Living as a transgender person in the small mining town of Sparwood B.C., isn’t as bad as one would think. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Hadden Kelloway, 56, has been living as a transgender person for the past eight years, and is in the final stages of transitioning into what he always knew he was; a man.
Heather Kelloway was born in small-town Newfoundland, 1961.
Growing up, Kelloway always felt like more of a boy, than a girl. He never liked the clothes his mother dressed him in; he would always rather dress in his brother’s clothing.
“As I got older, it just got stronger and stronger, that there was something wrong. I wasn’t feeling right,” said Kelloway.
“My head and my brain were telling me I was something different than what my eyes were seeing.”
Although there is no solid number of how many children are LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer), studies over the past 20 years have consistently estimate the number at between 2.5 and 11 per cent of students grades 7-12.
In 2011, the Egale Canada Human Rights Trust performed a Canada-wide study of transgender individuals conducted through two methods: individual participation via a publicly accessible website, and in-class participation via a controlled-access website. Individual participation enabled them to reach students across the country, the majority of them LGBTQ. In-class participation, which enabled them to canvass the general population of students, occurred in school divisions in every region of the country except Québec, where a parallel survey was conducted by a research team led by Dr. Line Chamberland of Université du Québec à Montréal.
Their numbers were somewhat higher, with 14.1 per cent of the students from their in-class sessions identifying as LGBTQ.
According to the Transgender Health Information Program, sex and gender are two identifying figures that must be recognized for their differences.
Society defines sex as a biological and legal characteristic, primarily associated with physical and physiological features including chromosomes, hormones, and reproductive/sexual anatomy. Gender often refers to socially and culturally constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and identities of girls, women, boys, men and trans people. An example of a gender role is that boys may be expected to play with trucks and girls with dolls. These gender roles vary throughout different cultures and have evolved and changed over time.
Often people’s sex and gender match up, but many people identify as a gender that is different from the sex they were assigned at birth, according to Trans Care BC.
From the age of 17, Kelloway pretended to be lesbian, as he thought it would be easier on his family. They were quite accepting of this, for a very long time. He kept this identity for 32 years.
Eighteen years ago, his father approached him, and proposed the idea of him pursuing a sex change. Kelloway shut him down, and denied that there was any problem. He thought he was content. At the time he just wasn’t sure if he was transgender; but six years ago, enough was enough.
“I needed to live my life, I needed to be me and nobody else,” he said.
When Kelloway told his mother, brothers, sister, and wife at the time, that he was transgender, it was like the weight of the world was lifted off his shoulders – they were all very supportive.
Kelloway’s uncle took him aside and said he felt sad for him, he couldn’t imagine being a boy trapped inside a girl’s body from such a young age. This was seven years ago.
Hadden believes the reason his family was so supportive, was because many of them were teachers. He feels education played a large role in his acceptance. He also believes that most people lack a good understanding of the subject.
“That’s basically what’s wrong now, is that not enough people are educated to it, and it’s not talked about enough in the schools,” he said.
Kelloway believes the biggest misconception about the homosexual community, is that society still thinks it’s a choice.
“I can honestly say, that nobody in their right mind, would choose that life. In your head, it’s like you’re living in hell.
“Who would choose that? Who would choose that every single day, (they would) go out in public and pretend to be something that you’re not? And the only time that you can be who you are is in the confines of your own home when no one else is around?”
“It’s terrible. If it was a choice, I would have never chosen it.”
Kelloway sees freedom as something that many transgender people never experience. He sees many transgender people never come out because they’re terrified of what society will think of them, or the way society will mistreat them. Kelloway believes this needs to change.
“That’s the part that really needs to be addressed in our society. People need to understand that, and accept people for who they are,” said Kelloway.
Seven years ago, when he was starting to transition, Kelloway was set on moving away from Sparwood to finish transitioning in the city where he could blend in with the crowd. At the time, he had been in the mountain town for 18 years.
His mother cautioned against this, and convinced him to stay in Sparwood. They said that the people who accepted him for being lesbian, are the same people that will accept him for being transgender.
Kelloway met with everyone he knew, individually. He sat with them, and explained everything. Not one person in the community turned their back.
“It seems like the whole town; I haven’t had any issues here. It seems like they (society) refer to Sparwood as redneck. Maybe it is redneck, but we’ve got some pretty good rednecks here,” he said.
At work, it was a similar story. Kelloway has worked at Teck, Elkview mine in Sparwood for his entire 25-year residency.
He extended a special thanks to Human Relations Superintendent at Teck, Amy McCon. She and Kelloway sat down with all senior management, and explained everything to them. He apologized for lying all those years while working with them. After hearing his story, they established new bathrooms and shower areas specifically for transgender people.
According to Kelloway, neither employee or management missed a beat.
“I feel safe going there every single day,” he said.
When Kelloway had his chest surgery, he didn’t hide anything. Everybody seemed to notice, but nobody seemed to mind. He recalls the grocery checkout ladies at Overwaitea offering to help lift his groceries into his cart, because he couldn’t lift a lot of weight.
He believes this is a good educational talking point for Sparwood and the surrounding areas. Rather than seeing someone transition on TV, they’re seeing someone they know follow the same process. In the past seven years, Kelloway’s voice has gotten deeper, facial hair has started to grow, he’s lost weight, and his face structure has changed slightly as well.
According to the report by Egale, almost two thirds (64 per cent) of LGBTQ students and 61 per cent of students with LGBTQ parents reported that they feel unsafe at school. Kelloway wants to change this, and believes its important that students know they have supportive teachers.
Sometimes, people come up to him with questions, and he welcomes this. He has also helped educate some of the counseling staff at schools in Sparwood and Fernie. This has already opened conversations with students about sexual orientation. When he visits these places, he makes one thing very clear.
“They can ask me anything,” said Kelloway. “I don’t care how personal the question is. Ask me whatever you want. Because that’s what needs to happen.”
Those interested in talking with Kelloway can contact Editor@thefreepress.ca who will pass your message on. All calls are confidential.