Gender Prison: Future Leaders

Two transgender children from British Columbia are suing for the right to be themselves. Family members of both Tracey Wilson and Harriette Cunningham have filed human rights complaints.

There is much video at the above link. Both families were featured in a segment of the Canadian television program 16 x 9 last Saturday.

If you go to view it all, please remember to come back and add to the discussion. :-)

Tracey Wilson is 10. She has identified as a girl from as far back as she can remember.

Sometimes I wish that I was just a girl, just a normal girl so I wouldn’t have to go through all of this.


You can see an excerpt of Tracey's interview with the Canadian television show 16 x 9 at this link: From Trey to Tracey: One child's journey to be herself. Just remember to come back. :-)

He would take my scarves and wrap them around his head to make flowing hair, or he would put on shirts as dresses.

--Michelle Wilson, Tracey's mom

Michelle and her husband, Garfield, struggled to come to terms with their oldest child, originally thinking he was gay. The decision on how much to let Tracey be herself put a strain on their marriage. They sought professional help…and learned that their child was transgender. Then they decided to embrace their new daughter.

Tracey is enrolled in tap, ballet, and musical theater classes.

I never looked back I really didn’t. It changed my relationship with Tracey, it completely changed it. I felt like I was holding onto something that wasn’t there.

--Garfield Wilson

At first Tracey just lived as a girl at home, at dance class, and with her friends, but that turned out not to be enough.

Tracey made the decision at the end of Grade 3.

I told her, mom, I’m really going to trust you now and I want to be a girl. Not just a girl a lot of the time and a boy sometimes, I want to be a full-time girl.


Unfortunately Tracey was attending Sacred Heart, a semi-private Catholic school. when told of Tracey's desire, the school responded negatively.

I wanted to use the girl’s bathroom, I wanted to have the girl’s uniform. I didn’t know it would all come to this.

"This" is a human rights complaint against Catholic Independent Schools of Vancouver and Sacred Heart for not allowing Tracey to be Tracey.

Instead of the girls' bathroom, the school allowed Tracey to use the handicapped bathroom. But the school would not change her name or allow her to wear the girl's uniform. Their reasoning was that "they did not have a policy allowing it."

This is an emerging issue, it’s certainly an issue that’s come to the forefront over a number of years and it’s a very complex issue. The position of the Catholic church is that… you live your life in the sex that God gave you.

--Doug Lauson, superintendent of the Independent Catholic School Board of Vancouver

According to most doctors, sex is determined at birth, but gender is not established until around age 3. Lauson says school officials are researching the various medical studies.

The Wilson's think it is not a medical issue, but rather a personal one.

We just think it’s fear and it sucks. And it’s so wrong and everyone says well what did you expect? I expected compassion, I expected a community that talks about love and acceptance to actually show love and acceptance like I don’t think that’s so strange.

--Michelle Wilson

When they said that they couldn’t let me and that God doesn’t make any mistakes and if he made me a boy then I would have to stay a boy, I couldn’t even watch TV I was crying so much, I couldn’t read a book, I couldn’t do anything. Literally I just lay in my bed sobbing.


The complaint is scheduled to be heard in the spring.

There is more of the 16 x 9 program here.. The program does not only feature Tracey.

Harriette Cunningham is also 10.

I’ve always been a girl, even when I was considered a boy. In my dreams I was never a boy.


Harriette wants a birth certificate and a passport to reflect her gender identity.

The earliest memory I have is just a very, very sensitive little person and definite feminine characteristics, not really happy doing traditional boy things.

--Colin Cunningham, Harriette's father

It was in Grade 2 when she said 'Mom, I want to buy some actual dresses to go back to school.'

--Megan Cunningham, Harriette's mother

Harriette has a very strong personality, kids would say ‘what are you?’ And she’d go ‘I’m a person, that’s what I am.

--Cathie Dickens, Harriette's grandmother

Dickens lives in Palm Springs, CA, and Harriette visits her often.

When I have to show ID and I’m going through customs, people give me dirty looks and they kind of question me, who is this, and it makes me feel like I shouldn’t have to go through that. I’m a girl and I’m like everybody else.


Harriette and her grandmother have initiated a human rights complaint against the British Columbian government. They claim that Harriette should never have been labeled male in the first place.

When I first got my birth certificate it had on it as identifying features, my name, my date of birth and my gender that was it. If I was born 20 or 30 years before it would also have my race and my father’s occupation, my class, but we already figured out that those aren’t relevant.

--human rights lawyer Barbara FIndlay

Both families are represented by Ms. Findlay.

I got called a ‘he-she,’ I got called quite mean names and I’d try not to let them… show that I was sad but…it really hurts me.

I don’t want to be just someone wearing a costume. I want to be me.






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Although I am retiring from my job in May...

Robyn's picture

...I had been worried about retiring from my activism. Perhaps I needn't do that. The future may be in good hands.

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