Shawn, 23, sits down with the EMHC to talk about his experience living as a trans guy in Edmonton, his thoughts on the city, and gives a shoutout to Degrassi!
I don’t want everyone to just see me as transgender…
Are you originally from Edmonton?
I was born and raised in Toronto… just moved here – I was gonna say I just moved here – but it’s been, like, eight years … Jesus!
So I’m sensing a little animosity…
Just a little. I’m not a huge Edmonton fan. Obviously, I’ve gotten used to it. I mean, the River Valley’s nice.
So, what brought you here?
My Mom wanted to move here… I had no choice, being underage and all. I couldn’t make my own decisions. She was like, “You can stay if you want.” But what am I gonna do? I mean, I had some family in Toronto but they were kinda crazy so I thought, “I’ll come with you.”
So, tell us, what do you do?
I’m in school for nursing right now but I’m taking a semester off just ’cause it got kinda crazy. I’m just kinda relaxing. I wanna go back to school but not right away. Me and my friend are moving to New Zealand next year! Yeah, I was like, “I’ll finish school later!” I just wanna travel – and I might as well do it now when I’m young instead of waiting.
Shootin’ the Shit
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Watching TV… I watch Pretty Little Liars. ‘Cause that show is, like, so lame. I hate it so much. But I can’t stop watching it! It is like a guilty pleasure ‘cause I gotta see what happens next. I’m like, “Who’s ‘A’? I wanna know who ‘A’ is!” And then when I tell people, they’re like “Ew, Pretty Liars” and I’m like, “Just kidding. Just wanna see a reaction… but I don’t watch that show!”
So, what musical artists are you into right now?
I listen to a lot of slow music. I listen to Adele. Lana Del Rey. I like Metric and Ed Sheeran. I like mostly alternative… But pop music drives me insane! Like, Taylor Swift…
Aww… Gotta love the Swift.
Honestly, I don’t like her as a person. She just seems kinda, like, weird. But her albums, I’m not gonna lie, are pretty good.
On Being a Man of Colour
So, how has being a GBQT man of colour affected your experience?
See, I always get that question… and I haven’t really gotten anything negative… it’s definitely different, I guess, for a man of colour. There are always stereotypes, right? But, like, there hasn’t really been anything directed towards me. Maybe they’re talking hate behind my back. I always get that question but, actually, I’ve been doing pretty good.
That’s good. That’s great!
But then I kinda feel like… part of me feels bad because I’m like, “I don’t have any issues.” And they’re like, “How are you supposed to speak out for us?” But I’m like, “I don’t know. What do you want me to do? Go create issues!?” I don’t know.
On Being Trans
When did you first know you were trans?
Maybe three summers ago… When I was 13 I was like, “Hey I like girls. I don’t know what to do.” I started feeling weird, you know… I like this person and this person but I’m not a lesbian. I never even came out as lesbian because I was like, I don’t feel like that, right?
And then I was watching Degrassi… and there was a trans character. I saw them on a different show playing a female and I was so confused and then I looked it up and was like, “Hey, you know what? That kind of makes sense!” And I started thinking about it and then one summer it just clicked.
But I was too scared to come out so I waited a couple months… But when I was 17 or 18 that’s when I was like, “Hmmm, it’s time. Yes, this makes sense.” Thank you Degrassi!
How did people react when you came out?
I actually got positive feedback. Everyone was like,”Yeah, we support you.” Even my Mom was like, “Whatever.” And my brother-in-law, he’s from Jamaica – and you know it’s homophobic central over there – so, at first he was uneasy but he’s better now.
Have you experienced stigma or discrimination within our community?
I have these couple friends who will post, “So today’s my 18th day on ‘T’”… I don’t really do that just ‘cause I don’t want everyone to just see me as transgender, right? I’m not really comfortable with that. I’m still working out some of the kinks or whatever.
Some people will be like,”So you don’t really put your voice out there.” I mean, I do. I have a Tumblr that’s solely for that. But other than that, I don’t really say anything else I don’t have to. Some people, you know, get a little mad about that.
If you could tell the community one thing, what would you tell them?
Be who you are. Don’t let anyone stop you. You have so much support… there’s always somewhere to help you and have your back. It may seem scary at first but it gets better. I hear that so much – it gets better – and I’m trying to come up with something different because it’s cliché… but it really does. And it’s a long road but every step you’re happier.