An unexpectedly beautiful life: My journey to gender, gratitude and growth
Cass Turner shares a cuddle with their child, who they say is “living proof that it is possible to be completely, authentically myself, and have all the things I thought were reserved only for others.” PHOTO SUBMITTED
I never thought I would be fortunate enough to become a parent. As a non-binary, queer person who stopped conforming to outdated gender roles in my teens, there was no one who looked like me in that role when I was growing up.
In fact, there was almost no positive representation of gay people parenting in the 1990s. I grew up thinking I would die young with a broken heart, shunned by my family and friends.
Today, as I cuddle my toddler, I’m so grateful this was not my fate.
It’s why I celebrate every step forward. If it wasn’t for the blood, sweat and tears of LGBTQ2+ activists and allies fighting for equal rights and acceptance, I wouldn’t have all that I have now.
By sharing my story, I hope to help someone else feel as safe and fulfilled as I do today.
Courage, compassion and support
Early on, I chose to work at TELUS in part because I knew it is a company that respects and supports the LGBTQ2+ community – from Spectrum, our resource group for LGBTQ2+ team members, and our ongoing support for Pride events across Canada and internationally to raising awareness of important issues and events such as Transgender Day of Visibility. Since joining TELUS, I’m driven by the ongoing work that promotes a more equitable culture by fostering acceptance, support and personal empowerment for all team members.
My personal experience is in line with this commitment. I came out as non-binary five years ago. Since then, I’ve had many team members ask me how they can better respect me and ensure my comfort. It means so much to me that they use my pronouns,“they/them”, while making me feel included by adding their own.
For me, feeling supported extends to meaningful benefits including support services and gender-affirmation coverage.
That was particularly impactful to me when I made the decision to undergo gender-affirmation surgery last year. When I gained more awareness of my gender, that I was neither a “she” nor a “he”, my next steps were educating myself on the safe and supported ways I could feel more aligned with my gender. I’ve learned that there is no normal trans identity and that everyone’s experience is unique.
When I was planning and preparing for my surgery, I was scared about going under the knife. I worried about how this change would affect my life afterwards, how it would affect my partner and my ability to support our child and myself.
I was also scared about how others in my life would react. In the news we hear of transgender people being attacked or killed for becoming themselves. We read about trans people daily being judged for their choices to use medical intervention to align their bodies with their gender. This can cause them to be denied basic human rights, such as the use of a public bathroom, and ongoing political efforts across the U.S. to restrict discussion of sexuality and gender identity in classrooms, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Knowing my employer had my back was one less thing to stress about. When I told my boss at TELUS about the surgery, his first response was how he could help ensure that my family and I had the care and support we needed while I recovered.
From hiding to thriving
As far as we have come, there is still much work to do to ensure members of the LGBTQ2+ community experience the same rights and opportunities as other Canadians. The statistics are brutal: LGBTQ2+ youth are estimated to make up more than 25 per cent of homeless youth in Canada, according to a CMHC study on housing needs and challenges. Transgender Canadians are twice as likely to experience extreme poverty and homelessness.
Covid-19 has caused these insecurities to soar for the LGBTQ2+ community with even more people forced to live in unsafe housing and facing the loss of employment. And, after more than two years of pandemic-related restrictions on Pride and other important celebrations, we’ve mourned the loss of vital community connection – connection that is nothing short of life-changing to those in need of support. My heart goes out to the teens and youth who’ve faced uncertainty, isolation and fear of coming out to parents and family who may not be accepting.
All the unfair and cruel policies, stories of hate crimes and inaccurate narratives cause transgender people like me to not take the life-saving steps to find the medical and self-care we need to thrive and be fully ourselves. Trans people in Canada are five times more likely to commit suicide, the CMHC study finds.
I know I have been more fortunate than other trans and non-binary people in Canada. My mission is to use my voice to change minds and hearts with my story.
I’m happy to say my life is better today than it was even just yesterday. My partner is an amazing, supportive and kind person. She only wants what is best for me and our child.
Secure and meaningful employment has meant that I can support my family, and raise my child in a loving and secure home.
As I look forward, I see a bright future – not only for me, but for others who see a piece of themselves in my story.
My child is living proof that it is possible to be completely, authentically myself, and have all the things I thought were reserved only for others.
I have become the role model now that my younger self so badly needed to see in the world.
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