In a bind

Trans­gen­dered Trin­ity Bay na­tive speaks out against strug­gles

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BYMELISSA JENK­INS

It’s re­cess at Wood­land Ju­nior High in Dildo, Trin­ity Bay in 1999 and a 14-year-old stu­dent is walk­ing down the cor­ri­dor to meet up with a few friends.

Un­ex­pect­edly, the stu­dent is tripped by a class­mate, and is then kicked. No one comes to help. Only days be­fore, this young stu­dent, who was born with fe­male sex­ual or­gans, con­fides in a friend that she re­jects her fe­male iden­tity, and iden­ti­fies more as a male. It’s some­thing the young stu­dent has known since the age of six.

The dis­clo­sure marks a new page in the stu­dent’s life. Ev­ery­one in the school be­gins to stare and whis­per, and there’s name-call­ing and phys­i­cal as­saults.

Fast-for­ward 14 years. Meet 29year-old Christo­pher Hig­don, the young stu­dent at the cen­tre of the abuse and name-call­ing. Christo­pher now lives life as a male. At Christo­pher’s re­quest, The Com­pass has agreed to use male ter­mi­nol­ogy when de­scrib­ing his gen­der. He also asked that no ref­er­ence be made to his fe­male name, the one he an­swered to in 1999.

He still strug­gles with abuse reg­u­larly.

Trapped

“As long as I can re­mem­ber I have known I was male,” Chris — who calls both New Har­bour and Dildo home — tells The Com­pass.

Hav­ing lived through his childhood, ado­les­cence and some of adult­hood play­ing the part of a girl, Chris ad­mits it was dif­fi­cult.

“At that age I had to deal with so­ci­etal norms,” he ex­plains. “I had to fit in. I had to be who ev­ery­one else wanted me to be.”

Af­ter high school, Chris moved to St. John’s, hop­ing for a more open life. Af­ter sev­eral years in the cap­i­tal city, he re­lo­cated Al­berta in 2006.

“I had a harder time in Grand Prairie than I did in St. John’s” Chris ad­mits. “There were a lot of closed minds.”

He de­cided to visit a doc­tor about what he was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.

“I went to one doc­tor,” Chris says. “He told me to never dis­cuss the way I was feel­ing ever again and asked me to leave his of­fice.”

Chris de­cided to move back to St. John’s where he met a doc­tor that sym­pa­thized with his sit­u­a­tion. The doc­tor di­ag­nosed him with gen­der dyspho­ria.

The Cana­dian Psy­cho­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion de­scribes gen­der dyspho­ria an “un­hap­pi­ness” that is felt by those who are one phys­i­cal sex or gen­der, but feel like the op­po­site.

Soon af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed, Chris be­gan a bi­weekly in­jec­tion of testos­terone to as­sist in the phys­i­cal tran­si­tion from fe­male to male (FTM), in­clud­ing a change in jaw shape, fa­cial hair and a deep­en­ing of his voice.

Painful daily rit­ual

Chris made the de­ci­sion it’s time for the next stage in his tran­si­tion — chest re­con­struc­tion. Ev­ery morn­ing starts the same. Chris gets up and binds his chest— tightly — so peo­ple won’t see he has large breasts. The process is painful. “I’m caus­ing lumps, scars, blis­ters,” Chris ex­plains. “I have even been hav­ing trou­ble breath­ing. It’s not a nice feel­ing.”

Chris be­lieves the phys­i­cal pain is bet­ter than the emo­tional pain he feels when he sees him­self in a mir­ror.

The in­juries are the rea­son why he says the surgery should be cov­ered by MCP — New­found­land and Labrador’s Med­i­cal Care Plan.

“MCP claims they will cover it as long as you fly back and forth to the Cen­tre for Ad­dic­tion and Men­tal Health in Toronto for two years for a sec­ond di­ag­no­sis, “Chris ex­plains. “Why can’t a doc­tor here do the same (di­ag­no­sis) when they have the same (train­ing)?”

“And be­cause flight reg­u­la­tions pre­vent some­one from fly­ing if they have al­tered their ap­pear­ance, I would be pre­vented from board­ing a plane.”

Chris is listed as fe­male on his of­fi­cial iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.

The pro­vin­cial Depart­ment of Health and Com­mu­nity Ser­vices in­formed The Com­pass the process Chris de­scribes is cor­rect. In an email, it was ex­plained chest re­con­struc­tion or con­tour­ing — the surgery Chris is look­ing to have — is not cov­ered by MCP at all, al­though a mas­tec­tomy is, as long as there is a di­ag­no­sis of gen­der dyspho­ria.

The cam­paign

With­out a di­ag­no­sis, Chris has de­cided he wants to travel to the United States for the surgery, at a cost of some $14,000.

But he’s look­ing for fi­nan­cial help, since his job as a call cen­tre em­ployee is low pay­ing. He’s also pay­ing med­i­cal costs re­lated to a mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dent in 2012.

Chris has be­gan “Chris’ Cam­paign,” to col­lect do­na­tions for his cause (http://www.indiegogo.com/project/pre­view/5ef70ef7). He has also opened an ac­count at Ev­er­green Re­cy­cling De­pots where sup­port­ers can do­nate their cans and bot­tles

Chris’ online cam­paign kicks off Oct. 31 — his an­niver­sary of com­ing out as Christo­pher — and runs for 60 days.

He has no plans to com­plete the

“I find it dif­fi­cult to be a princess. I’ve al­ready played dress up most of my life.” — Christo­pher Hig­don

tran­si­tion with what’s called bot­tom surgery, or the sur­gi­cal re­con­struc­tion of male gen­i­talia, say­ing the cost is too great.

Fam­ily

Chris is en­gaged to Ash­ley Tay­lor, who’s help­ing him through some of the tough­est ob­sta­cles in his life.

“I met Ash­ley at work,” Chris ex­plains. “She has seen the trans­for­ma­tion from early in the hor­mone stage to now. She’d ac­cept me no mat­ter what.”

He also has a step­daugh­ter, Mya.

“I am her fam­ily, her male role model,” Chris says. “I would love to look in the mir­ror and see who I have al­ways felt I am. A per­son Mya would be proud to call dad.”

The fam­ily of three do ev­ery­thing a typ­i­cal fam­ily does, in­clud­ing watch movies, go on walks and play games. Mya even has Chris play dress up.

“I find it dif­fi­cult to be a princess,” he ad­mits. “I’ve al­ready played dress up most of my life. Ac­cep­tance Chris preaches ac­cep­tance and ed­u­ca­tion to ig­no­rance on the sub­ject of trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als.

“I don’t use my orig­i­nal name any­more so I can demon­strate the im­por­tance of my tran­si­tion,” he says. “I also have it tat­tooed on my arm that I am trans­gen­dered.”

Some peo­ple in his life have ac­cepted who Chris is, but there are still oth­ers that refuse. But Chris be­lieves be­ing him­self is most im­por­tant and will con­tinue to preach tol­er­ance to oth­ers.

Sub­mit­ted photo

Christo­pher Hig­don is a proud trans­gen­dered man who is a step­fa­ther to four-yearold Mya.

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