In recognition of June as Pride Month, we sat down with a series of queer individuals and couples, in a location that was special to them, to ask them about the evolution of their pride and how they have grown over the years. And from June 20th to 24th, $1 from the sale of every Evolution product will go towards the Tegan and Sara Foundation, a charity that fights for health, economic justice and representation for LGBTQ girls and women.
Rowan is a 24-year-old trans woman based in Toronto. She grew up in the suburbs and is now pursuing her education in fashion design. Currently, Rowan works at TKVO, a retail and tattoo shop that delights customers with queer- and feminist-inspired jewellry, ceramics, t-shirts, and its promise of a safe space. For Rowan, “safe space” is a beautiful sentiment, because many community members have few places they feel safe in, or maybe have never felt safe or seen before. We visited her at the shop to hear her story—and to do some shopping of our own.
How are you celebrating Pride this month (if at all)?I’m not really partying a lot. That’s what Pride used to mean to me. What I’m planning on doing for this Pride is the Trans March. It’s the largest Trans March in North America, if not the world. It’s really fun, it’s really empowering. It’s harkening back to what Pride really is—it’s a march, but it started as a protest. It doesn’t have the same feel as the Pride parade does—that’s more of a party. The Trans March is more about saying “We’re here” and being visible. But I won’t lie, I’ll probably go to a party at some point.
Are you comfortable sharing your coming out experience? If so, what was it like?
I came out twice in my life. The first time was mostly to friends and my social group. That was when I came out as a queer person. At that point I wasn’t entirely sure about my gender identity and I didn’t know that I didn’t have to adhere to the sex I was assigned at birth. I never came out to my parents because it never felt necessary. My parents were always like, “You like who you like.” I was in a very inclusive household. That’s when I was 16. But I think it was apparent to everybody anyway [that I was a queer person].
When I was 23, I came out as trans to my social network and to my parents. I didn’t have any issues with my social network. The only person I had a huge issue with was my father. He didn’t understand and still doesn’t understand. We don’t speak to each other anymore. It’s sad but it taught me that you can’t have toxicity in your life and you can’t compromise who you are for someone else’s comfort. My mom didn’t really understand but she was like, “I’m going to get over my own stuff to meet you where you need me to be.” That’s being a parent: loving someone unconditionally.
When you think back on who you were at that time, how have you grown? What’s changed?
I definitely feel much more comfortable navigating the world than I did before I came out as a binary trans individual. Now that I am authentic to myself and to everyone else with who I am, I am more confident I think. Pre-transition, I was very complacent and not really living. Now I feel as though I am living.
In terms of my friend group, I have maintained pretty much all of the same friends that I had. But I have a low bullsh*t tolerance now. If you’re gonna be toxic, if you’re not a nice person, I don’t want you in my life. I haven’t had to cut anybody out because of that, but I have had to distance myself from some people because of their unkindness in general. Like my relationship with my father, I realized I can recognize that negativity and say goodbye to it.
What does it mean for you to be proud?
First and foremost, being proud is being comfortable and loving yourself. Loving the good things and loving the not-so-great things, and recognizing those are still parts of you. And sometimes those not-so-great things are really beautiful to other people. And of course, I think pride and being proud is about community. It’s about connecting with people around you, connecting to those who don't have a voice. Those who need help still and those who aren’t comfortable in their living situation or their friend situation and helping them out. It’s about love and community.
I also wanted to mention that the Pride celebration as we know it, Pride as being more of a party, is something we are really privileged to have. Pride was started by a trans woman of colour and other queer folks who were fed up of being arrested, beaten, experiencing other kinds of violence. Without those people fighting for us, we wouldn't be able to have “Best Chest” contests, covered in glitter, roaming the streets, and having so much fun. It’s important to recognize that other people aren’t able to benefit from those celebrations and we still have a long way to go.