Queen’s professor releases memoir on coming out as transgender at Queen’s

Erin LeBlanc discusses new book and the joy of transitioning

Erin LeBlanc teaches International Trade Law at Smith School of Business.
Credit: 
Supplied by Erin LeBlanc

Erin LeBlanc, a Queen’s alumna who now teaches at the Smith School of Business, released a memoir on her experience of transitioning at the university.

The book Stranger in the Mirror: The Search For Me is intended as a survival guide for those living with gender dysphoria, featuring LeBlanc’s advice for those who are struggling as she did. It’s also an honest collection of raw, unedited journal entries chronicling her battle with depression and suicidal ideation, as well as the story of her triumph over those feelings. 

In an interview with The Journal, LeBlanc discussed the book and explained how transitioning to her authentic self is what saved her life.

“The story is centred around excerpts from a daily journal that I kept from 2015 to 2018, which included descriptions and thoughts about my life from a young person to present day,” she said.

That three-year period is the time in which LeBlanc came out to herself and her colleagues as transgender and made the crucial decision to transition both physically and mentally.

“What I did is [I] took excerpts from that journal and […] created a narrative around them to give them context and meaning and connect them together,” she said. “They were left in their exact form with grammar and spelling errors because I wanted to capture the raw emotion that was in my thoughts at the time.”

According to LeBlanc, she considered it very important to share her true feelings surrounding the experience of living with gender dysphoria and overcoming the depression associated with it.

“It’s extremely personal. It’s extremely revealing,” Leblanc said. “But that was done in order to create an honest depiction of what my story is and what my journey is in the hopes that it would resonate with people both within the LGBTQ community and the trans community specifically but also the general public.”

Next, LeBlanc discussed what it was like finding the courage to live authentically as a woman and some of the challenges both internal and external that came with transitioning.

“The transition occurred between 2015 to 2017. That may seem like a fairly compact period of time but one has to remember that I had five decades to noodle this around,” LeBlanc said.

“When the decision was made to transition, I had done enough legwork over those decades with the help of a medical team of regular therapists and gender therapists, endocrinologists, my family doctor […] all working together to create a safe transition plan for me.”

With a team of health professionals in her corner, LeBlanc says her transition was smooth and ultimately successful for her mental health.

“The decision was made to survive, not to transition,” she said, explaining that the choice was a matter of life and death for her. “To survive meant I had to transition.”

LeBlanc is happy to finally be living as herself.

“It’s been amazing. It’s been night and day,” she said. 

“Gender dysphoria robs you of so many things […] It robs you of feelings of self-worth, self-esteem, you have very little self-confidence, you don’t believe in who you are and it leads to depression.”

The best way to treat her condition was to physically transition from male to female.

“Once you alleviate yourself of that mismatch between gender and physical sex assigned at birth then the gender dysphoria, for me, disappeared. Now my physical attributes match my internalized gender.”

As a result of this, LeBlanc has learned to love herself and she no longer experiences depression, anxiety attacks, or thoughts of suicide. Beyond that, the support of her peers at Queen’s made the experience even better.

“When I came out at work, the response I got was nothing short of amazing and spectacular. The support I received was so heartfelt and genuine. It was a huge relief because I knew at that point I was going to be okay from a workplace point of view.”

Despite the immediate acceptance she received from her colleagues, LeBlanc said there were still some systemic barriers to overcome when it came time to change her name and gender in the official documentation at Queen’s.

“There was never a moment when working with individuals in the university regarding having to make changes to my name and gender [that] people were not empathetic and supportive and willing to go the extra mile to make that happen. The challenge came when there was no clear process as to how to make them happen.”

During this period, LeBlanc was fearful of hitting roadblocks within the various Queen’s databases when trying to update her information to reflect her correct name and gender—it was tedious and required a lot of logistical gymnastics because there were so many locations containing documentation on her that had to be independently accessed and changed. 

It’s because of this frustrating and oft-overlooked step involved in a person’s gender transition that LeBlanc now lectures workplaces on how to implement guidelines allowing transgender staff members to smoothly update their information.

When it came to writing her memoir, LeBlanc had a lot of good reasons to do so, and chief among them was her desire to be a positive role model. 

“There are so many bad stories and animosity demonstrated towards the [LGBTQ] community that I felt there was a need for, quote-unquote, a good news story. That’s not to say my story needs to be celebrated but it was something with a good outcome. I made it. I am my authentic self. I am true to who I am, and if I can do it, anybody can do it.”

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