Brad wasn’t shy about describing the impact the Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) Well-Being Learning Centre has had on his life.
“There’s no way I’d be where I am today without the Learning Centre,” Brad said.
Being transgender and knowing it since childhood, developed into a life full of guilt, shame, and fear. Brad has now socially transitioned to Taylor, a proud and advocating transgender woman who not only feels hopeful and optimistic about the future but is fighting for change.*
It was a mental health crisis at the end of 2019 that started this journey with the Learning Centre in January 2020.
The crisis was attributed to attempting to cope in a world that felt nothing close to trans-inclusive, stemming from the burden of depression, stress, and anxiety that can come with being in a stigmatized minority group.
“More than ever, I was feeling lonely, unwanted, totally misunderstood, and totally out of control of my life. I thought I was falling apart.”
The centre, which is supported by United Way Winnipeg donors, offers a variety of courses and training sessions free of charge.
Taught by experienced instructors, these courses give participants in-depth knowledge on a range of topics, from building skills to improving mental health to first aid classes.
“Being transgender means that so many elements of life are affected in a way that can be unfamiliar to most. To help learn, study and gain any relevant experience as much as possible, if you name a course, there’s a very good chance it has been taken.”
Some of the courses that helped with self-acceptance were Insights into Anxiety, Establishing Boundaries, Making Peace with Anger, Promoting Positivity and Optimism, Exploring Self-Esteem and Self-Connecting Through Journaling.
When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Manitoba, the Centre switched to online learning for convenient learning from home.
“I took a bunch repeatedly, whether it was because I enjoyed the content or appreciated the facilitators. At other places I’ve been, it’s so easy to feel like you’re just a number on a folder. With the facilitators at the Learning Centre, it felt so personal. They have always been there to support me.”
That support was a major factor when the decision was made to no longer stay silent.
“Knowing the Learning Centre was available to provide resources during the journey provided extra confidence about it being okay to be an authentic person.”
A variety of elements, including a social need for more visible inclusion and diversity practices, led to acting on the decision to come out openly.
“As a birthday gift in June – to get the party started as some may say – coming-out letters were sent to my workplace and some sports leagues, not only with the message of being transgender but how we all need to adapt our environments to not only be accepting but to actively promote diversity and inclusivity while eliminating discrimination.”
Taylor wants to be an example to other trans individuals and raise awareness in society as a whole about trans rights.
“I needed to stand up and show people it’s okay to be trans,” she said. “I have the ability to open eyes, open minds, and open the door for other people who are scared to come out. I can show people examples of a resource that helped me feel confident to do it.”
Taylor said as a trans athlete, the end goal is to reform all the gender policies so that organized sports can appropriately acknowledge gender identities while maintaining the integrity of the sport.
“It’s not as simple as male/female anymore.”
Coming out has been empowering, and the skills learned through the Learning Centre have provided a renewed outlook on life.
“I used to not care about tomorrow because I didn’t care about today. Now, I’m not afraid of being honest.”
Note: Because most people know the person in this story by the name “Brad,” the name “Brad” is used at the subject’s request to increase the chance of awareness and visibility. While Taylor uses she/her pronouns, we strive to be free of gender definitions here.