No quote can summarize activist, sex worker, performer, and politician Jamie Lee Hamilton more elegantly than this excerpt from The Walrus profile of her: “She became a Native Princess, a Ms. Gay Vancouver, and, inevitably, an honorary member of the travelling cast of A Chorus Line.” For over three decades she pushed for Canadian laws targeting sex workers to be overturned using a mixture of dramatic tactics and community building; she even became Canada’s first trans person to run for public office and nearly won a seat. She also sits on the board of directors for the Greater Vancouver Native Cultural Society, an aboriginal advocacy group.
Two-spirit writer Shaun LaDue is a contributor to the anthology Manning Up: Transsexual Men on Finding Brotherhood, Family & Themselves. A resident of the Yukon territory in Canada and a member of the Ross River Dena Council First Nations, LaDue sees stories like his as an essential component of drawing attention to the needs of the area’s transgender residents. On his writing blog he has several short pieces of fiction from the perspective of a character with a similar background: a trans man taken from his family as an infant and raised with abuse. At the time of this writing he is involved with the comedic magical-realist transgender-themed television show The Switch, which was successfully crowdfunded on Kickstarter.
Aaron Devor, the author of the groundbreaking book of interviews FTM: Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society, is a Canadian sexologist and sociologist. Although his biographical page is not up to date (he has since transitioned to male), the general narrative arc is there: Devor started as an gender activist before becoming an academic, with his Master’s thesis on what he called “gender blending” serving as the bridge. The thesis, which featured interviews with masculine women, was later developed into a full book, and Devor adopted a similarly ethnographic style for his mammoth FTM.
Outside of his theoretical gender work, Devor runs a website about the Erickson Educational Foundation, and has conducted his own biographical research on the life of its namesake, Reed Erickson, an American trans man who helped fund mid-20th century gender clinics. He was also a member of the World Professional Organization of Transgender Health committee that wrote the sixth edition of its standards of care.
When English football player Justin Fashanu came out to the public in 1990, it was to a bombardment of harassment and homophobia from all sides, his own coach and fans of the opposition alike. The first headline referred to him as the “£1m Football Star,” a reference to how he had become the first black footballer to be paid such a transfer fee (for good reason, given the brilliant plays in his early career). In his interviews he hinted at affairs with various politicians and public figures which he later admitted were false; in 1994, his contract with Heart of Midlothian was terminated due to his “unprofessional conduct” with the press.
Fashanu committed suicide in 1998 after an allegation in Maryland (where sodomy was then illegal) that he had had nonconsensual sex with a minor. He had denied the charges but fled the country, which he claimed in his suicide note was because he did not believe he would be given a fair trial. The Justin Campaign was founded in his honor to raise awareness of homophobia in football.
As the tech geek, biker, and all-around badass known online as tnkgrl puts it, she was “born wearing combat boots and holding a keyboard,” and she’s been “stomping, typing and hacking ever since.” Although she was born in France, she fell in love with Canada during a study abroad excursion and settled there as an engineer. With her background in computers stretching back to the first PCs, she landed gigs doing audio work with video game companies, including Relic, EA, and LucasArts. When gaming lost its luster, she elevated her pet blogging project into a full-time journalism career with Engadget.
Thanks to a fruitful relationship she’d formed on the job, at the time of this writing Joire is working for tech startup Pebble as their Chief Evangelist. Joire identifies as queer, and in her spare time she’s been involved with various queer and trans visibility projects. tnkgrl’s current blog and its legion of mobile podcasts is available here; her Google+ is here; and her Twitter, here. She also has her own Wikipedia page here.
Canadian author and professor of journalism Kamal Al-Solaylee made his way into the public eye with his memoir about growing up gay in Yemen during its time of transition following British decolonization. His family fled to Egypt after their property was confiscated; after a brief return to Yemen in his early 20s, Al-Solaylee accepted admission at the University of Nottingham in Britain to complete a Ph.D. in Victorian Literature, then emigrated to Canada where he worked as a journalist at a number of publications.
Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes was published in 2012; it was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award and won the Toronto Book Award. A book review by the National Post that addresses Al-Solaylee’s sense of cultural tension can be found here.
Although the Canadian genre-variant musician Rae Spoon has been recording music for over a decade at the time of this writing, their first big breakthrough came with the 2008 album Superioryouareinferior, a folky electronic ode to Canada’s landscapes that was nominated for a Polaris Music Prize. (An acoustic version of “Come On Forest Fire Burn The Disco Down,” a song from the album about colonialism, can be viewed here on YouTube.) A documentary–album–memoir trilogy about Spoon’s experiences growing up queer in a rural Pentecostal family was released in 2013. They teamed up with fellow performer and writer Ivan Coyote to produce Gender Failure, a collection of essays about life outside the gender binary, a subject on which Spoon continues to be interviewed.