My Story by Tiffani Pontchartrain

I am a thirty-eight year old pre-operative M-F transsexual presently living in Toronto, Ontario.

I am what's called "Heinz 57" ethnically. The majority (about 85% or so) is UK (all parts) in origin as well as 1/8 First Nations (Cree and Ojibwa as far as I know) and 1/16 or 1/32 black (I'm not sure exactly which).

I was born two months prematurely, weight 2 lbs, 12 1/2 ounces, on May 10, 1966 in the Hotel St. Dieu of St. Joseph's Hospital in Windsor, Ontario. My father disappeared when he found out that my mother was pregnant with his child. He was sixteen, she was only twelve. I have no name or info about him.

As to siblings, I don't know. My mother was forced to give me to the Windsor Catholic Children's Aid shortly after my birth by her parents.

I do no know why for sure, although I suspect that my mother may have been raped. I honestly don't know because I have never met her.

I spent most of the next 6 1/2 years living in numerous foster homes in the Windsor area; while living in these places, I was subjected to every form of abuse that I can think of: physical, sexual, financial, social, mental, emotional, psychological, etc. I was for the first time when I was only 4 1/2 years old.

I came very close to dying from malnutrition. When they ate, most of the time I was forced to watch. I was lucky to have something to eat maybe three times a week (mostly gruel). Do you have any idea what gruel is? It's disgusting. By the age of 6 1/2, I looked like the kids in Ethiopia in the early to mid '80s. Because of the abuse, I had no concept of "positive" relationships.

When I was four years old, I was diagnosed as having gender dysphoria. Before my adoption, just around my seventh birthday, my adoptive father-to-be was told to make me become a man, even if this required the use of force.

During my entire adoption, my "father' regularly whipped me with a 2 inch wide, 1/8 inch thick leather belt. When the other kids (I was the middle child {ever hear of "middle child syndrome?}) got into trouble, they would be scolded and maybe receive a couple whacks with the belt. I got it every day for over seven years. By the time I was fourteen, I was afraid to participate in Phys. Ed. because of all the belt marks across my back and thighs. This from a man who "loved" me. Ugh!

On a few occasions during my adoption years, I would sneak into the room shared by my two younger sisters and try on their clothes (I was very small for my age). I got caught by Mom once. She freaked out on me at the time but, as far as I know, she never told Dr. Scott (my "father").

In August of 1979, when I was thirteen, I ran away from home and ended up in Nova Scotia. I was down there for about ten or eleven days. I first met my cousin Laura at that time. I became involved sexually with several girls (upwards of half a dozen) while I was there. Six of them conceived and, nine months later, seven children were born. According to my cousin, whom I met again in the late summer of 2002, all seven children resemble me.

In February of 1981, I ran away again. This time I ended up at a Valentine's Day party in Stratford, Ontario ( about 30 km northeast of London). While I was there, I was gang raped by six young girls. As I was not going through an identity crisis at that time, I eventually joined in and had a ball with the girls involved. From this escapade, three of them conceived and two of the girls gave birth to three children. At the present moment, I have nine living children (one passed away before I found out).

When I was fourteen, I became sick and tired of Dr. Scott's perpetual abuse. I told him, and I quote, "If you ever touch me again, I'll kill you." Even though I weighed a mere 65 lbs to his 210, he believed me. From that moment on, I was completely separated (my favorite term is ostracized) from the rest of the family by his express order. I was only allowed to leave my room to use the washroom or go to school. That was my life for over a year.

Btw, I also separated myself from the Catholic Church at about the same time.

I was formally removed from the adoption on September 28, 1981 and sent to Craigwood, a youth "treatment centre" located near Ailsa Craig, Ontario (about 30 km northwest from London). Within four months of my arrival there, I was raped three times by older boys (separate events). This precipitated my gender identity crisis.

I lived there for nearly three years. One positive thing that I can still remember is the teacher I had. He was cool!

In June of 1984, I was transferred to another group home in Stratford. I lived there for about one year. Then I got into trouble (I set a chair on fire accidentally while smoking) and was placed in a foster home (again!) for about three months or so.

From there, I moved to the Nurses' Residence near the hospital, where I lived for about three months. I was kicked out of there because I lit a fire in a waste basket when my girlfriend broke up with me. Her parents forced her (emotionally) to break up with me. While living there, I portrayed myself as a female in public for the first time.

When I left the residence, I was placed in another foster home, this one run by a kindly but strict grandmotherly woman named Mary. I lived there for about a year.

I was forced to quit school because I couldn't stay in class due to my eyesight. I attempted to get approval from my CAS worker for vision correction, but was told that he was out of town at a major conference and would not be available for three weeks. This happened right before mid-terms (November,1986). The principal himself expelled me. I was so angry at the school's lack of concern for my health that I threw my math textbook at him. It missed (darn!).

