British Columbia

Politicians in B.C. watch supermodel's transition journey on Transgender Day

Members of British Columbia's legislature marked Canada's Transgender Day of Remembrance by viewing a documentary that follows a depressed, suicidal female teenager's three-year surgical and life-changing transition to a beaming male supermodel on the fashion runways of Paris.

Krow's TRANSformation documents discrimination, harassment, marginalization of transgender people

From left, filmmaker Gina Hole Lazarowich, Canada's first trans supermodel Krow, Liberal MLA Jane Thornthwaite and NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert inside the provincial legislature library in Victoria on Nov. 20. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dirk Meissner)

A Canadian male supermodel who walks the fashion runways of Paris and appeared on front covers of trend-setting magazines relayed his story to British Columbia politicians during a special screening of a documentary film that follows his life-changing surgical transition from a depressed and suicidal female to his true self inside and out.

The screening of the documentary, Krow's TRANSformation, for B.C.'s provincial politicians was one of many events across Canada on Wednesday marking Transgender Day of Remembrance that acknowledges the discrimination, harassment and marginalization that transgender people experience.

A Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony was also held in front of the provincial legislature, where the transgender pride flag was raised for the first time. In Alberta, the same striped pink, blue and white flag was raised at the Federal Building plaza in Edmonton and at Calgary's McDougall Centre.

Transgender Day of Remembrance events were also held in Vancouver, Edmonton, St. Catharines, Ont., Toronto, Kingston, Ont., Ottawa, Montreal, and St. John.

Krow, who's now 24 and prefers to use only his first name, said the documentary follows a three-year period of his life where he undergoes his transition starting at age 18. It also touches on his earlier modelling career that started when he was a 12-year-old girl.

"I modelled until I was just 18 and then I stopped for a while, did my transition, and then I started up modelling again just last year and it's been incredible."

After six years modelling as a woman, Krow Kian returned to the industry as a successful male model. At CAFA 2019, he was awarded the Fresh Face of the Year Award. (Paul Smith/CBC)

Krow, who grew up in Maple Ridge, B.C., said his life was confusing and conflicted during his youth, but the transition helped him become who he was supposed to be.

"Before my transition it was definitely a very dark time of not feeling comfortable with myself and who I physically was versus who I was on the inside," he said.

"After being able to have the confidence to change that and have the support of my friends and family to help me through that time, I had such an incredible change of views on life and enjoying things to the fullest while being myself."

Krow Kian says being a transgender model has opened up more opportunities for him. (Submitted by Bianca Sutton/OUTtv)

Despite Krow's successful transition, the cross-country ceremonies were reminders of the realities transgender people face, including discrimination, hate, violence and even death.

Mitzi Dean, the NDP's parliamentary secretary for Gender Equity, cited research by the international advocacy group Transrespect versus Transphobia Worldwide, reporting 331 cases of killings of trans and gender-diverse people in the year up to Sept. 30, 2019.

"The vast majority of those who are murdered are trans women of colour and their average age is just 31 years old," she said at the flag-raising ceremony. "They're activists, stylists, civil servants, sex workers, artists and more. They live among us, with us, in our neighbourhoods."

Trans activist Chrys Tei, who transitioned from a man to a woman, said the flag is a powerful symbol to the rest of the world.

Krow Kian has been modelling since he was 12. This is a picture of Kian pre-transition. (Submitted by Bianca Sutton/OUTtv)

"Let us each commit to the work needed to fulfil this symbol for every youth without a family of choice, every neighbour who is uncertain but wants to reach out, and for our planet who needs us now more than ever."

Liberal Jane Thornthwaite said viewing the documentary was a moving experience for members of her caucus.

Thornthwaite, who appears in the film, said she wanted her colleagues to develop more compassion and empathy for transgender people, especially youth and the families of young people going through gender transition. She said the Liberals ordered pizza for the screening and had a lengthy discussion after the preview.

"I just feel that we have to do a better job educating people on what are the issues with trans youth," said Thornthwaite. "They have higher incidents of mental illness, higher incidences of bullying, more so than other members of the LGBTQ community. I just want to increase the empathy and compassion for these people."

New Democrat Spencer Chandra Herbert, who also appears in the documentary, said his meeting with Krow was one of the reasons he pushed for legislation supporting gender identity and expression.

Krow Kian poses for a photo shoot, post-transition. (Submitted by Bianca Sutton/OUTtv)

Vancouver filmmaker Gina Hole Lazarowich said the documentary — which was to be broadcast Wednesday on OUTtv — has already been screened at film festivals in London, Spain and Palm Springs to enthusiastic and award-winning responses.

She said it took her four years to make the documentary she called a labour of love.

"When I first started with him in year one, somebody said to me he might commit suicide," said Hole Lazarowich. "I just kept on following, following him and I just kept on seeing him getting happier and happier. I just started calling the documentary a metaphor for life."