By Antonio Capurro
I am proud I had my first interview with a trangender woman called Stacey Piercey from Canada. Stacey obtained a B.A. in Economics and Business Administration from Memorial University; and a Diploma in Accounting, Business, and Computer Applications from Eastern College. She is currently the Liberal Party of Canada Chair National Women’s Liberal Commission Newfoundland Labrador. She is also an activist and a person who speaks out about LGBTQ rights. Let’s meet this amazing woman trough her own story.
When did you find out you were a transgender woman? Was it a difficult process to accept yourself?
Growing up, I always knew that I was different, I didn’t understand what that meant at the time. I knew about transgender from the media, and I did a few psychology courses in University, but the image I saw was not for me. I knew I wasn’t gay, so I did struggle. Then one day after work back in 1999, I was living in Toronto at the time, I was headed to the subway station. I noticed a lady in the distance; she caught my eye, she was running to be mayor of Toronto. As I approached her to talk to her, I realized she was transgender, and I was jealous. I didn’t realize it until then that I could have a normal life and transition. It changed my world, and it opened a door for me. I was in shock, and it took me a while to understand what this meant. I had a personal crisis that weekend. I consulted a doctor right away, yet it took six years before I accepted this and found the right medical help to begin my transition. It was a difficult process and was made more difficult because at the time supports were not there.
Is still hard to be a trans person in a country and society like Canada?
Yes and no, Canada is probably the most progressive country for transgender people. When the Liberal Party of Canada with Justin Trudeau as our Prime Minister came into power, we constitutionally enshrined transgender human rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Gender identity and expression are protected human rights in Canada. This term is all inclusive to protect individuals who consider themselves as gender diverse. This was a long battle, I was an activist and helped in the 10 provinces to encourage these protections until eventually they were recognized nationally. So yes we have protection under law. But this is a rather new concept. It will take time for the general population to understand and be educated to this new reality. Ignorance, intolerance and discrimination will always exist to a degree. It is a lot better than it has ever been in the last three years. All levels of government, business and the country at large have taken the step to help turn the corner to create policies to build an inclusive society. This will take time, and I am very hopeful for the future.
Have you ever feel discriminated because being a transgender?
Yes, sexism and misogyny and trans-phobia does exist. In Canada, my everyday life is pretty normal; I can walk around town, go to the store, the museum, a restaurant, the church or wherever I want. My money has always been good enough. People are nice to me. Because of politics people know of me and know that I am transgender. Now I pass too, I am postsurgery, and I live as a female. So my life is good. Yet there are many jobs, many organizations I would not bother to apply for or join knowing I would face discrimination. I am okay with that, some things in life are just not available to me. I have my own life, and I am very happy just being me. I don’t need to fight everyone or change the world. The new mantra I have been hearing from the party has been acceptance, not just tolerance for the LGBTQ community. The framework has been create for transgender people to live safely in Canada. Now, not all transgender people are employed, homelessness is a problem for some, and institutions are catching up. It will take time to right all wrongs.
Is this the biggest challenge in your life?
I will say yes, it has been an incredible challenge. This was not a life I had planned when I left University. I worked in Canada’s financial district, I was married for years, and I had a normal life with every opportunity. Then when I wanted to come, and be myself as a transgender woman I was in a fight for my life, and for my right to exist. The world was not ready for me. So, I help changed the world to make it safe for me to be the woman I was meant to be. This was the biggest challenge of my life by far; this was 20 years in the making. Not because of the legal battles, or with governments, or public and private companies or everyday life, it was not all the activism or political involvement. What made this so hard was there were only a few hundred of us, and we had to beat the media machine, a conservative government, a bureaucracy, the general population, sexism, misogyny, trans-phobia, discrimination, bigotry, threats of fear and violence. We are the biggest underdogs, a small group, each one of us had to be warriors, had to have the strength of a thousand men to have a chance in retrospect. We had to change attitudes, find allies, convince others to care and make this issue important and heard. We had to gain control of the conversation. We did eventually. It was an amazing ride.
How did you work empowering yourself to face and struggle with your new life?
