Montreal

Meet Gabrielle Bouchard, the first trans president of the Quebec Women's Federation

Gabrielle Bouchard, elected last month as president of the Fédération des femmes du Québec, says her goals at the helm are simple: equality for all women and equality between all women.

'My job is to represent all experiences, for all women in Quebec,' says new president

Gabrielle Bouchard, seen in her office earlier this month, is the first trans woman to lead Quebec's main woman's rights organization. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Gabrielle Bouchard was elected last month as president of the most prominent women's organization in the province, the Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ).

In taking over the well-known institution, which has been around since 1966, Bouchard said her goals are to maintain the organization's mandate: equality for all women and equality between all women.

And while we have come far in addressing the former, Bouchard said society still struggles with the latter. Her own story is a shining example of that.

Prior to becoming president of the FFQ, she worked for more than a decade with Concordia University's Centre for Gender Advocacy as a trans advocate and public educator

Bouchard loves Dr. Who, country music and sci-fi audiobooks

She enjoys the musical Wicked and her favourite female politician is Québec Solidaire MNA Manon Massé, because she feels Massé has "a heart bigger than the size of Montreal."

Gabrielle Bouchard previously worked at Concordia University's Centre for Gender Advocacy as a trans advocate and public educator. (Radio-Canada)

But one thing about Bouchard's background has been getting attention in recent weeks — the fact that when she was born, she was assigned a male gender on all official forms.

Bouchard is the first transgender woman to oversee the FFQ — and some people take issue with that.

Denise Bombardier, a columnist for the Journal de Montréal, wrote a critical piece arguing that since Bouchard transitioned as an adult, she would never be able to truly experience the strife and struggle of the "everyday woman" including motherhood and child bearing.

For some women, being a mother is important to them, it's a sense of pride and that's valid, Bouchard said.

"But not every person who gives birth wants to be identified this way."

'I need to listen'

So how can a transgender woman represent all women in Quebec?

Bouchard addressed her critics by giving the following example: former FFQ presidents, mostly middle-class, white women, did a fine job representing women — despite not being able to relate to the experiences of women on the margins.

"I'm here as an amplifier of women's strife and struggles in Quebec and that [goes] way beyond me," she said.

Bouchard says when it comes to equality for all women, society is doing well. But when it comes to equality between all women, there's room for improvement. (Sergei Chuzavkov/Associated Press)

Bouchard recognizes that her identity as a trans woman is important in assuming the role as president, but her new responsibility entails more than that.

"I can bring one aspect of my life that will inform part of my work," she said. "But actually, my job is to represent all experiences, for all women in Quebec, so I need to listen."

Bouchard said while her identity as a trans woman is important, it is just one of many stories.

"My story is really, really boring," she said. "Of course, I was denied employment. Of course, I was denied access to bathrooms. Of course, I had all of these things."

'Let's have the conversation'

CBC Homerun's Sue Smith asked Bouchard if she feared that the discussion around her being trans would take space away from other conversations concerning the work that the FFQ needs to accomplish.

Bouchard said that she's happy that the conversation is happening now, two weeks into her mandate.

"Let's have the conversation, let's be true about it, and once it's done people will have more information... and then we'll move beyond those conversations."

Bouchard says she can represent women from all walks of life in Quebec. 0:57

The FFQ was created in 1966 when several smaller women's groups came together to create a unified agency for women's rights.

Today, it identifies itself as a feminist organization that defends women's rights and issues in the province. The organization has 300 organization members and over 600 individual members.

With files from CBC Montreal's Homerun