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Cafe politics: 12-year-old Tru Wilson talks trans-inclusivity

Tru Wilson talks to Metro about what her life was like before and after the Catholic School Board adopted a policy regarding transgender students.

Tru Wilson with her mom, Michelle, in her bedroom at their Ladner home.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

Tru Wilson with her mom, Michelle, in her bedroom at their Ladner home.

It’s been a year and a half since B.C. teen Tru Wilson made headlines and a first-ever policy by a Catholic school board in Canada on transgender students was adopted.

The 12-year-old, who was born a boy and given the name “Trey,” told Metro she always felt something was “unique and different” growing up.

“I was always going to the dollhouse in my kindergarten class. I would always put on my favourite dress, fairy wings,” she said. “Those feelings didn’t stop. They just kept getting stronger.”

Parents Michelle and Garfield embraced their daughter, allowing her to dress as such at home and among her friends.

But as a student of Ladner’s Sacred Heart at the time, that’s where the line was drawn. When the family asked staff if Tru could transition and attend school as a girl, they said “no.” Things like using the girl’s bathroom or wearing the girl’s uniform were out of the question.

“It wasn’t fun at all because I was a girl everywhere else – at dance class, at basketball, at home. But for six hours, five days a week I had to pretend to be someone I wasn’t,” Tru recalled.

Enough is enough

That’s when the Wilsons launched a human rights complaint against Sacred Heart and the Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese. The complaint – which was settled through mediation in the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal – resulted in a new policy “regarding Gender Expression and Gender Dysphoria.” It was implemented on July 16, 2014.

Parents of transgender students can now request accommodation for their child, including proper pronouns, names, uniforms and bathroom access.

The Vancouver School Board adopted a similar policy shortly before its counterpart did.

“For our kids, I do think they do feel safer and included, and I think they feel accepted and respected for where they’re coming from,” said former Vancouver School Board chair Fraser Ballantyne.

Let’s talk, Justin

Today, Tru is attending a public school and said she’s thrilled that other kids like her won’t have to go through the same pain she experienced.

Her work isn’t finished, though. Tru has plans to one day sit down with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and talk about incorporating gender identity and gender expression into the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Eventually, the pre-teen wants just one thing – for transgender people to be accepted as who they are, for it “not to be an issue.”

“It’s a normal thing that slips into conversation,” Tru explained. “That would be something I would love.”

Ripple effect

In 2015, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation launched a public awareness campaign that aims to make community facilities more transgender-friendly. (Templeton Pool now offers a trans-inclusive public swim on Sunday afternoons.)

But there’s still more to be done, according to park board general manager Malcolm Bromley. Removing the question of ‘Are you female or male?” from forms is one example.

“Identification of gender is not necessary in most cases. But it’s just become habit,” Bromley said, adding he’d also like to see building standards change to better serve the needs of transgender people.

Tru, meanwhile, admitted she’s still in awe of what “a little voice can do.” Last November, it was announced she made Vancouver Magazine’s Power 50 list.

“I thought I would be sitting at home, a normal trans girl, living a normal life. After all this, … it’s just so amazing.”

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