is cruel. We all have challenges in our lives and face hardship and confusion but I cannot fathom the fear I would feel for my child if they were facing what my friend Elliott has had to face.

How proud his mom must be.

Elliott has changed the way I see people. Before this, I’d not really understood what it even meant to be Transgendered and while I found it fascinating, it never really impacted my life in any way except that now…I’ve this friend, who is bravely facing the world. Who has changed his life and wants others to understand that he’s not so different from anyone else.

For Elliott, growing up in PEI…he was a tomboy. Never seeing people as “boys and girls” as to him they “were all just people.” As he moved on through his life, finding himself at University in Ottawa and later in Halifax, he found a group of people who were more like him. He discovered a “spark,” a place where he belonged and felt more “right” than he’d felt before. The transition has been a process over the last seven years and he’s done it quite privately. Quite graciously. With much support of family and friends.

It took Elliott a long time to understand himself. Then to reach the point of acceptance. As Elliott says “It seemed my life had just been derailed, I was overwhelmed by fear but at the same time I also felt a little bit of relief. And so I started down a path, with no idea where it was going to take me.”

With the support of his family, an amazing group of friends, his workmates at the Spring Garden Road coffee shop where he’s employed and folks at the Youth Project, Elliott hasn’t gone down that path alone.

It’s this support that’s helped him transition into the person he is today.

It’s this support, that’s made him realize that not everyone is so lucky and with that in mind, he’s started the “I Heart My Trans” project.

In Elliot’s words:

“It started out as part of a class assignment: choose an issue and design a poster for it – Change the World! My instructor, Crystal McManus, showed our class a couple of Ted Talks videos about designers/artists who had made big impacts using their medium. They were able to bring attention and awareness to the subject, to open dialogs with people about the issues and reach an audience across the globe.

Really, I’m a very private person, and for a long time I struggled with how to be an activist and supporter of my own community without being out to the world. I’ve been somewhat active in the community, mostly through the Youth Project. Being part of discussion groups, helping with events, conferences, and camps. I have had a chance to meet a lot of amazing people and listen to their stories. I’ve heard great stories and I’ve heard heartbreaking stories. I am very aware of how lucky I am to have the friends and family and support that I do, that I have access to safe health care, that I can walk down the street and feel safe, that I have a home, a job, that I’ve been able to go to school, that I can afford my transition (albeit with a lot of debt). I am in a place where I can safely speak up for those who cannot, a place where hopefully I can change a few opinions and maybe make someones day a little brighter, even just for a moment. So, even if I have to give up a bit of my privacy, it is well worth it.”

See! I told you! Elliott is someone with fantastic ideas who can execute them with brilliance. He’s someone who takes the time to show you something you didn’t understand. He can look at an idea, point out the positive and make it so much better.

I <3 my trans friend.

I think he’s pretty brave.

And really freakin’ cool.

Join Elliott’s Facebook project

“I <3 My Trans”

by clicking here

8 Replies to “I <3 my trans friend...”

  1. I love this blog post… best one by far. I don’t know Elliott…but I’m proud of him too. 🙂

  2. I like that you write about Elliot and mentioned about asking questions, putting your foot in your mouth etc. I always ask questions when I’m curious even when something as simple as what do you do when you don’t celebrate Christmas? Because that is what I do so naturally I know my traditions but not yours. If people have a disability I don’t come out of no where and ask about it but if something comes up in conversation again that I don’t understand or would like to know about I will ask. I think sometimes just treating people as people is all that needs to be done to make them feel “normal” whatever that might be. Sometimes putting the foot in the mouth can throw someone off but you can put your foot in your mouth when your talking to the old grandma at the grocery store too or the man in line at the post office. Who knows. I don’t know if this relates at all or if its now just babble, but its good to ask questions and let people know you are interested in them no matter who they are or how they are different. The point is you want to get to know them. I like that you shared this story. Thanks!