Becoming a Woman…No, Really!

I had the great privilege of being invited to speak at The Flame: Herstory@TAIWANfest.  Some of the speakers told funny stories, some told emotional stories, but everyone had something incredible and moving to share.  It was a very powerful event and I’m honoured to have been invited to share the stage with so many influential people from such a wide range of backgrounds.  I chose to share some of my very personal story of self-discovery, which you can now read, below.

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October 8th, 1990.  A child is born. Adopted to two loving parents, this is a picture-perfect family. 

I grew up interested in sports, cars, woodworking, electronics – all of the stereotypically masculine things.  I had an amazing childhood, full of great friends, a plethora of interesting activities, and a close family, but sometimes that just isn’t enough.

Around the beginning of grade 1, I started to have questions that related to the very core of my being.  I connected with girls, I felt that my body was wrong, but it was more than that. I felt like I was supposed to be a girl. I struggled for a long time to reconcile these feelings.  The world around me didn’t include conversations about how I was feeling, so I assumed I was the only one who felt this way.

Initially, I thought a mistake had been made when I was born and eventually someone would figure that out.  Then I considered the possibility of being reborn and that perhaps I was a girl in another life. Before I had a chance to explore these feelings I had people telling me to stop acting girly, telling me how a man behaved, and forcing me to fit a societal role.  Without having any education around the topic of gender identity in school, without seeing trans people in public and without having the words to describe how I was feeling, I came to the conclusion that I was wrong. Not that my opinions were wrong, but that I, as a human being, was wrong.  This became my deep dark secret that I would take to my grave, or at least until I was old and couldn’t bring shame to the people around me.

36770_1493539304146_3844507_nAs I moved on with the rest of my life, these feelings that I was a girl never left, I just became better at hiding them, but that was taking a toll on me.  I entered into extremely long bouts of severe depression, with the longest lasting 7 years. Eventually, I decided to travel, and during a 2 month backpacking trip around Europe, I had my first break from depression after those 7 long and painful years.  I came home feeling like I’d finally solved my problem, but just over a year later, the depression started coming back. Not to worry though, I had another trip planned, this time for 5 months instead of 2. I bought a van and converted it into a camper, then I spent those 5 months 252833_10150629595440034_3026615_nroad-tripping around North America living in my van.  I felt free, I felt alive, and most importantly, I didn’t feel depressed. But even in those moments, the feeling of being a woman never went away, I was just focused on other things. When I returned, I threw myself into my work with the goal of buying an apartment. I worked long hours at multiple jobs to save up, but I didn’t mind, the work took my mind off these shameful feelings I had.

1005113_10152994276445034_425729276_nIn 2013, my uncles convinced me to volunteer for Pride.  I cautiously agreed, not knowing what I was getting myself into.  The first volunteer shift, I showed up and was asked “what are your pronouns?”  This was a foreign concept. “What do you mean?” I asked. They asked me if I identified as a man, a woman, or another gender.  This is when I had my “aha” moment. During this first volunteer shift, I had the chance to meet a trans person. Until that point, the only representations of trans people that I’d found in my searches were pornographic, and I couldn’t relate to that.  I thought that being trans was a fetish, and that wasn’t how I felt about my identity. This person turned that notion on its head. I could see myself in her, and suddenly this dream of living as the person I saw myself as inched a little bit closer.

12963361_10156731222285034_7345880516684812603_nAt the age of 22, I announced to some close friends that, I’m not a man, I’m a woman, and my name is Nicola.  Shortly after that I told my family. As with anything in my life, I needed to approach transitioning with confidence.  For me, that meant taking it slowly and making sure that any difficult changes were done at a manageable pace. For that reason, I didn’t start hormones until I was 24,  came out online following that by simply changing my profile picture on Facebook, and didn’t socially transition until I was 26.

By the time 2017 rolled around, I had worked my way onto the board of directors for Vancouver Pride, travelling around the province as chair of the Outreach Committee, and I had developed a bit of a name for myself in queer circles.  Having heard a little about me and my work, I was approached by Andrew Weaver, the leader of the BC Green 17814268_10158409742420034_3330858730466257248_oParty, asking if I would run in the provincial election. After saying no about 8 times, I talked to some local politicians, and their advice led me to finally say yes.  Little did I know it at the time, but this would completely change the trajectory of my life. During this election, I was accidentally outed as transgender by a media outlet and the story of my outing made it into national media. This had both negative and positive outcomes following the election.  The negatives were that when I was laid off from my job, and I struggled to find new positions because the first thing a potential employer finds out from searching my name is that I’m trans. The positives were that I developed great connections, and received praise for how I handled the situation and how I conducted myself in interviews.  This led, in part, to my becoming a regular political pundit on CBC radio, various other media engagements, and provided me with a strong support network that helped me find work.

My life is very different from the life I knew before transitioning, and even to the life I knew just two years ago.  My occupations, my volunteer work, my friends, and my activities have changed, but my fundamental being has not. I am the same person I always was, I’m just finally happy, and I’m finally showing the world who I really am.

What makes me a woman is not my body, it’s my sense of self and the experiences that make up my life, just as is the case with any other woman.  

 

NICOLA SPURLING

One thought on “Becoming a Woman…No, Really!

  1. I was born in 1952:
    The Baby Boomer generation. Such hope and expectations for us from our parents. The world was exploding with new ideas and possibilities and we were set free to ride the waves of modern society. But some of us were never really free. We knew we were different but had no way to understand why or even what we were. Closet doors were closed and masks worn to keep our authentic being hidden from both society and ourselves. Alcohol and drugs stepped in to help ease the pain. Many of us bounced from relationship to relationship, each one going to cure us from these feelings. But there is no cure if there is no disease. And we were never sick.
    The advent of access to the internet in the 90’s opened our eyes and we discovered that we were not alone. That we were transgender. All of a sudden it all made sense. What was confusion became understanding, and with understanding came the opportunity to become. To really be the person we always were behind the mask. And we are beautiful. Don’t ever forget that. You are beautiful.

    Like

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