EUPHORIA : Love, Mom 2022

“Euphoria: A state of intense happiness, and self confidence.”

We reached out to our membership, asking for people to share their stories, and pose for this exhibit. These are their stories.

My name is Abra (ah•bra). Abra as in abracadabra, I often say in introductions to help people see the word -- I create that which I speak (from Hebrew and Aramaic). In many ancient traditions, words have power, indeed the power to bring the world into being. So do names.

Growing up, I didn't hate my name, but I also didn't really care much how people pronounced it. I didn't believe in its power, as it didn't represent my true self. But after I spoke my new name and rebirthed myself, I believed in its power. I also love the name for all its connotations of opening in Spanish -- abra: an opening, a clearing in the woods, a mountain pass. And a boat, an abra (from Arabic), that ferries you across the water to the other side.
Especially for trans folk, using our correct names (never our deadname -- our former names associated with the false personas we had to hide within for so long), is powerful. As is using our pronouns.

I knew that I was not who everyone saw me as from a very young age, though I didn't have the information and lexicon to explain it. But I always gravitated towards feminine things. In grade one hung out with the girls until violently separated from them. I was proud of my feminine nature and personality. But I was a studious, serious, withdrawn kid with what felt like constant grinding noise in my head making life difficult, something I now know was dysphoria. As an adult I tried hard to look like a man, growing a big beard, though I could never muster much masculinity besides. I secretly wore girls clothes from a very early age and as an adult always pined for beautiful flowing dresses and skirts, often stopping at storefront windows to admire them. I did grow beautiful, luxurious long hair for much of my adulthood and never disavowed my softness.

At 42, when death seemed the only alternative, I transitioned. My wife, my sister and her kids, and a good number of friends and acquaintances, immediately accepted and supported me, but it was really hard for mom (she has come around ❤️), and my brothers remain distant.

Euphoria is the opposite of dysphoria. When we see ourselves, when we feel seen, when we feel authentic, beautiful, present, powerful as our authentic selves, we feel euphoria. Early in transition, as I began to unfold, and despite the difficulties, there were many firsts -- first time being gendered correctly, hearing my name, seeing my corrected birth certificate, drivers license, etc., seeing soft curves come in, getting my vulva and vagina, feeling beautiful in beautiful dresses and lingerie, and feeling beautiful and powerful in my skin (as an art model, my favourite outfit is my skin).

As the years go by and life as me has normalized, simply going about my life as the woman I am, there are fewer moments of euphoria, but in their place is a serene self-assurance. But life is movement and change, and there are still moments of new experiences, a pretty new outfit, quiet reflection, or a great photo shoot, that result in a surge of euphoria.

I am Abra. Beautiful. Open. Powerful. I am me.

Gender has been a strange concept to me for as long as I can remember. I recall being forced into dresses and stockings because I was a "girl" while all my "boy" cousins were allowed to run around in comfortable shorts and t-shirts. I spent the first 20 years of my life trying to fit into gender norms which was a difficult task for me because I never really understood the concept of gender. Gender didn't exist in my head nor did it make much sense to me, I always thought my physical appearance was somewhere in between. I was being misgendered long before it was cool and that caused a lot of anxiety which I am still sometimes working to overcome to this day.

I've always tried hard to fit in by looking like what those around me tell me I should dress or act like for my gender. I tried and although I achieved it and received approval, I never feel as good as those who are sure of their gender and it's always haunted me, reminding me that everybody else was in on this concept that somehow I missed the memo on. I spent my preteen-young adult years struggling with how I needed to look or act and obsessing over the impact of desperately wanting to change my name but also not willing to answer questions as to why I thought I needed to do it. I thought this was all a phase and I'd grow into my name and the way I am meant to look, this happens to everybody, right? Wrong, eventually I had to accept I wouldn't and the anxiety it was causing me was holding me back.

When I finally did those things a younger I was so afraid of, I finally for the first time in my life stopped feeling anxious about how people would view me. The experience was enlightening and I give thanks every day I have found wonderful people I can call my family who I can without a doubt say have impacted me greatly giving me the ability to finally do the things I needed to do to be happy and comfortable with myself.

