The Current

'I was profoundly afraid': New book explores life-long process of understanding transgender identity

Lorimer Shenher knew he was transgender from a young age, but did not transition until later in life. He has written about the experience in his new book This One Looks Like a Boy: My Gender Journey to Life as a Man.

Lack of LGBT representation in the '70s left Lorimer Shenher afraid of being cast out

Lorimer Shenher knew he was transgender from a young age, but did not transition until later in life. He has written about the experience in his new book This One Looks Like a Boy: My Gender Journey to Life as a Man. (Greystone Books)
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On his first day of kindergarten, author Lorimer Shenher says he got a clear sense of what life as a transgender man was going to be like.

"I wasn't quite five, and we were lining up to go into the washroom," he told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

The teacher had told the class to line up in two rows: boys and girls. Shenher went and stood in the boys' line.

"She came up to me and she said: 'How come you're standing in the boys' line.' And I said, 'Well, I'm supposed to be a boy,'" he recalled.

"She put her hand on my arm and just said: 'Okay I think that should be something that you only share with really good friends, and I'm your friend, but I think you should keep this to yourself, but know how you feel inside.'"

Shenher remembers "this profound feeling of sadness and understanding in that moment, that that's how it was, and that she understood how it would be for me … even [back then] in 1969."

Shenher has written about the process of understanding his own transgender identity in his new book This One Looks Like a Boy: My Gender Journey to Life as a Man.

Growing up Catholic in Calgary in the late '60s and '70s, he said there was no kind of LGBT representation to give him "any indication that I wasn't the only person in the whole world who was like this."

Despite knowing he was transgender, he didn't choose to transition because he feared losing his family.

"I was profoundly afraid of being alone. I was afraid that I would be cast out," he said.

Over the decades that followed, he worked as a reporter in Alberta before moving to Vancouver to join the police, where he became involved in the botched investigation to catch convicted serial killer Robert Pickton.

Shenher fought several obstacles within the police to get that investigation off the ground, a process that he said "ruined his zest for police work" and left him with PTSD.

Around the same time, he had begun hormone therapy. He decided to transition after finding the support he needed from the family he had raised with his partner, Jennifer.

"My oldest, one day he just looked at me and — really without rancor, without impatience or anything — but he just said: 'Why don't you transition?'

"And I sat there thinking: 'Yeah... why indeed?'

"I didn't have an answer for him."

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear Shenher's full conversation with Tremonti.


Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by John Chipman.

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