When I came out, I ran into some serious social barriers. For me, it was a matter of principle. I had to fix this for me, and for my friends in the same situation. The one thing I heard was I could not have the same life I had before. Why couldn’t I have everything life presents as a male? Why are the same opportunity not available to me as a transgender female. That made me mad, and that made me determined. When I transitioned, I had one goal, and that was to get back to the status I had before I transitioned. That was my motivation. What happened for me was years of legal manoeuvring, bureaucratic adjustments, dealing with regulations and rules that did not work. I hit rock bottom eventually as my problems were simply overwhelming and nobody understood or knew how to help me. When somebody says no, you can’t have a drivers licence, nobody in this country can relate to that; nobody understands you can’t do a thing with out identification, you can’t get bank account, medical services, jump on a plane, you know. I got told I was silly. It doesn’t matter this was my situation and I faced many like it along the way. They couldn’t relate to the fear of feeling invisible, outside of the system, the hopelessness of the situation. I had to rebuild my life. I would get knocked down, told no, and bullied. I found a way, I wents above heads until I was helped. I didn’t take no for an answers. I always found a way to win. I came back from every defeat, stronger, smarter and tougher. I helped change human rights legislation. I help changed processes, policies and procedures. I ran for public office, and something happened to me along the way everything came together. I have great empathy, compassion and love in my heart combined with the knowledge of how this country actually works. Now, I’m always in the right place at the right time, even more so, I can say I have been carried along by a higher power. I came back to God too. I can’t explain it. My fate has become so strong because I can’t explain everything that has happened to get me here today. Every day when I wake up, I am so happy to be alive.
Do you have any transgender person you admire or inspire in your life?
There is no one transgender person that I admire. I have great respect for transgender people. There’s something about it I have seen, something spiritual, something vulnerable, and a great strength in all my friends. I love them all. I know my story, and I have heard the stories of my friends as well. I am a survivor, and they are too. I know or used to know a lot of transgender people in this world. They all inspire me and they are my friends and my family. I don’t have a role model. Celebrities never impressed me. When I see something special in someone, I see God, and that impresses me.
What is this transgender you speak of?
I am not big into trans culture; I transitioned, and trans culture is undefined. It has been monopolized by the LGBTQ community too. It isn’t about sex at all. It was just a time in my life where I went from male to female. I wanted to get through my transition as fast as I could so I could get on with my life. Now I have tonnes of transgender friends, and I am a rare transgender politican. We are all asking that question now since the human rights struggle is over. All I can say, what I do like about transgender culture are these few things. I love the politics; it is the toughest, they are all activist. The drama it is a little over the top at times, but we are professionals now from politics so it is high class humour. The political artwork, as it reminds me of revolutionary artwork. There is a little anti-establishment, and that suits me just fine. In Canada, a lot of my friends are military and indigenous. There is something about that combination. I noticed they are all incredibly smart too. I have found a real indigenous spirit in the transgender community. That appeals to me greatly, especially as I get older. I am fortunate to have had these experiences and to be taken in by the indigenous people. Two-spirirted in their culture is very highly respected. I think I just showed you, my soul. That is how I see things. I hope someday they make a good trans movie about what it is really like.
What subtects law and society need to work about equal rights and education for transgender community in your country?
This is about acceptance and tolerance. It’s about housing, healthcare, employment, and removing the need of government from transgender people’s lives. My doctors, I love them, but they are too much. Make is simply for people to transition and stop being so protective. It is time fix the past and catch these people up with the rest of society. I hope we can have the same quality of life as everyone else. With new hopes and without the fears of the past. I don’t like that I’ve given up on the idea of old age. I have heard it over and over I shouldn’t be here, I shouldn’t have lived this long. I lived on the edge for several years. I am ready for normal problems again. I wonder if they will let me have them, then again, I would get bored if I had a mortgage and a regular job.
Which ones are the most frequent prejudices and stereotypes do you find about transgender people?
That they are different, it is actually a microcosm of society, the only thing that unites transgender people is the fact they transitioned. Actually to be associated with the LGBTQ community was probably necessary, but wrong. Unless, you are Transgender and gay. This is not about sexual orientation. That stereotypes is so far from the truth. It is about the transition, now some people actually stay transgender, it is spiritual, it is a journey, and it is difficult. While you are transitioning you vulnerable, like a new born child, innocent and people prey upon that. It is a special time, like puberty, like childhood, is it just a time in one’s life.
You are Vice Chair National Women’s Liberal Commission en Liberal Party of Canada | Parti libéral du Canada and you were also Candidate for Member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia en BC Liberal Party. Did you always like Politics? Do you think so the New LTGBQ leadership should be the way to reach equality in countries with homophobia, transphobia and conversative enviroment for diversity?
