Writing workshop for transgender teens brings authentic stories to the mainstream

Transgender youth in Victoria are connecting with mentors to create a book of stories that are true to their lived experience.

Led by the Trans Tipping Point Project, youth are writing stories missing from the common narrative

Kate Fry, the program coordinator for the Trans Tipping Point Project and workshop participant Sam Busch talked with All Points West about the book they're trying to create. (Deborah Wilson/CBC )

Transgender youth in Victoria are connecting with mentors to create a book of stories that are true to their lived experience. 

The program, led by the Trans Tipping Point Project, has hosted two writing retreats, so far, where youth and mentors discussed the common narrative of stories about transgender people and how they can use their writing to change it.

"We were seeing this pattern in mainstream media on how they covered trans issues, rights, activism, that was to frame trans stories one of two ways: either as sort of a tragedy or, increasingly, how they were framing stories of transgender youth was often as this amazing success story," program coordinator Kate Fry, told All Points West guest host Megan Thomas.

Fry said the community of people she's connected with felt there was a lack of authenticity in those stories which lies in between these two perspectives. She's hoping this publication will serve to close that gap.

Creating community

They've recruited mentors from the writing community including a graphic novelist, playwrights, poets, and members of the activist community who are transgender or identify as non-binary.

"A big theme of this project is building intergenerational community, providing trans youth who otherwise might not actually know any trans adults, might not know what it's like to navigate themselves to adulthood. That's one of the key aims of this project is to foster that kind of community," Fry said.

Sam Busch, a 17-year-old transgender male participant, has attended both workshops so far and is looking forward to the third session in May to reconnect with the mentors that have had a big impact on him.

"It's so cool, they've gone through actual life experiences … It's the same way you feel when you meet someone who has had some hand in the kind of dream you want to be a part of," he said.

1st person perspective

The first person perspective of transgender youth is rare to see in the media, said Busch, for the reason that he doesn't feel they get taken seriously, so the majority of the resources he finds are online through peer-to-peer threads.

"I think a lot of trans people and gender variant people, even just queer people in general, are very creative and need an outlet for the things they're feeling. Sometimes, that's the oppressive things that are coming toward them, or it's a rejection from their families, so being able to portray that through writing is very helpful," he said. 

This opportunity to write in a safe and supportive environment has offered Busch the chance to learn more about himself as a member of the transgender community and as a writer.

"Having mentors that I can have for the rest of my life and not just these three retreats is really important ... also getting published is kind of awesome."

To hear the full interview listen to the media below:

With files from All Points West