Comfortable at a new school where he was no longer bullied and with supportive friends, Blair Curtis was able to come out.
“And as soon as I did that it was like, flip, I’m going to be me now,” said the 18-year-old transgender male from McIvers.
Hearing her son speak those words with confidence makes Gerri-Lynn Curtis feel good now — but not at first.
Blair was born a female and was Gerri-Lynn’s girly girl of her two children.
“I knew from a young age that something was different, but I didn’t know what that different was,” said Blair.
When puberty hit and he started developing as a female, he questioned why it was happening.
“That’s not what I wanted.”
He didn’t really know there was a word for what was going on until a couple of years later. Still, he continued to live with it on his own.
Blair was a student at Templeton Academy in Meadows, where no one knew he was transgender. He was bullied because he was shy and really didn’t associate with anybody.
Having to get up in front of a class for presentations would bring on tears and a racing heart.
“I think that played a huge part in it because I wasn’t comfortable with myself to begin with,” he said.
“Trans people do not choose to be transgender, they just are.”
When he started Level 2 in 2016 things changed. He had transferred to Corner Brook Regional High and found a place where he felt safe and secure in an environment that was supportive and welcoming of LGBTQ kids — enough so that several months into the year, he found the courage to tell his mother through a letter.
Gerri-Lynn was shocked at the news.
“At first it was like, am I the worst mom in the world, because I didn’t notice this.”
She said there were no signs and that family and friends did not see it.
She also had to mourn the daughter she lost, as a lifetime of things she expected they would do together disappeared.
There would be no more manicures and pedicures, and she would not get to help her pick out a grad dress.
“I’ll never go in the delivery room with her,” she said, her voice breaking and eyes filling with tears.
It was a culture that was engraved in society and she found it hard to see what could be.
“He had to give us time.”
And they had to do it as a family.
When he first came out, Blair was not the name he chose. But mom was having no part of him making the decision on his own, so they sat down with dad Dwayne and sister Kelly and came up with Blair Andy.
Gerri-Lynn, who is a nurse, said transgender was not a term that came up in any of her studies. She had a lot of questions, especially when it came to him taking testosterone, with a pre-existing heart condition.
She was also worried that Blair was mixing up sexuality and gender.
Determined to be there for her son, she sought out the answers to her questions.
“And you learn as you go. And I’m still learning.”
To make sure Blair was getting the help he needed, she set him up with a counsellor.
She is now in awe, and super proud, of the change coming out has made in her son, who now has no trouble doing presentations and even participated in a Christmas concert.
“It was really such a drastic change.”
To find support for herself, she travelled to St. John’s to attend a support group for parents with transgender children.
It’s there she found rejuvenation as she realized she was not alone and had a group of people who she could learn from, share with and even cry with.
Knowing not everyone can afford to make that trip or to pay a counsellor, Blair and Gerri-Lynn decided they wanted to do something to help local families with transgender children.
On Tuesday, they’ll host the first meeting of the Parents of Trans and Gender Diverse Kids Western Newfoundland and Labrador Chapter at Grenfell Campus.
The meeting will be held in rooms 2034 and 2036 of the arts and sciences building.
Parents and youth groups will meet at the same time in separate rooms. There will be a time for both groups to interact.