Honestly, I volunteered in University with the Liberal Party of Canada. And I thought that was it at the time. Then when I became an advocate, politics came calling, I met my old MP one day in Victoria, BC that I helped get elected, he came out of nowhere and we chatted, and I rejoined Liberal Party of Canada to help Justin Trudeau. I liked policy, volunteering and working behind the scenes. I though it was a safe group of people to hang out with socially. I wasn’t ambitious. Still, I kept being asked to join committees. For my own campaign, I was asked five times by three parties to run. Eventually, I said yes, I was weary about what I was going to go through, I was not ready nor did I want this for me. I figured if this had to be done, I probably would be involved in some way, so, I finally said yes. I asked a friend to run for the other party too, and I pushed another friend politically to run. I like politics. It suits me a little and I enjoy being a Liberal. Now being, part of the Liberal Party of Canada, I learned to speak for Canada internationally. What we have created in Canada with gender diversity and inclusion works and can work for the rest of the world. These are very interesting times to be watching a new human rights movement being born. I know from my personal experience what is good for transgender people is good for human rights, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, women, the indigenous people. It is good for all those who feel that they are on the outside, or have been treated unfairly. As we say in Canada diversity is our strength, we are stronger because our differences. The world could learn from the transgender experience. All these stories, experiences and knowledge gained is transferrable to other groups that seek equality. There is no place for sexism, discrimination or fear as we go forward to deal the problems that this century has for us, we are going to need everyone, and every idea out there to make this world a better place for the future.
So you wrote a book..
I have written a book, it was for myself, and it was therapeutic. I recommend everyone to write. I have a great passion for writing. Although, I haven’t had to time, or the support to pursue publication. I actually realize that I may have 10 books and me and a lot of information to share. Right now I am trying to change my life, and my career eventually, to find time where I could write. I reached that point my life where I need to write. I love short stories the most of all.
What do you do when you are not working? Do you have any hobbies or interests?
I think I’m always working, and I enjoyed it. I never have enough time. I am actually someone who is very simple. I love going for walks. I have a deep appreciation of the arts, I love jazz music. Arguing at my coffee shop and cooking a nice meal.
Single or dating?
I am currently single, I was married for 20 years, the I got engaged after that for a few years. I have never really dated, I have never been alone, this is the first time in my life I have been single, and I am enjoying it. I need this time in my life to work on me, to learn how to be independent again, and currently, I am not looking for anybody. That may change, yet I won’t look or date. I will know when I see him, if he showed up tomorrow I would tell from the go away as I’m not ready for him yet.
How do you see the LGBTQ rights around the world?
In Canada, I am watching a new human rights movement in the United States and the UK’s that is similar to what happened here. With the rest of the world, I can see the different stages and levels of progression. I see the successes, and the failures, the steps forward and backward. I do see an overall trend in this world as LGBTQ rights are more prodominate in the conversation and it is getting better. It is a slow process. Unfortunately, it may take a generation or two for some. It happens really quickly for others. I do know changes is coming. Especially now that we are so connected. People share ideas so easily across borders. Nobody wants to live in fear, we all want a safer world.
How do you see yourself in five years?
I actually have a plan for my life, from what I’ve learned, is that it never works out the way you want to. I was suppose to have two surgeries years ago one for my nose and one for my breast. I thought I was going to be a model. That was younger me. I may pursue surgeries again, not modeling. Everyone tells me to go to law school; I want to study public policy and administration. So school maybe in my future. I have this incredibly need to write, and I would love to be able to make a living as an author. As well I still am asked if I’m going to run for politics again. To be honest, I have no plans. So to answer this question, if I owned a cabin by the water, with a woodstove, with a red jeep and I am a writer, and I am married; I would be very happy.
What do you know about Peru?
I haven’t heard anything bad about Peru, and that a good thing. Other than that I don’t know very much at all. I love to travel, and I wish I had the time and money to do more. I love new cultures, new experiences, new foods and if I was to visit I probably would fall in love with the place.
A message for our readers…
I speak from the heart; I transitioned from male to female in my life. This is my own experience; this was my own journey, it is not about anybody else. This is who I am, I have made incredible friends, I have changed so much, and I have learned more about life than I should know. When I started to walk down this path, I did not see myself entering politics; I did not see myself finding God again, I did not see me becoming the person I am today. Currently, I am someone, who lost interest in material things, and someone who cares deeply about justice and equality. I don’t see myself as a leader, I just see myself as a woman in her 40s, who can’t keep up with all the changes in her life. I am so lucky to be living in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada where I go out for coffee, go out for a walk, or go to church by myself and feel relaxed, safe and part of the community. Everybody wants to talk to me and share in my time, and they look out for me too. I find this all so humorous because I am an introvert, independent, and I enjoy the quiet, and my alone time. My lawyer said once I am struggling with celebrity, I don’t see, the celebrity part. I struggle with the temptations of the bakery and keeping my weight down.