British Columbia

Transgender candidates hope to break through in B.C. vote

There are four transgender candidates running in B.C.'s provincial election. The NDP's Morgane Oger says no one cares, but a few voters clearly do.

4 transgender women on ballot for May 9 election

B.C. NDP candidate Morgane Oger, left, campaigns along Vancouver's False Creek seawall before the B.C. election on May 9. (Glen Kugelstadt/CBC)

The woman pushing a baby stroller on Vancouver's seawall wants to talk about housing, and B.C. NDP candidate Morgane Oger is happy to oblige.

"I'm 42 years old with a 2½-year-old, and there's no way I can purchase a home," says the woman, repeating what Oger calls a resounding theme in the downtown riding of Vancouver-False Creek.

Oger reminds the voter of her party's campaign pledge to offer a $400 rebate to renters and the woman leaves happy.

For a transgender candidate in the midst of what could turn out to be a history-making effort, Oger says it's how people feel the parties will handle bread and butter issues, such as housing, that will determine the winner.

Her identity as a transgender woman, she says, is a non-issue.

"The reality is, in this constituency, nobody cares that I am transgender," says Oger.

"I have a very good reputation for sorting out problems," she says, referring to her recent fight to save 12 Vancouver schools from closing.

The mother of two was chair of the district parent advisory council, a group that represents some 50,000 area students.

"I'm a recognized human rights activist," says Oger.

"People understand that I understand inequality and bias. And people understand that if I understand it for trans issues, I can talk about it for their issues."

Oger, 49, won the NDP nomination after a tough fight, earning the right to face the B.C. Liberal incumbent and former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan in the May 9 election.

Engineering expertise

Born in France, Oger earned degrees in mechanical engineering at UBC and spent time working on submarine technology before moving back to Europe to work in information technology.

She fathered two children, but says she moved back to Canada in 2009, in part, for the transition to becoming a woman.

Oger is running in the riding of Vancouver-False Creek, a seat currently held by Liberal Sam Sullivan, Vancouver's former mayor. (Glen Kugelstadt/CBC)

Among the people on the seawall Oger meets is 79-year-old Shirley Taylor.

Taylor says she's voting for the B.C. Liberals, but respects Oger's commitment.

"I think most of us have gotten used to the idea of transgender and gay and stuff, because most of us have had it come up in our families."

'It warms my heart'

In the last B.C. election, in 2013, there were no openly transgender candidates.

This time there are four candidates on the ballot representing all three of the major political parties.

Stacey Piercey, a Newfoundland-raised business consultant, is running for the B.C. Liberals in the Victoria-Swan Lake riding in the provincial capital.

Business owner Stacey Piercey is running for the B.C. Liberals in the riding of Victoria-Swan Lake. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

"Seeing these girls running, it warms my heart," she says.

Piercey says the reception at the doorstep has been very "polite."

"The only thing I notice is that it becomes an education experience the first time I meet some people, but I'm very lucky to be in Victoria where we have a strong LGTBQ community."

Still 'shocking'

The B.C. Green Party is running two transgender candidates, although only one, Veronica Greer from Surrey-Panorama, was openly "out" before the campaign began.

Nicola Spurling, running in Coquitlam-Maillardville, had her transgender identity inadvertently revealed by a Vancouver TV station after a mix-up involving the party's communications team.

Veronica Greer, left, and Nicola Spurling are candidates in Metro Vancouver ridings for the B.C. Green Party.

"Gender identity is still something that gains a lot of attention," says Spurling.

"It's something that people see as 'shocking' still."

"I didn't want a lot of attention on my gender identity and losing focus on my campaign," says Spurling.

Flyers target transgender candidate

In Oger's case, at least one person has tried to make her gender a campaign issue by distributing a flyer around her Vancouver riding.

It used explicit, derogatory language and was, says Oger, "really evil."

Still, she says such hateful incidents have been the exception.

"One thing it represents is progress," says Oger of the profile boost the election has given transgender candidates.

"But I also think it's important to look at … the likelihood that candidates will get elected," she says.

The Victoria riding where Piercey is running has been solidly NDP and the two Green candidates are also considered long shots to win.

In Vancouver-False Creek, though, Oger may have the best chance of making history.

Oger says 'really evil' flyers distributed in her riding targeted her transgender identity and the LGBT community in general. (Glen Kugelstadt/CBC)


Chris Brown

Foreign Correspondent

Chris Brown is a foreign correspondent based in the CBC’s London bureau. Previously in Moscow, Chris has a passion for great stories and has travelled all over Canada and the world to find them.