BELLEVILLE – Stacey Jennifer Love-Jolicoeur was nine years old when she realized her physical body didn't match with how she felt inside.
Growing up in the 60’s, Trans was not a term that many people accepted, including her family.
"I had difficulty growing up with 11 siblings due to society, religious and family beliefs all against the binary. But through some perseverance and certainly a lot of personal struggles, I was able to overcome that," she said. Unfortunately, Jolicoeur and her siblings lost contact over the years.
Love-Jolicoeur dropped out of school before finishing Grade 12, but 27 years later she went back to get her diploma.
“I went to an alternative school. I needed certain credits like English and History,” she said.
She enjoyed the experience at the Toronto school because she was able to choose what parts of her schooling she wanted to focus on.
"My direction was to find out about the LGBT community and the lifestyle and everything that I could possibly gain from that," she said.
She completed her Grade 12 and went on to get four college diplomas across multiple disciplines, including a diploma in paramedics,rehabilitation counselling,orthotics and prosthetics. And now she has achieved her teacher's certificate and is a leader of diversity and inclusion.
“I worked in various careers for a number of years moving through life,” she said.
Love-Jolicoeur eventually got married and had kids of her own, but 27 years later the marriage ended due to lack of acceptance and understanding.
She explained that it has been a lifelong transition, but it wasn't until the last 10 years that she fully transitioned.
"I actually transitioned with HRT, which is Hormone Replacement Therapy and surgery of SRS, which is Sexual Reassignment Surgery, to align my physical body with the mental me. In other words, to align my physical with my true authentic self," she said.
It was when her mother got ill five years ago that she had the opportunity to reunite with her siblings.
“I would go visit her [mom] on a daily basis and my siblings got an opportunity to meet me as Stacey. So it wasn’t the male persona that they had known, but I am still the same person I’m just a little bit different now, the main thing is that I have acceptance from them now,” she said.
“I started to attend that program and I am now the co-ordinator of that program, for the last four years.” she said.
TRANSforum is a safe and confidential program that supports transgender individuals in the community who are going through their journey.
"It's a struggle for many in our community, but you know things are progressing very very well in society. As well as acceptance for the LGBT community," she said.
Love-Jolicoeur explained the importance of having support from family and friends.
"For the LGBT community, about 77 per cent will consider suicide, which is a very very high number. And 45 per cent will actually attempt. Now one of the interesting things about that is that when we have love and acceptance in the home those numbers drop by 97 per cent, which is a huge opportunity for people not to have that emotional struggle," she said.
Stacey Love-Jolicoeur enjoys helping out in her community.
"I feel that it's my role and my duty to assist others in their journeys as a mentor," she said.
She said the one person who inspired her the most was her mother.
"I would say my hero is my mom. Raising such a large family and the struggles that we had with a big family," she said.
She explained that coming from a big family, they didn't have a lot.
"We were poor. Big families didn’t have a lot of money. Not only did we have 11 brothers and sisters but my parents also rented out rooms to students and one of my brother's friends lived with us as well so there was always 16 to 18 people at our meal tables and my job was to do dishes so I got pretty proficient at it," she added.
Love-Jolicoeur continues to stay busy helping others. She is the co-ordinator for the TRANSforum group in Belleville, executive of the Belleville Pride Parade, executive for the RYO, which is the Rainbow Youth Organization, and she also does work with Corrrection Canada, where she provides peer-to-peer re-integration counseling and group facilitation work with the LGBTQ2S offenders.
And it doesn't stop there. Love-Jolicoeur has many more programs that she continues to help out and be a part of.
"My idea is that I am a leader in the community, bringing life experience as a 2-spirited trans women. For me a hero or leader is someone who encourages, promotes, provides insight, and respects people in their journey," she said.