When I was expelled, I was still a ward of the Crown. That ended immediately after my expulsion. I ended up on welfare (I had no formal training) for about six months. Then I committed a crime (which I had no memory of having committed one) and was convicted of mischief over ($1,000 ? $5,000? I can't remember.) and sentenced to eleven months in jail. I spent a little over nine months in jail, before and after my conviction. When I was released, I moved to Toronto, where I have lived for the past seventeen years.

During my first two years here in Toronto, I worked constantly, doing general labor, up to twenty hours a day. Eventually, I hurt my back and had to quit.

I was also beginning to experience constant, unidentifiable pain. Every doctor that I saw about the pain told me that it was all in my head. Bastards! Just because they don't know something, they imply that you're crazy!

Between my arrival here on February 18, 1988 and the end of January, 1992, when I was finally approved for disability under the then Family Benefits Act of Ontario, I fought constantly with welfare workers just to get that approval. I did finally, thanks to a worker named Bill Dwyer (I ran into him at the NDP convention in Hamilton last November).

In early September of 1992, I began my transition. I first used the name Tiffani eight months later. I remained on FBA until September 30, 1998, shortly after my arrest on two counts of second degree murder and one count of arson endangering life. Until the above-mentioned date, I moved around the city on a nearly yearly basis.

The reasons that I was arrested were that I had told the police about the incident at the Nurses' Residence in Stratford and because they forced me to confess. I was in no physical or emotional shape to resist their tactics. I have already mentioned it in emails.

On September 16, 1998, the building that I was living in was set on fire. Two women died as a result of the fire. When I talked to the police on the 20th, what I told them caused them to make me their primary suspect and eventually led to my trip to headquarters. While I was there, I was asked to do a polygraph. Subsequently, the polygraph officers accused me of committing the crime, even though I had a substantiated alibi ( one of the real fire-setters helped with that)and there was no conclusive evidence of my having started the fire.

I spent just under two years in jail (all dead time) and came within a whisker's breadth of doing 25 years to life for a crime that I did not commit.

After my release, I lived with a friend for about 2 1/2 months. She became overly controlling and I left in early December for the shelter system, where I lived for almost 2 1/2 years.

The only things that shelter workers here are required to do is give you a bed, feed you and make sure you take your medication. Nothing else.

In February of 2002, I met my daughter Lee Ann inside the shelter system. That was weird, to say the least. She told me that she and her half-sister had had seven children between them. One child died just before I met her.

In late December of 2002, I was moved arbitrarily to another shelter because of an incident with another trans individual. She had been harassing both myself and my then girlfriend continuously since her arrival, even though that is against the rules. The staff there did nothing. Eventually, it got to the point where we almost became physical toward each other. I was kicked out two days later. She was allowed to stay several days longer because no shelter was willing to take her immediately because of her history of abusing others.

I was moved to the Scarborough Hope shelter, which is run by a group of Christians. I got into trouble for living female and was told that I could not do so while living there, even though the Hostel Standards Act states that a trans individual must be sent to a shelter suitable to their chosen gender.

I have never been involved in the sex trade. I have, while living in the shelter system, seen many trans individuals involved in the sex trade. All of them were hooked on drugs. They would make several hundred dollars, come home with two dollars in their pockets and brag about how much money they had made the night before.

Because I would not become a prostitute and I did not use drugs, I was considered an oddball in the shelter system. If one of the other trans individuals did something, they would get a slap on the wrist. If I did the same thing, I would get a severe tongue-lashing and often be moved to another shelter. This caused a great deal of frustration because I didn't seem to fit in anywhere, either as a trans individual or as a woman.

In mid-May, 2003, I left the shelter system and lived on the streets for about five months. I couldn't live as a female at this time.

When I finally found somewhere to live, my financial situation made it difficult for me to live as a female. Even though I have been on full disability (now known as the Ontario Disability Support Program or ODSP) for about four months, my situation hasn't really changed due to some nasty but minor medical problems which were resolved around the end of November of last year.

I have not changed my legal name yet for one reason. Because of the present system re name changes here in Ontario, if I changed my name now, I would have to pay the same amount again just to change the sexual designation from M to F.

As i told you earlier in this story, I have nine children (three here in Ontario and six in Nova Scotia). I also have seven grandchildren (six here in Ontario and one in Nova Scotia). I have not at this time met any of my grandchildren. If you have followed everything, all my children were conceived previous to my arrival at Craigwood.

I am slowly trying to put my life together again. At the NDP convention in Hamilton last November, I became the membership secretary for the LGBT Committee of the ONDP. I am going to be assisting in the coordination of the website with another member. I am also going to be assisting with Pride events in the Toronto area this year and, hopefully, for years to come. It's not easy, but I'm fighting every step of the way just to rebuild my confidence and self-esteem. A worker at the Elizabeth Fry office here has been instrumental in my recovery. Thank you, Elizabeth, for all your help. It's been worth every minute.