Updated: Nov 25, 2020
[seulement en anglais]
This post is the original, unmodified work of the author.
At a young age, we are told to associate ourselves and our identity with labels. While it definitely was not the case, I like to think that I was rebellious for not conforming to those standards. Frequently as a child, you could find me playing with dolls and engaging in other feminine manners. I had no idea at that time what sexuality even meant, let alone that I was “going against the grain.” I was just Kyle.
I was lucky enough to grow up in an environment where some of my extended family members were queer. It didn’t make the process any less daunting, though. It isn’t exactly easy to tell the people that you care about in your life that you love the same gender. It is even more terrifying when you realize that none of your straight family or friends have gone through the experience.
I tend to push things aside when they are not “easy.” Consequently, realizing that I was attracted to boys was something that I decided I could not give my time or energy to for quite a while. So, I just did not face it. Instead, I dedicated myself to getting into law school. It wasn’t until university that I allowed myself to really figure out who I was, when I finally let that quiet voice inside of my head scream to the world around me that I liked boys. It was definitely not shocking—seriously, please just look at this picture of me as a child and try to convince me that I was not a queer icon at the ripe age of seven.
For a long time, I navigated this really tough space of trying to find who I was and my identity. I really had no idea. At the same time that I was coming to terms with my sexuality, I was also attempting to understand my cultural heritage. I was constantly told growing up that I was Métis, but I really had no idea what that meant. Similar to how I handled my sexuality, I just pushed that part of my identity to the side until I was comfortable enough to learn and understand it. I faced these questions about my identity while in university. I became heavily involved and subsequently worked at the Indigenous Student Centre on my university campus. I began to meet other Indigenous students and elders who helped guide me on my path to discovering what being Métis meant.
There was this brief moment at my graduation that I will never forget. I was standing in line, waiting to cross the stage and accept my degree. In that moment, I knew that walking across that stage was not just a signal of accepting a degree that I worked four years to earn, but a signal that I was accepting who I had become at the end of those four years. I entered university a very confused person, but there I was, leaving university more sure of myself than I ever thought possible.
From a very young age, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in law. I was probably seven years old or so. Like the queer icon she is, Elle Woods made me believe in myself and my capabilities as a child in a way no one else really ever could (I made sure I watched Legally Blonde the first month I started law school to celebrate that I was following in the footsteps of one of my biggest fictional role models). I knew that I wanted to prove people wrong. It wasn’t as if I had all these people tell me I couldn’t do it, but I imagined as if I did because it only pushed me more to succeed.
Navigating a profession that is dominated by straight cis white men made pursuing a career in law daunting. People in law have been so slow to eliminate the many barriers that stand in the way of diversity in the profession. What would they do when a gay Indigenous boy from an underprivileged lifestyle took a chance at it? A part of me didn’t care because again, I had this constant urge to prove people wrong. But at the same time, that quiet voice crept back into my head suggesting people would not give someone like me a chance no matter how qualified or impressive I could be. Yet, here I am. I made it in.
The environment of first year law was very confusing. I felt like I had no idea where my identity within law could be cultivated. I kept my head down for most of the year just trying my best not to sink in the rapid waters that make surviving first year anything but easy (but to all the 1Ls out there, you will get through it; It does get better!!). As a current 2L, I have started to find my community within law by getting involved with associations that are related to the practice area I am interested in and by finding support through OUTLaw and the Indigenous Law Students Association (ILSA). While school can sometimes feel isolating, especially under the current circumstances of the world, finding that cohort of people who have the same goals and interests as you makes a world of difference.
The responsibility that I felt to help raise the voices of queer and Indigenous peoples when I got my acceptance letter was larger than I imagined. A year into my studies and I can confidently say that the path to making a change is not easy or straightforward (nothing is ever straight for me ahaha) but it is worth every second of the challenge. I am dedicated to creating space for queer and Indigenous voices in law because those voices matter.
The fact that I am entering a profession in which my colleagues and I can foster real tangible change by allowing more voices to be heard is both inspiring and fulfilling. I can’t wait for the day that someone asks how my colleagues and I were able to do so when the straight white-cis males before us wouldn’t. I will simply quote the ever iconic Elle Woods as I retort: “What, like it’s hard?”