Transgender advocate Tru Wilson and mother Michelle on how they initiated change in Catholic school system

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      On one side of the 49th parallel, a transgender advocate was being celebrated for initiating a policy change in schools. Meanwhile, on the other side, a U.S. president was reversing guidelines to support transgender students.

      When U.S. president revoked federal guidelines for washroom usage by transgender students in public schools on February 22, it was just after a Vancouver-based organization celebrated a local transgender student for the policy change she initiated at a Catholic school.

      Ladner's Tru Wilson gained much media attention for her advocacy work for transgender youth.

      Her family filed a human-rights complaint when Ladner's Sacred Heart refused to allow her to attend as a girl. As a result, the Catholic Independent Schools Vancouver became one of the first Catholic school boards in North America to change their policy to support gender expression and identity.

      Consequently, Options for Sexual Health honoured Wilson as this year's Sexual Health Champion at their annual Sexual and Reproductive Health Day breakfast on February 16 at the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Hotel.

      The event was hosted by CTV news anchor Tamara Taggart.

      In her introduction, Taggart provided some timely context for the morning event.

      "When I look to the south and I see what is happening with women's health in the U.S. and the threats that I think that we have to this general basic healthcare for women, it scares me," she said, "and so I think it's really important that we always do our best to educate and just normalize our bodies and good health and sexual health, and not be afraid of it."

      She also noted that the City of Vancouver proclaimed February 16 as Sexual and Reproductive Health Day and read an official civic proclamation.

      Host Tamara Taggart with Tru and Michelle Wilson.
      Craig Takeuchi

      In an onstage interview with 13-year-old Tru and her mother Michelle, Taggart asked about how involved the family was in religion, Michelle explained that because her husband grew up Methodist in the U.K., she was mostly seeking to find a sense of community through the church.

      "We thought that we could kind of ignore the aspects of the faith that we didn't necessarily agree with and take advantage of all the really good things about it," Michelle said.

      However, they found that they could not simply turn a blind eye to whatever they wanted to.

      "For me, it's reinforced that there are some great things about faith and there are some really sad things that people use to pit people each other because of faith," she said.

      Taggart asked them both what kinds of reaction they've had.

      Tru said that many people do ask her personal questions. For instance, some people ask if she still has male hormones; she informs them that she's receiving puberty inhibitors and is being administered estrogen.

      But the question she said she gets a lot is "Do you still have it?"

      She takes a no-nonsense approach to such questions.

      "I say 'yes' because it's a part of me," she explained. "It's something that I have. I'm not going to have it forever. I'm probably going to change it but it's something that I have now, and there's no point in hiding it unless I want to go incognito—and clearly I don't."

      She has also changed how she explains herself to others.

      "What I used to say when I was a kid was, 'Well, God accidentally put my soul in a boy's body when I was supposed to be in a girl's so I got a little mix-up in heaven….I just say [now] that, 'Well, my heart and mind are different from my genitalia.' It's that simple."

      Host Tamara Taggart with Tru and Michelle Wilson. 
      Craig Takeuchi

      While she said she has received some negative comments, one of the hardest things for her was when she lost a close female friend who had been very supportive and accepting.

      "But when I transitioned," Tru began, "her family didn't like me so she had to ask for one last goodbye from me—."

      As tears began to roll down Tru's face, Taggart and Tru's mother moved to comfort her.

      Michelle said that she herself has received criticism, such as being asked why she allowed her child to change gender.

      "There was a lot of education necessary," she said. "It was sad to hear commentary that, 'Well, God gave you your sex at birth and that's who you are', and that's…a crock of shit."

      Her comment received a round of applause and laughter.

      "You can’t argue with people," Michelle said. "You can't change the mind of someone's who so scared and so full of anger. You have more power in finding the voices of the people who do support you."

      She also added: "It's my job to fight for my kids."

      Despite all of what they've gone through, Tru expressed puzzlement at how challenging it has all been.

      "I just want acceptance," Tru said. "It's so strange that it's hard. Why does it have to be hard?"

      "Because some people are really stupid," Taggart said, prompting applause and laughter. "People are scared of things that are different. They're just scared because they're not educated about what it is that makes us different."

      As for her name, Tru said it's a pun: "I just want to be true to myself and that's expressed in my name."

      When Taggart asked if Tru feels like she needs to be an advocate for the rest of her life, Tru corrected her.

      "It's not like I feel like I need to, I feel that I want to," Tru clarified, garnering applause.

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