Activist Hailey Heartless believes that Vancouver is one of the better places for trans people to make a home.
Heartless first found her calling in blue-collar union organizing while in her 20s, when she held high-profile positions, including roles on two provincial committees and a seat at the national Canadian Labour Congress. But although she was particularly successful at advocating for others, she felt as if her own life was off-track. As she approached 30, she finally started to transition her gender.
Soon after, she found her invites to union events started drying up, forcing her to look elsewhere for financial opportunities. It was then that she discovered sex work. After apprenticing with an established dominatrix, she established her own business as a BDSM provider and threw herself into advocating for sex-worker and trans rights: skills she transferred from her days making sure that those in hard hats came home from their shifts safely.
“I feel like I’m a natural organizer, and I love meeting people and finding out what they’re about and then meeting someone else and finding out what they are about, and introducing those two people to each other,” she tells the Georgia Straight by phone. “The way I try to move the needle is through grassroots organizing…I feel like you kind of have to be an activist these days. We’re going through this phase where there’s so much hate directed at us, and if you don’t submit to it, you’re an activist.”
As well as being very active on social-media platforms, Heartless runs a powerful Medium blog that talks about her experiences moving from blue collar to leather collar and advancing trans visibility in the city.
“I really think Vancouver is probably one of the better places to be a trans person,” she says. “We’ve got so much support, so much community, and so many adjacent communities that are accepting of us. I’m involved in the queer party community, and the lesbian parties that I’ve gone to have not cared at all that I’m trans. It’s not been an issue here. There’s some hate, and there’s some groups—we know who they are—but they’re so out of touch with the rest of the community, and they’re so peripheral that you can navigate the city without having it affect you, if you do it right.”
Kate Wilson is the Technology Editor at the Georgia Straight. Follow her on Twitter @KateWilsonSays