Grant Boysis is a 16 year old who is First Nations, living in Edmonton, Canada. Last October, he was forced to move from his reservation in Hobbema, Alberta because of the way he dressed and his sexuality. While walking home from school, listening to his iPod, he was attacked from behind. One of his classmates punched him in the head, threw him on the ground and beat him. This happened on many occasions.
At the High School he attended, Grant was scared to use the male washroom because he would suffer physical and emotional abuse. They told him that he was “not supposed to be there.” But as he is a guy and he has male body parts, where else was he supposed to go? Grant started to use the female washroom – but then the teachers and principal threatened him with expulsion and charges; he wasn’t “supposed to be there” either. Grant asked to use the staff washroom and was denied access. He was denied his basic human right to use the washroom because the school would not accommodate him or protect him from his abusers. He continued to use the female washroom until the abuse became worse. Eventually he dropped out of school because nothing was done.
Grant would come home from school depressed and beaten. He would spend time in his bedroom, thinking about suicide. But he would never cry. He accepted himself and he knew that crying would give his oppressors the satisfaction of bringing him down. Growing up, Grant always knew he had been different. He knew he was gay, and had started dressing up as a female by the time he was 9 years old. This did not make acceptance easy for him. Religion had a big impact on his perspective. “The bible portrays gays as unnatural – was I going to hell? I didn’t choose to be this way and everyone deserves to be loved.”
Grant made the decision to come out to his mother when he was 14 years old. His mom eventually accepted him for who he is, both gay and transsexual. Now they are closer than ever.
“It may be a struggle; you think they’ll hate you, but your true friends and family will accept you. You’re amazing and they know that – they have no choice not to love you or they will lose out on knowing you.” Besides his mom and a few other family members, Grant’s family does not accept who he is.
Grant was sexually abused by a family member when he was just 10 years old. When asked if he felt that this was a contributing factor to him being gay, he explained that he knew he was gay long before the abuse took place. Grant doesn’t regret much in life, but he regrets not telling his mom about the abuse when it happened and hopes others will learn from his experiences.
In October 2011, Grant and his mom moved to Edmonton. They stayed in a women’s shelter, while attempting to start a new life after his experiences on the Hobbema Reserve. They now live in a neighbourhood that is known to be a rough part of town. There have been several murders and assaults in the area in recent months. While walking to the bus stop in his neighbourhood, Grant frequently gets called names like “tranny,” “homo” and “faggot,” in addition to the catcalling that many non-transsexual women experience. He feels like the names are more frequent for him and other transsexuals because of the judgement that comes from people who don’t understand. But Grant doesn’t let his confidence be affected by the negativity of those words and insults. He recently purchased pepper spray and a baton for protection in his neighborhood. “Starting over in a new city is always hard. But I feel, based on past experience, that violence is more likely to happen to me and I’m just being prepared.”
Grant is well on his way to being successful. Though he is not currently enrolled in High School, he has a full time job as a receptionist and dreams of being a singer/songwriter. He also has a back-up plan to attend college to be a makeup artist. He is working towards a bright future – “as bright as my hair!” he says. He hopes to help other people who experience the same obstacles as he did. “Know and understand that people can judge you and people can berate you, but at the end of the day it’s how you react,” he says. “Always be yourself and don’t let anything hold you back. Don’t pay attention to negativity. It’s your body and you can do what you want with it. God made you who you are, so you can be who you are!”