Erin LeBlanc, Artsci’82, Law’12, struggled with mental health for years. She suffered from bouts of depression and doctors and therapists were assessing her for conditions such as bipolar and other disorders.
Her path to healing didn’t truly start until she was correctly diagnosed with gender dysphoria – a medical condition that causes a person to struggle because their biological sex does not match their gender identity. The sense of unease can be so intense it harmfully impacts daily life.
When LeBlanc was diagnosed in the mid-1990s with gender identity disorder (as it was called then), it was good news. Finally, she understood the root cause of her mental health challenges.
“But at the same time, it was terrifying to understand the path forward,” says LeBlanc. “It was not a good time for me to begin a transition process. Medicine wasn’t ready for it. Society wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t ready emotionally, financially, psychologically.”
She decided to transition in 2015 while she was working at Smith School of Business. She says the support she received from her bosses and co-workers was phenomenal.
Today, LeBlanc – who retired from Queen’s a few years ago and now lives in London, Ont. – is happier and devotes her time to helping others as a consultant, author, public speaker and 2SLGBTQ+ advocate focused on assisting transgender people.
Through her company MTF Consulting, she gives lectures and workshops to businesses and governmental organizations to make their workspaces more inclusive. She’s worked with hospitals and police forces to give advice and develop policies on how to better engage and serve the transgender community.
She also wrote a book – Stranger in the Mirror: The Search for Me – about her journey to overcome adversity and find the courage to be her authentic self.
Before transitioning, LeBlanc was scared to talk to others about her personal journey for fear of rejection. Her self-isolation led to a point where she felt like the only trans person in Kingston. She hopes her book and public speaking lets others know they are not alone and there is hope.
“My story is not a ‘how to’ it is a ‘how I.’ Everyone’s journey is unique. This was my way and it worked well for me. I made it and I am a better person for being my true self,” says LeBlanc, who was the co-recipient of the 2017 Employment Equity Award at Queen’s for developing transgender transitioning guidelines for Smith School of Business.
Her inspirational message is making an impact. Parents who hear LeBlanc’s journey tell her they have a better understanding of what their child is going through. Business leaders are surprised to learn that while there is much to be done, simple changes – such as gender-neutral washrooms – can make 2SLGBTQ+ employees and customers feel welcome and safe.
“I like to think I am making a difference in my own little corner of the world,” says LeBlanc. “My hope is that my story gives others a sense of comfort and lets them know they are going to be OK.”