“I am mad with grief,” says Shaira Holman, who lost her partner, Catherine White Holman, in a plane crash last November off Saturna Island. “I am in so much pain, so much grief; I don’t know what to do with myself. People in that much grief go on walks and pilgrimages; that’s what I am going to do. I just need to put one foot in front of the other.”
Departing from Vancouver on April 1, Holman is planning to walk more than a hundred days across Canada to arrive in Toronto in time for Pride on July 4. She’s calling it the Walk for Love.
“It gives me an alternative to suicide,” she says. “I don’t want to be here without Catherine. We had the biggest love of anyone I’ve known.”
“I don’t even like walking,” Holman says, “so I think it will be quite an ordeal, penance maybe. I have a lot of guilt, survivor guilt. We had planned on going to the island together. If I had gone, we would have been on the ferry and she wouldn’t have died. It’s hard to forgive myself for that. Maybe I can let some of the pain go in the wilderness somewhere.”
The 4,000-kilometre journey on foot will be a fundraiser for the Catherine White Holman Memorial Legacy Fund for queers living in poverty.
“I wanted a way to continue Catherine’s work for marginalized people,” Holman explains.
A well-respected counsellor and a founding member of Vancouver’s Three Bridges clinic, Catherine wrote the Guidelines for Transgender Care and Care for Transgender Adolescents, considered the benchmark on best practices internationally.
“The reason that we have programs like Boys R Us and Prism — all the queer health stuff — we have because of Catherine,” Holman told Xtra last December. “She saved a lot of people’s lives. She found people money and furniture and housing and help, and she was a light to so many people.”
The Legacy Fund will have a very simple application process, Holman promises.
“The application for disability is like 26 pages. Catherine helped people fill it out and get the money they needed. This fund will continue that work. It’s about need. People can use it for education or to help them get out of poverty, whatever they need.”
Holman has started the fund by providing $3,000 in seed money and hopes to raise at least $200,000.
Departing on April Fool’s Day because she is a self-professed “fool for love,” Holman says she’ll be depending on the kindness of strangers along her journey. “Most people who go across the country have a support team, an RV that follows them, etc. I’m hoping that there will be a network of people along the way who can feed me, shelter me, carry my pack and, of course, donate to the fund.”
“I am taking my dog, Tilda, with me,” Holman says. “I don’t have a sponsor, but Tilda does. Sophie’s Pet Palace will be providing for her needs.”
“It’s also kind of an art project,” adds Holman, who is the artistic director of the Pride in Art Society. “I will have GPS with me so people can track my journey and join in anywhere along the way. I will be walking everyday and writing every night.”
“I can’t make sense of this thing that has happened,” she says. “Catherine was my light and my light has gone out. This is me trying to find that light again.”
“Her body is not here, but I feel her all the time. I know she will be with me on this journey. She’ll be saying, ‘Honey, you don’t like walking. You’re from LA, you drive everywhere.’ But she’ll also say ‘You’re my hero,’ because that’s what she told me all the time.”