Sask. writer finds inspiration for new novel from tragic event in Fort Qu'Appelle
Saltus centres around an event that was caused by a lack of access to gender-affirming supports
Tara Gereaux's new novel Saltus is a fictional story, but it is based on a tragic event that took place in her hometown of Fort Qu'Appelle.
Back in 2001 a local farmer pleaded guilty to unlawfully causing bodily harm after an Alberta person contacted the local farmer online and asked the farmer to help them kick start their gender transition from male to female.
The farmer removed the testicles of the person in a Fort Qu'Appelle hotel room. But after the surgery, something went wrong and the patient started bleeding heavily, though the person did recover.
"I just couldn't believe someone would be feel so desperate to go through such a very risky, dangerous procedure," Gereaux told Saskatchewan Wekend's Shauna Powers.
"I couldn't stop thinking about it for years, growing up in that town and having been in that hotel and spending a lot of my time there as a kid and then an early teen. I knew some of the people who worked there and I started to wonder about, you know, how such an event would actually unfold and how it would impact those who became inadvertently involved and how that would kind of reverberate through their lives afterwards."
That real life event stayed with Gereaux for years, and when she moved back to Saskatchewan she decided it was time to create a story around the event.
The novel dissects themes of Métis identity, female identity, motherhood, aging and regret.
"It was through the other characters living in that town that I saw kind of a way in," she said.
Saltus is set in 1993 in a small fictional Saskatchewan town.
Six main characters—two waitresses, a child, police officer, the mother of the person getting the procedure and the farmer.
"I really wanted to look at how it would impact the many people who would have been involved or had had a connection to the event that night," Gereaux said.
"I wanted to explore how that kind of (event) would impact the entire town, being as small and contained as it is."
Gereaux said she wanted to portray the complexities behind the issue.
And she chose not to give a first person narrative to the teenage character, named Aaron, who gets the surgery.
"I didn't have those experiences and so I couldn't bring that to the table," she said. "I was most interested in exploring the perspectives of the characters that I kind of grew up with and I knew living in that small town."
To make sure she was being respectful and appropriately portraying Aaron's story, Gereaux worked with a trans woman who grew up in Saskatchewan and small town Saskatchewan and related to those experiences.
"So she really walked me through and really helped me kind of develop that story."
Gereaux said gender affirming supports are still hard to find in rural Saskatchewan.
"That's one reason why I think we need to be talking about it and thinking about it and yeah, bringing those conversations to the surface.
"I think we have to understand that our beliefs are just our beliefs and they're not everyone else's beliefs. And so there has to be respect and understanding for other people's perspectives and where they come from."
Saltus is published by Harbour Publishing's Nightwood Edition.
With files from Saskatchewan Weekend