While many of us can recall first-hand just how trying junior and senior high were, what with all those raging hormones and the hallway politicking going on, just try to imagine how much more difficult it would have been had you, say, switched genders in the middle of the school year.
That’s precisely the story of 16-year-old Ryan Seggie, a former Bishop Grandin student. Seggie first came out as a lesbian in junior high, but that still didn’t feel right. After joining a weekly support group, Mosaics, at the Calgary-based LGBT-oriented Miscellaneous Youth Network, and coming into contact with others who had similar experiences, Seggie came to identify as transgendered and “transitioned” from female to male.
By his own account — at least in terms of school — a lot of unpleasantness followed: he claims teachers turned a blind eye to the bullying he received, and the school’s administration wouldn’t allow him to use his “male” name.
As such, Seggie opted to drop out altogether and plans on completing his studies online.
That said, thanks to the same group that helped him come to terms with his identity, Seggie doesn’t have to miss out on those formative social experiences that are so crucial to teens.
“I didn’t really have friends, but Mosaics helped with that,” says Seggie. “It’s just a comfort zone for me.”
So much so that Seggie, although school-less, is nonetheless looking forward to an event that’s a big part of any student’s calendar — the end of year dance.
“Unfortunately it’s not an uncommon event for prom that kids are told they can’t bring partners of the same sex to the dance,” says Justine Bonczek of the Miscellaneous Youth Network on the reasoning behind their upcoming Queer Prom — an event modelled on similar parties popping up all across North America. “We saw that and saw how many other [places] were standing up and saying, ‘no, we’ll have our own prom, and you can bring whomever you want and wear whatever you want.’ We were very much inspired by that.”
Bonczek says the first prom they hosted in 2010 was an 18-plus event geared more towards adults who had missed out on their graduating dances the first time around, but interest from kids still in high school spurred them to make the festivities available to all ages (there will still be a licensed area for of-age attendees).
“Seeing how kids would rather not attend their own graduating senior prom but would rather come to an event that supports their identity and supports their own achievements — that says ‘it’s fine, we’re going to celebrate who you are’ — seeing that was really amazing,” she says.
Thankfully, however, some of those who are planning on attending aren’t just doing so because they have no other options, but because it just seems like a whole lot of fun.
Fifteen-year-old Brady Roe, a junior high student at Our Lady of Assumption, says he only came out a couple of months ago, and although that resulted in a few concerned calls from his school’s administration to his parents, in terms of his peers it was no big deal.
“The principal has called home a couple of times to talk, but it’s not a big problem. It’s... whatever,” he says. “No one really cares.”
But Roe admits he’ll probably feel more comfortable at Queer Prom than at his school’s dances, just because “everyone is gay and proud and being themselves.”
Still, there are some aspects of this time-honoured ritual that kids, regardless of gender or orientation, will have to suffer through no matter how much acceptance they have from adults — namely, what to do about a date?
Roe is kind of dodging the bullet on this one for now — he’ll be accompanied by his mom as well as drag personality Deva Dave, but Seggie is hoping for better luck at the event itself.
“I wish,” he exclaims with a laugh when asked if he’ll be taking anyone special. “Girls hate me.”