In this, the inaugural edition of "Around the Clock" -- where rdnewsNOW asks a prominent community member 12 questions -- reporter Josh Hall spoke with Tanner Robinson, a 17-year-old going into grade 12 at Hunting Hills High School.
Tanner, who is from Red Deer, is now a senior member of the Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) at his school and agreed to this interview as part of Central Alberta Pride Week, which runs until August 19.
1. JH - When did you come out?
TR - “I came out as a bisexual female when I was in grade seven and then came out as trans male in grade 10.”
2. JH - How stressful was that process?
TR - “It was a bit of a process trying to figure that out. Friends and family were supportive for the most part. Both my parents took time to comprehend it and are still taking time to process. But I was one of the lucky kids who got parents who try really hard to understand.
My first couple of months being transgender, I kept it from my parents because there’s this big stigma about coming out and that something bad is always going to happen. Unfortunately my mom had called the school one day to ask about something, and they used my chosen name (Tanner) and she was very confused and upset, not because I was using that name, but because I couldn’t tell her.”
3. JH - Why are Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) and QSAs important?
TR - “Because there are lots of kids who, regardless of being part of LGBTQ, need a safe space even just for 10 minutes that is totally safe and welcome and they don’t have to reveal anything, they don’t have to be somebody they’re not or hide something. They have a group of people in front of them who do understand and who have gone through the same things.”
4. JH - Did you join the QSA at Hunting Hills right away?
TR - “I did not actually. My two best friends did and were in it a year longer than I was. I joined them later when I realized I could be helping students who weren’t as lucky as I was.”
5. JH - How do you feel about politicians even considering the concept of ‘outing kids’ who are in GSAs or QSAs to their parents?
TR - “It really hurts. I wasn’t mad at first. I actually remember talking about it the week that was announced, and my best friend who is often very closed off and I don’t ever see cry, she said in tears that she would do whatever it took to protect QSA members. We do have kids in our QSA who aren’t so safe at home or don’t have a place to go if something were to happen where they were outed like that. It’s not about giving parents the right to know, it’s taking away a kid’s right to safety. It baffled all of us that the world we’re living in still has those mindsets.”
6. JH - Why are allies important?
TR - “It’s so different from 15 years ago. With other people around to support and wanting to help gives us so much more strength and power in numbers, and safety.”
7. JH - Why do you think people are unaccepting of people such as yourself who fall under the LGBTQ2+ umbrella?
TR - “It stems from how they were raised, personal beliefs, religious beliefs; but I don’t ever judge those people. It’s not really my place to say ‘how dare you?’ I’m not going to judge you unless you’re throwing it in my face. I just ask to be respected. Hopefully one day they will choose to try to understand and if they don’t that’s their choice, but the truth is the world’s changing every day and if they choose to continue to be angry about it and ignore the changing world, that’s their choice, but it’s going to change regardless.”
8. JH - What does Pride (Week) mean to you?
TR - “Pride is a beautiful chance to celebrate the pain and hard work the LGBTQ community has gone through. It’s also a great time to have some fun events, but for me, Pride is more about bringing people together to have fun and laugh and love rather than it is to celebrate gay people or disclude straight people.”
9. JH - What do you think about rainbow crosswalks and rainbow flags?
TR - “I have two in my bedroom. I love what the flag represents. It celebrates people and the diversity among us. I love the idea of a rainbow crosswalk but sometimes we have to be careful because we give ways for people to hate more when we push it on them. I always feel a certain sadness when our crosswalk gets defaced, but then I think there are always going to be people who disapprove. Those are the people I get frustrated with, the ones who openly disrespect a group of people.”
10. JH - Do you have any advice for someone who hasn’t come out yet?
TR - “If you are in a home where you believe your parents will react negatively, or you don’t feel safe doing that in your home, make sure you have a place you can go afterwards. Have somebody know you’re doing it that night or that day. And also trust your parents. Don’t expect them to be instantly accepting because not all parents can do that. It’s a process and you’ll need to take time to help them.”
11. JH - What is a non-LGTBQ-related issue that is important to you?
TR - “There are so many things. I absolutely 100% am the kind of person to preach against stereotypes. A lot of kids struggle because they put themselves in boxes, like you have to do this to be the popular kid or be a certain way. They get trapped in that and can’t get out. I spent a lot of my life pretending to be other people so that I could be a part of a certain label and I’ve come to learn that I don’t fit into a lot of stereotypes. Just be yourself.”
12. JH - What are your career aspirations?
TR - “I’ve been a theatre student for 12 years, so I would love to go to Vancouver and be in the performing arts, maybe eventually go to New York. I’m also a vocalist, right, so I’ve been training a female voice my whole life. It’s hard to decide when I should introduce testosterone and lower my voice and range and everything I’ve ever known about being a soprano.”
13. (EXTRA) JH - Is Red Deer an LGBTQ2+ friendly city?
TR - “I feel as though there are people here who support LGBTQ. But do I feel like Red Deer is a completely inclusive city? It’s getting there. We have Pride Week and that’s a great step, so I don’t know if I’d say Red Deer is an LGBTQ-inclusive community, but I wouldn’t say it’s against it either.”
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