"Euphoria; a feeling of well-being or elation."

Growing up I never allowed gender roles to taint my soul's desires. I chose to be myself however that manifested. Assigned female at birth, it never felt quite right but at the same time not wrong. I chose to let my intuition be my guide, leading me down whatever path it saw fit. A tomboy, a butch, a girl of sorts. Through medical intervention I was able to find alignment. For me that is a flat chest, that is a vulva, that is muscles, a beard and a deep voice. I am a mixture of all things masculine, feminine and androgynous.

I am non binary. I am a butch on T. I am fluid, ever changing.

I am me and I am euphoric.

Aric/Anna
They/He/She"

Hello, My name is Brody. My pronouns are he/him or they/them. I'm 22 years old and openly trans man. I came out almost 5 years ago now. I have always had the best support system but not everyone has the same experience as I did. We are all experience being trans differently so when this project came up and I was suggested to come out and I jumped at the opportunity to show others that they can be whoever they want to be. It was a very euphoric experience for me and I had my best friend with me to do it.
Thank you for this opportunity and I hope it inspires others.

I’ve always known exactly who I am. Even if I didn’t have the vocabulary to describe me - I knew me. But I felt so different from the rest of the world that I hid that person away. I dimmed my light as to not draw attention.

When I discovered others who had similar experience as me, who put words to how I felt, I realize that I wasn’t alone. I didn’t have to hide. I could let me light out!

Euphoria for me is showing up in the world exactly as who you are on the inside. And I want that part of me to shine so bright that it inspires others to shine a long too. We’re all just 6 billion year old stardust. So let’s shine on!

i’ve known i was a boy since i was 3 years old. living as a lesbian for 20 years and then taking the plunge into transmasculinity brought me gender euphoria, as i have had the rare privilege of being able to break out of the gender and sexuality box that society constructed for me and everyone else. this experience has taught me what it is to be fully, authentically human.

I’m Fritha, my pronouns change, and I identify as somewhere between genderqueer and androgyne. Euphoria for me has a deep connection to music and self expression. Wearing makeup and clothing that represents my gender and shows the world the things I like is invaluable

hello!

I'm Gab Griffin, my mom (Wanda Griffin) told me about your project and I was wondering if I could be a part of it.
I'm a 14 (going on 15) year old non binary high school student. For me a lot of my life I have dealt with harassment and general bigotry due to my gender identity, race and sexuality. It used to have gotten to the point where being myself was extremely difficult and even now I do still have some problems with that.

Back when I first came out I had an extremely declining mental health and wasn't in a good spot to be telling people something that was so abstract in my town, which resulted in a lot of people (mostly kids my age) harassing me, calling me slurs and even trying to debate my existence.

For me as a nonbinary person, my life has been difficult as people don't understand when I say I'm not a girl and I'm not a boy. Over the course of my coming out I have attempted to educate people in my family in my community about what gender is and what mine means to me.

I hope that's a good explanation as to who I am, and I hope you would consider me for your project. Have a great day!

Gab Griffin
(he/they)

My name is Ingrid. I am a chanteuse, raconteur and bon vivant. And I am a trans woman.

I was assigned “male” at birth, but I have known since very early childhood that I was in the wrong body. I have always felt more feminine than masculine, and had no interest in the traditional male gender role. Unfortunately, I grew up in a place and time when these feelings were simply not discussed, acknowledged or accepted. I didn’t know that other people like me even existed. I thought I was an anomaly, a freak, a queer. So for decades I hid my true self, held HER down and silenced her. I locked HER away and tossed aside the key. I did my best to present myself as I thought others perceived me. As a result, I lived through an endless string of failed relationships and suffered my entire life with severe anxiety and suicidal depression.

Then, at a gathering to celebrate my 59th birthday, something magical happened. My eldest child, Fritha (whose story you will also find here among the rest) brought a group of their friends along to help prepare dinner. These kids were magnificent, representing every color of the LGBTQ+ rainbow, and they were all so happy and so FREE! Free to be themselves, without fear of judgement or repression - they simply existed, just as they were… Fritha themself came out to me as non-binary that night, and of course I immediately accepted this fact without hesitation. But seeing their courage, and the fearlessness with which they all were living their lives, suddenly gave me the courage to come to terms with my true self. I drank a toast to all of them, and resolved that night to end my charade.

