While many of us will spend the summer sunning ourselves on the beach or sipping drinks on a patio, Keenan Pinder and Noah Adams plan to bicycle 80 kilometres a day across Canada on a gruelling journey to honour a deceased friend and raise awareness about transexuality.
Along the way, they’ll stop in major Canadian cities to give talks and workshops educating people about trans issues, telling the story of Pinder’s close friend Alexandria Tucker in hopes of creating a network of support for trans people.
The trip will begin this May in Victoria, where Pinder has already spread half of Tucker’s ashes, and end in August in Tucker’s hometown of St John’s, Newfoundland where they’ll spread the rest.
Tucker moved to Victoria when she was 20, but her life turned upside down several years later while vacationing with her partner in Montana. Her partner’s transphobic ex attacked them with a knife and Tucker, a black belt in karate, managed to wrestle the knife away from him but accidentally stabbed him in the process. She was sentenced to over two years in a Montana maximum-security men’s prison, where she was allegedly abused and forced to stop her transition.
After she returned to Victoria in 2000, Tucker resumed her transition and threw her energy into working at the University of Victoria library, studying psychology, teaching karate and self-defence and participating in trans activism.
“She was always trying to help somebody out,” says Pinder. “She was just really outgoing, really friendly, really kind.”
Despite her successes, Tucker suffered from post-traumatic stress and took her own life in April 2005.
Pinder, who became close with Tucker after meeting her at a trans community consultation at the Justice Institute, was devastated and soon began to think of ways that he could use both Tucker’s and his own experiences to fight transphobia.
Last summer, he and his friend Adams came up with the idea of a cross-Canada bike trip.
“It was my way of trying to honour her memory and do something positive,” says Pinder. “I came up with the idea that I wanted to bike across Canada just to be as visible as possible.
“Trans people are around and we’re basically trying to raise awareness that we are a marginalized community,” he explains. “There’s a lot of misconceptions out there about what trans people look like, what they do, what they’re about.”
“I think for Keenan it is a way of dealing with the loss of his friend and giving something to that memory,” adds Adams. “It feels the same way for me as well, although I never knew Alex.”
The Trans Cycling Odyssey also has the help of a fundraiser, Emer Dubois, who got involved with the trip via her friendship with Pinder. Dubois is trying to raise money and secure donations of everything from food to bicycle gear. She is also selling specially designed T-shirts in support of the trip.
The Trans Cycling Odyssey has already received a number of generous donations, including the use of two bikes. All money raised will go towards funding the trip, and any money left over will be put into a scholarship fund for trans students at the University of Victoria in Tucker’s name. Pinder and Adams are hoping to raise $10,000 for the scholarship and plan to continue fundraising when they return to Victoria to ensure that it’s available for students in need.
For Pinder, an essential part of trans education is sharing personal experiences. He plans to be very open about Tucker’s story, as well as his own, in the workshops on the road.
“I’m very candid. I will talk about anything, people can ask me whatever,” he says. “I’m not shy to tell them personal details about me. I find that if you do share those kinds of details that people tend to see you more as a human being rather than just this object.”
Pinder and Adams will be passing through dozens of cities this summer. So far, they’ve got six speaking engagements booked, but they’re hoping this number will increase as more people hear about their journey.
They’ll be biking anywhere from 80 to 120 kilometres a day, a tough distance for even the most practiced cyclists. To train, Pinder and Adams have been getting out on their bikes as much as possible and cycling long distances in order to improve endurance.
But for them, this trip isn’t about proving athletic prowess-it’s about trans education and awareness, they stress.
“Basically this is just two average guys getting on bikes. We’re not spectacular athletes by any means,” Pinder says. “We just felt we had to reach out to the community that’s out there. We’re sick and tired of trans people getting murdered and trans people committing suicide because they feel like they have no options.”
Pinder and Adams say they’re excited about the prospect of meeting new people this summer and raising awareness, but they’re nervous about the physical demands of the journey. They’re also concerned about their safety on the road.
“I’m especially nervous about gaybashers along the way but I guess there’s nothing I can do but hope for the best,” says Adams.