John Fitzsimmons of Nanaimo is part of a project that encourages transgender people to write about their personal experiences, which are being compiled into a collection of their works. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Vancouver Island teen helping to tell transgender stories

Dover Bay grad John Fitzsimmons involved in Trans Tipping Point Project

Stories about transgender people are coming to the forefront but a lot of those stories aren’t told by trans people themselves, according to a Vancouver Island teen who’s picked up a pen to share his own story in a new anthology.

“The idea of putting out information and experiences about trans youths that were actually written by those youths themselves is just sort of a really cool step forward in my opinion, because we’re actually handing the power over to the people who’ve experienced these things rather than the people who are kind of interpreting their stories,” said John Fitzsimmons, who’s involved in the Trans Tipping Point Project.

The project is meant to empower young writers to write their own stories for an anthology and to seek policy change. Fitzsimmons, a recent high school graduate from Nanaimo, heard about the Trans Tipping Point Project online and was interested in the idea of an anthology of trans youths’ experiences that people could read and learn from.

He’s participated in two writing retreats this year, where he’s met other trans youth and connected with mentors.

Fitzsimmons said sometimes with niche experiences like being transgender, a lot of people don’t relate to it and it can be seen as weird.

“So you are kind of discouraged from sharing it or talking about it, but when you get to kind of get together with people who know what you’re talking about, you also kind of come away encouraged to share a little bit more,” he said.

Through the project, he’s also joined other transgender teens in meeting with Rob Fleming, B.C. Minister of Education, to propose policy changes, like a basic, universal inclusion policy across school districts.

“I’ve had a very positive experience at school so I was kind of there to give a little bit of an example of what is being done right and what we would like to see in all schools,” he said.

That youths are not only expressing themselves, but advocating for change through the project is inspirational to Tash McAdam, a mentor and editor for the anthology.

“The power, the magic that is in those spaces with those young people is indescribable,” McAdam said.

The new book hasn’t yet been published, but will feature work from 25 transgender youth.

McAdam said it’s hugely important for other trans youths who are looking for stories to connect to, people to identify with and maybe voices that echo their own feelings and experiences, but also for cisgender people to hear the lived experience of trans people, particularly trans youths.

Fitzsimmons wrote three pieces for the book and that it’ll be published is “pretty cool,” he said.

The 18-year-old is now helping to lead the project, with plans to organize events to help create leadership opportunities for young people and continue to empower them to tell their own stories.

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