I came home from that weekend and started by experimenting with my rediscovered sense of self, and created a few social media accounts under my female identity. At first I was just trying her on for size to see how she fit, and invited a few close and trusted friends along for the ride. But immediately, the change in me was apparent - not just to me, but to everyone around me. After that, there was no turning back. I came out to the rest of my friends and family, and fully transitioned socially. I legally changed my name and my gender on all of my personal identification and records, and started Hormone Replacement Therapy. I am planning full Gender Affirmation Surgery for sometime next year, and look forward to spending whatever time I have left in this world simply being ME.

Coming to terms with this has been EXHILARATING, the most immediate effect being that EVERY SINGLE mental health issue I have struggled with for most of my life has evaporated into thin air, like a HUGE weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I only hope that my story will inspire others to live their own true lives to the fullest.

In May 2007 I decided to live as Lisa full time, since then I have slowly built up my confidence to take the next step and start hormones in 2016 , finally discussing my desire to be a woman with my son and ex wife, my ex said ( What took you so long) my son asked why not just keep on dressing, I explained it's much more complicated than that, then wasting 4 years going to CAMH , they wanted to make sure I really wanted to become a woman, then covid came along, another six months wasted, then finally on Nov 2nd 2020, I was in Montreal becoming the woman I've known I was all my life, I was 66 years old then, here I am today who will be 69 in January, and living my life as normal as a woman can be.

And recently finding a new Interest in my life, I caught the bug in acting and modeling, life is good for Lisa Danielle Stroud....

Luca

My name is Luca, i was born on April 11th 2010 and i am a transgender male who was assigned female at birth, i am also gay.

I love making and wearing bracelets because they help me be myself by adding more fun colours to my outfits!

Transitioning has never been easy, I am horrible at taking proper care of myself so i adopted a kitten named Mikey on august 18th 2022 and he has helped me become better at taking care of myself.

My family is very proud of me and supports me completely.

I am Luca.

Mads

"Gender is a funny little costume I wear every now and then, a performanace where I play all the roles.

Its been around 8 or 9 years since I came out as nonbinary. My relationship with gender, my body, and how I express myself has changed a lot over the years. Gender euphoria used to look like wearing a binder and a bow tie or neon pink hair cut short and t-shirts with funny logos.

It's a bit more subtle now.

For a little while I was wearing my hair long. My family really liked it, and I liked making them happy. I would occasionally like how it looked in pictures too. As fine as it looked, I didn't relate to the person I saw. It was fun, but disingenuous.

I finally got a proper haircut, after not cutting it for 2 years. I went to a queer hairstylist in Toronto, which was a very good decision.

When I finally saw myself with my short hair again, styled and clean, I wasn't performing anymore.

"Oh. There I am" I said.

That made my mom cry. Happy tears thankfully.

My gender isn't boy or girl, long or short hair, skirts or pants. I find gender euphoria in little things, but most recently, it was that hair cut."

Mads Christianson-Walker (they/them)

Okie aka Linda A 2 Spirit Choctaw Ohoyo (woman). Was born and raised in Indian Territory which is now Oklahoma. She's lived in Ontario for over 22 yes and calls this home. Okie refers to herself as A Spiritual being - not a religious person. Her Indigenous Spirit name is Hvshi Nanook Anya Iti Ohoyo which means Little Sun that shines at night. Her passion is drumming and singing and sharing life stories to help empower others. Music is the Universal language. Striving everyday to be good medicine for all. Waking each morning with gratitude and prayers for the gift of life for another day blessed.

I believe gratitude is an attitude in the process of progress toward Unity of the people and the healing of Mother Earth. Our Home. Yakoke (thank you)

Okie Aka MoonTree

teo talerico is a mixed race (Irish, Scottish and cree/nehiyaw) non binary non-speaking Autistic person born and raised in Toronto and now lives in Hamilton. They are training to practice herbal medicine. They are passionate about mutual aid, communication, and building a kinder, gentler world - for those who have come before them, all those who may come after, and all those here now.

--te