The theme of Vancouver Pride this year is “My Pride,” so what does Pride mean to me, and how did I get involved in with Pride?
Growing up, I had always sensed that something about me was different; I had always felt that I was a girl, but I couldn’t explain how or why I felt that way, and I didn’t have the vocabulary to describe how I felt. This isn’t a story about my experience growing up though; I’ll save that for another time.
This story begins in 2013, when I met my biological step uncle, and his partner (see if you can figure that one out). The two of them convinced me to volunteer for Vancouver Pride, which I was eager to do, but I was apprehensive, not knowing how I would fit in. I showed up for my shift at East Side Pride, and the first question I was asked was “what are your pronouns?” This sparked a conversation about what it means to be trans. That was my lightbulb moment, where everything started to make sense.
This was a scary time; knowing that I was trans, but not wanting to admit it to myself, let alone anyone else. Fortunately, I met some great friends through Pride, who were unconditionally accepting, and able to help me on my path to self discovery. I met a few trans people, and realized that there was nothing wrong with being trans, and nothing to be ashamed of. Knowing this and believing it are two different things though, so I began the slow journey toward transitioning, without fully knowing that I was headed in that direction.
I spent 2013 and 2014 volunteering, meeting new people, and slowly making changes, to my life, and to my appearance, that would help me to become more comfortable in my skin. I worked my way up from a volunteer to a team lead, then to a captain, until February 2015, when I joined the Vancouver Pride Society‘s board of directors, and began to chair the VPS Outreach Committee.
My involvement in Pride allowed me a place to be myself. I began hormone replacement therapy February 2015, shortly after I joined the board. I waited until April 2016 to tell most of my family and friends that I was trans, and I didn’t socially transition until December 2016. Throughout this entire time, Pride was there for me, as a place where I felt fully accepted and able to be myself.
Pride gave me the confidence that I needed to run as a candidate in the BC provincial election, only 3 months after socially transitioning. When I was outed publicly, in national news, during my campaign, I had my Pride family to lean on for support.
I’m privileged to have such supportive family and friends, that made my transition so much easier, but, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of the amazing volunteers and staff who make Vancouver Pride possible.
Pride is meaningful to me for so many reasons, but what motivates me to keep volunteering? My process of self discovery, and the 23 years of my life that I spent not being true to who I was, pushes me to be the person that I wish I had in my life when I was growing up. I want to help people that are struggling; to help them discover who they are, to let them know that it’s ok to be different, to educate and raise awareness, and to create the change necessary to allow everyone to live in an equitable society.
Here’s to more amazing years with Pride!
– NICOLA SPURLING –