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How I found community and solace as a trans person living in a small town

This First Person article is the experience of Quinn Frear, a trans man who lives in McBride, B.C. For more information about CBC’s First Person stories, please see the FAQ.

There’s part of me that wonders how much danger I’m putting myself in by admitting that I, a trans man, am living in a rural area. 

When I first decided to move to McBride, B.C., I was told a story of an elderly, blind gay man in the village who was severely beaten and dumped in the snow after making a pass at one of the frequenting snowmobilers. 

So when I told my queer — to use a blanket term — friends that I was moving out of the city to a village, their first reaction was a gentle check on my sanity. 

And I get it. I grew up in a rural town with an intolerant, strict, religious family. I have a clear memory of a sibling telling me I was an abomination who was going to hell, as a result of a somewhat embarrassing situation where I was caught exploring my gender preference and sexuality. 

While some family members have since accepted relatives who identify as queer, I know that’s unusual, especially in small towns.

There’s a level of relief in being part of a bigger city’s LGBTQ community, but the reality is that I’ve also heard stories from a trans woman who has repeatedly been assaulted in the city for being trans — and that’s in an urban centre that is supposedly welcoming toward its LGBTQ residents. 

When I lived in Victoria, I found it difficult to find work as a trans man, and almost impossible to hold onto employment. And, although grants and bursaries were available, trying to find registration and seat fees for college required energy and money that I just didn’t have. 

how i found community and solace as a trans person living in a small town
Although there is definitely the prejudice I was expecting in a small town, I’m fortunate that my experiences with transphobia have been relatively minimal, Frear says. (Submitted/Quinn Frear)

City doctors saw me as “not trans enough” and used gatekeeping practices toward my surgeries, hormones, needles, and injection information. And, as I started to identify as masculine, the counselling services available to me started to dry up — spaces that needed to be safe for women were understandably not welcoming to men.

City life was exhausting me.

So when my uncle, who lived in McBride, suggested I move there, I instantly saw the appeal of housing, food, and financial security. I knew that not having a therapist, or a large queer community, would be a struggle, but I was done with the city.

Although there is definitely the prejudice I was expecting in a small town, I’m fortunate that my experiences with transphobia have been relatively minimal.

Maybe I’m used to mistreatment, but it doesn’t seem any different from my experiences in an urban centre such as Victoria. There are those who refuse to use my pronouns, intentionally misgender me, give me strange looks, or refuse to talk to me. 

I’ve also conformed to binary gender expression and identity for my own safety and well-being. 

But I can see parts of my community are pushing for awareness, visibility, and acceptance. One church has told me they would love to see me in their congregation. 

My interest in advocacy has been embraced. There are already two rainbow chairs outside one of the historical houses, the local librarian and I are working toward installing rainbow benches in other locations, and another member of the LGBTQ community is advocating for a crosswalk. 

And, while I have yet to hear any feedback from the local committee, I’ve repeatedly suggested a Pride festival.

I chose McBride — which is nestled between mountainous provincial parks, about 200 kilometres southeast of Prince George — because of the healing energy found in the endlessly picturesque landscapes. For the snow and cold, mountains and trees.

I’m aware that small towns are generally unsafe for queer folks and residents can be stubborn about acceptance. My local MP voted against banning conversion therapy and his views are a reflection of those who voted for him. 

Despite that, McBride is home.

I can easily recognize my privilege — passing and otherwise. So I continue to live honestly and openly, because I remember what it’s like to have questions, and to be without representation. Closeted queer youth in rural areas everywhere deserve to know they’re not abominations, and they’re not alone.

And neither am I.

Do you have a compelling personal story that can bring understanding or help others? We want to hear from you. Here’s more info on how to pitch to us at bcvoices@cbc.ca.

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