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Finding strength and compassion

Photo of Xica wearing a bright dress and earring standing outside on a sunny day.

After being persecuted for her gender identity, Xica found the acceptance she needed at a United Way-supported program

“I knew I had some sort of gender dysmorphia but I didn’t have the vocabulary to talk about it because of my belief system. I came to Canada from Honduras when I was 19 to escape the harassment and persecution I was experiencing after I became more open about who I was as a trans woman. The gangs in my neighbourhood always had their eye on me when I was going to work or school. They were always harassing me. I even got beaten up a few times. 

After not finding any hope, I tried to commit suicide multiple times. My mom asked me, ‘what can I do so you won’t harm yourself again?’ I told her, “I need to get out of here.” I was feeling very anxious and scared for my well-being. 

When I arrived in Canada, I started to feel more comfortable wearing feminine clothes. And then I started transitioning. Many people around me were open and supportive. I found a job at a retail chain. The customers were lovely and really liked me. I did great in sales. I was always on time and never missed a day of work. And then one day, out of the blue, I got called into the office and was let go. They didn’t give me reason but I knew it was because of my gender identity. It was devastating. That is when I de-transitioned and started looking for work as a male. It was incredibly painful and uncomfortable but I needed a job to survive.

After getting a job with a crown corporation that had a union, I felt safe to transition back to myself. However, I started experiencing bullying, discrimination, and physical and sexual assault at work. I tried to endure as much as I could to keep my job but the experience led me back to depression. I left my job and ended up homeless. I was going from place to place until I couldn’t stay with my friends anymore. I had to spend cold nights on the streets and coffee shops to stay warm. 

After becoming suicidal again, I decided to get some help. I found a United Way agency that supports LGBTQ2S individuals and they connected me to another United Way agency that provides support to Spanish-speaking people. I was relieved that a place like this existed and had a program specifically geared to trans women. The people were lovely and very friendly. They helped with housing and connected me to food banks and places where I could get clothing. When you’re transitioning, you need all kinds of things to be able to feel comfortable. You need clothing and makeup and you need to have enough tools to do your hair and your nails. As superficial as that sounds, to a trans person, it’s like a survival kit. 

Today, I work as a peer leader at the same agencies that helped me survive when things were rough. My job and advocacy work make me feel strong and compassionate towards other people who need help and a community. I want the future to look like a place where I don’t owe anybody an explanation for who I am. I want a world that will see me as a talented person first, who can contribute to any area I excel at instead of being labelled as trans first. I want a world where I and other trans people can roam freely without being discriminated against for being our true selves.

United Way program participant

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