Transgendered Trinity Bay native speaks out against struggles
It's recess at Woodland Junior High in Dildo, Trinity Bay in 1999 and a 14-year-old student is walking down the corridor to meet up with a few friends.
© Submitted photo
Christopher Higdon is a proud transgendered man who is a stepfather to four-year-old Mya.
Unexpectedly, the student is tripped by a classmate, and is then kicked.
No one comes to help.
Only days before, this young student, who was born with female sexual organs, confides in a friend that she rejects her female identity, and identifies more as a male. It's something the young student has known since the age of six.
The disclosure marks a new page in the student's life. Everyone in the school begins to stare and whisper, and there's name-calling and physical assaults.
Fast-forward 14 years. Meet 29-year-old Christopher Higdon, the young student at the centre of the abuse and name-calling. Christopher now lives life as a male. At Christopher's request, The Compass has agreed to use male terminology when describing his gender. He also asked that no reference be made to his female name, the one he answered to in 1999.
He still struggles with abuse regularly.
"As long as I can remember I have known I was male," Chris - who calls both New Harbour and Dildo home - tells The Compass.
Having lived through his childhood, adolescence and some of adulthood playing the part of a girl, Chris admits it was difficult.
"At that age I had to deal with societal norms," he explains. "I had to fit in. I had to be who everyone else wanted me to be."
After high school, Chris moved to St. John's, hoping for a more open life. After several years in the capital city, he relocated Alberta in 2006.
"I had a harder time in Grand Prairie than I did in St. John's" Chris admits. "There were a lot of closed minds."
He decided to visit a doctor about what he was experiencing.
"I went to one doctor," Chris says. "He told me to never discuss the way I was feeling ever again and asked me to leave his office."
Chris decided to move back to St. John's where he met a doctor that sympathized with his situation. The doctor diagnosed him with gender dysphoria.
The Canadian Psychological Association describes gender dysphoria an "unhappiness" that is felt by those who are one physical sex or gender, but feel like the opposite.
Soon after being diagnosed, Chris began a biweekly injection of testosterone to assist in the physical transition from female to male (FTM), including a change in jaw shape, facial hair and a deepening of his voice.
Painful daily ritual
Chris made the decision it's time for the next stage in his transition - chest reconstruction. Every morning starts the same. Chris gets up and binds his chest- tightly - so people won't see he has large breasts.
The process is painful.
"I'm causing lumps, scars, blisters," Chris explains. "I have even been having trouble breathing. It's not a nice feeling."
Chris believes the physical pain is better than the emotional pain he feels when he sees himself in a mirror.
The injuries are the reason why he says the surgery should be covered by MCP - Newfoundland and Labrador's Medical Care Plan.
"MCP claims they will cover it as long as you fly back and forth to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto for two years for a second diagnosis, "Chris explains. "Why can't a doctor here do the same (diagnosis) when they have the same (training)?"
"And because flight regulations prevent someone from flying if they have altered their appearance, I would be prevented from boarding a plane."
Chris is listed as female on his official identification.
The provincial Department of Health and Community Services informed The Compass the process Chris describes is correct. In an email, it was explained chest reconstruction or contouring - the surgery Chris is looking to have - is not covered by MCP at all, although a mastectomy is, as long as there is a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
Without a diagnosis, Chris has decided he wants to travel to the United States for the surgery, at a cost of some $14,000.
But he's looking for financial help, since his job as a call centre employee is low paying. He's also paying medical costs related to a motor vehicle accident in 2012.
Chris has began "Chris' Campaign," to collect donations for his cause (http://www.indiegogo.com/project/preview/5ef70ef7). He has also opened an account at Evergreen Recycling Depots where supporters can donate their cans and bottles
Chris' online campaign kicks off Oct. 31 - his anniversary of coming out as Christopher - and runs for 60 days.
He has no plans to complete the transition with what's called bottom surgery, or the surgical reconstruction of male genitalia, saying the cost is too great.
Chris is engaged to Ashley Taylor, who's helping him through some of the toughest obstacles in his life.
"I met Ashley at work," Chris explains. "She has seen the transformation from early in the hormone stage to now. She'd accept me no matter what."
He also has a stepdaughter, Mya.
"I am her family, her male role model," Chris says. "I would love to look in the mirror and see who I have always felt I am. A person Mya would be proud to call dad."
The family of three do everything a typical family does, including watch movies, go on walks and play games. Mya even has Chris play dress up.
"I find it difficult to be a princess," he admits. "I've already played dress up most of my life.
Chris preaches acceptance and education to ignorance on the subject of transgender individuals.
"I don't use my original name anymore so I can demonstrate the importance of my transition," he says. "I also have it tattooed on my arm that I am transgendered."
Some people in his life have accepted who Chris is, but there are still others that refuse. But Chris believes being himself is most important and will continue to preach tolerance to others.