Kingsley Strudwick admits they didn’t have a typical transgender experience growing up in rural Alberta.
According to Strudwick (who preferred to be referred to as “they”), many stories in mainstream media begin a person’s transgender experience being assigned a certain gender.
“As trans people we are sent such a simplified message that says ‘when you’re young you’ll be miserable, then you come out, and then everything is perfect.'”
This might ring true for some trans people, but for many, including Strudwick (who was assigned female at birth), this is just not the case.
Growing up in Camrose, Alberta, which Strudwick described as an extremely religious and conservative city, Strudwick always felt like they fit in.
The youngest of three siblings, a sister who played hockey and another sister who danced, Strudwick was never forced into gender-specific activities. Strudwick excelled in sports, playing hockey, basketball, soccer, tennis and volleyball, and was the athlete of the year and valedictorian in the grad class in high school.
Strudwick came out as queer to their parents, who were very supportive, at the age of 19.
“I never identified super strongly with the identity I was assigned with at birth . . . that never really fit for me. There were more options. For my entire life I was told you get what you get when you’re born and that’s not accurate for so many people,” Strudwick said. “I always felt super comfortable with who I was as a person. I just felt that everyone else didn’t get the memo . . . that you didn’t have to subscribe to those really rigid scripts.”
After moving to Victoria in 2009, Strudwick met many people who had a variety of experiences with gender and sexuality, which made Strudwick reflect on their own experiences.
“Meeting friends here who were trans and hearing their stories and experiences and thinking ‘oh, that sounds really familiar to me’, and having those hit home in a personal way,” said the 29-year-old Esquimalt resident.
Now, Strudwick has formed their own business, Ambit Gender Diversity Consulting, that offers training to businesses and organizations and gives them more clear parameters about how to treat transgender people in the workplace.
Strudwick believes people’s attitudes towards transgender people are slowly but surely changing.
Most recently, that change is being reflected at the municipal level.
Victoria city council unanimously passed a motion last week for councillors Jeremy Loveday and Marianne Alto (who brought forward the motion) to begin working with the local transgender community to develop a transinclusion policy for the city.
“I’m glad council passed the motion unanimously to send a clear message to the provincial government that the rights of transgender people should be explicitly protected under the B.C. Human Rights Code and also that the city will take this step forward towards creating a policy for the inclusion of transgender people in our programs and facilities,” Loveday said, adding the policy will be guided by discussions with transgender residents.
“The timing was right to begin these discussions and looking at what we can do with our city to make sure our city is safe and inclusive.”
Strudwick is excited the city will begin developing a policy.
“I’m thrilled about it. It reflects of all the work that’s been done at a grassroots level for decades. While I do feel like it’s overdue, I’m also in a celebration mode, where I am thrilled that there will hopefully be protections in place for trans and gender variant people,” Strudwick said, adding the City of Vancouver’s parks and recreation department recently adopted a transinclusion policy for programs and facilities.
“I think it’s a really natural place to start because often park facilities are very segregated in terms of gender as well as rec programming — there are girls teams and boys teams, and change rooms and bathrooms and all those structural barriers that exist for trans-folks.”
Strudwick added once the policy is created and adopted, it will be up to the community to uphold it.
For more information on Ambit Gender Diversity Consulting visit ambitgenderdiversity.com.