Sharing stories of hope: José Claer
Transgender (trans) Canadians face unique mental health challenges, especially when their gender identity is not recognized. They’re also twice as likely to think about or attempt suicide than those who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual—a fact José Claer knows all too well. The trans man from Gatineau, Quebec, struggled with suicidal thoughts for many years, until he got help.
Operation Lifesaver’s (OL’s) new Today is Better campaign is a way to let Canadians, like José, know that they don’t need to struggle alone. The suicide-prevention public-awareness campaign consists of 11 poignant and hopeful videos (six English and five French) featuring the personal stories of Canadians who’ve experienced suicidal thoughts but found help. Here’s part of José’sstory:
When did you first have suicidal thoughts?
Before having suicidal thoughts, dark thoughts, I think it was the malaise that was made chronic from childhood to the... until my early thirties. The feeling that my skin no longer goes around my body, that I grew up in it, but that it was not me. I was in a girl’s body while everything inside me was screaming that I was indeed a boy.
Suicidal thoughts came from the fact that I was no longer able to take it. At some point I was saturated. Saturated with tears.
In fact, the trigger came through television. It was a program by Janette Bertrand on Télé-Québec. She had gathered transsexuals around her table. There were boys who had become girls, and girls who had become boys. And then I knew I wasn’t alone. And that I wasn’t crazy in my head. And I understood that other people had made my dream come true. And I was like, “I’m able to do it. If I am given tools, if I am told where to go.” There was no Internet so I was given an address which was Saint-Luc Hospital in Montreal. I sent a letter with a stamp. They answered. And I took the bus, and I went there. And the person who met me was a sexologist. I was wearing makeup, I did my hair, I had a skirt—even a miniskirt—and he said, “Sir.” He saw the man I really was. And I understood that it would work, that I would have the right to be out loud what I had been low in my head and my body since the beginning of my life.
How are you doing today?
I have a sentence that is the opposite of everyone’s sentence. They say, “Live your life as if it were the last day.” I don’t like that sentence because it’s negative for me. And I say, “Live your life as if it were every day on the first day.” Pure discovery. This is the first time today that you see snow, how do you feel? Because there’s just the Carpe Diem, and then it’s worth living it.
What would you say to someone who is struggling like you were?
We do not do it alone, no one is an island. Many people listened to me, guided me, but I think the best thing is that at some point I started listening to myself. And to be more sensitive towards myself. To no longer hate me.But if you seek help, if I open up to others, there are people who will open their arms to me too. Just being well is possible. Maybe not tonight, maybe tomorrow morning. Because I’m sure there’s another tomorrow morning.
If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide, a trained responder is ready to listen. Call 1-833-456-4566 (Canada) or 1-866-APPELLE (Quebec),anytime day or night. And to hear stories of real people who’ve reached out for help, visit todayisbetter.ca