By Lethbridge Herald on April 2, 2015.
What does it even mean to be a girl or be a boy? It always comes down to that question, said Sophie Labelle, an elementary school teacher and activist raising awareness of trans and gender non-conforming challenges.
Labelle gave a presentation at city hall on Wednesday night and will be speaking at todays SACPA session in Country Kitchen Catering (lower level of The Keg) at noon.
She wants people to understand that being trans is not a negative thing, and that most of the challenges trans people face come not from within, but from external sources in society.
To bring awareness about how the message we send to trans people about their body is filled with negative things. Like when you repeat trans people are trapped in the wrong body, it creates a disassociation between trans people and their body. We grew to understand our own bodies as something that is wrong and something to be ashamed of.
Labelle is also an author and cartoonist exploring themes of gender identity and expression. She has published many childrens books and is working on a web-comic called Assigned Male about a transgender girl. Labelle was the first openly trans person to run during Quebecs provincial elections.
Raised in rural Quebec, Labelle said she came out at 13, and had to leave home because her parents were trying to stop her from transitioning, as they feared for her security.
Labelle soon found herself in Montreal, where she made friends who taught her about trans-positivity.
Labelle has been working with trans children for several years, and said thats how she came to believe in body empowerment.
Most of the work I do is with parents, because if we provide a space for children to express themselves, they dont have any problem related to being trans. Most of the problems are related to shame or anxiety, and the messages they get from society.
She said its impossible to protect children from those messages, but she encourages them to talk about the issues instead of holding them inside.
Our bodies are ours and its something thats new in trans communities, we try to reappropriate our bodies. Just to say my body is mine, if Im a boy or a girl, whether its a boy or a girls body. This has helped a lot of children, just to tell them theyre valid and they exist as they are is revolutionary.
She said society continues to problemetize, shame, and sexualize trans people, especially in the porn industry.
In the SACPA session, she will discuss the importance of transfeminism, which is about positive places for trans people to express themself and have the courage to do it, without being exclusionary.
She will also tackle the topic of cissexism, which is a bias in favour of cis-gender people. Cis-gender defines the state of a person that identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth.
It doesnt necessarily go against trans people, but will put barriers to full expression of trans people by having laws that prevent you from using certain restrooms. This is cissexist. It favours cis-gender people without necessarily being transphobic.
Todays SACPA runs from noon-1:30 p.m. with 30 minutes each for presentation, lunch and Q & A. The cost is $11 including lunch, or $2 for coffee/tea at the presentation only.