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Pan Am torch carried by out trans person

Martine Stonehouse will carry the Pan Am torch July 9 in downtown Toronto

Martine Stonehouse will carry the Pan Am torch on July 9, 2015, from Bay and Adelaide to city hall. Credit: Transfixed/Facebook

Martine Stonehouse has carried a torch for trans issues almost her entire life. On July 9, 2015, she’ll carry a real one as she participates in the Pan Am torch relay — the first out transgender person to ever do so at an international multi-sport game competition.

Stonehouse, a head caretaker at Eastdale Collegiate Institute, will be relaying the torch after 5pm from Bay and Adelaide Streets, carrying it to Toronto City Hall and passing it off to the next runner, who will light the cauldron at Nathan Phillips Square.

“I never really was an athlete as such,” she says a few weeks before her relay. “But it’s quite an honour carrying the torch and representing our communities.”

Stonehouse’s journey to carrying a torch in the Pan Am Games began over 30 years ago. She began transitioning in 1982 with the hopes that she would soon be approved for sexual reassignment surgery (SRS).

But when she finally was close to being approved for SRS in 1998, the surgery had been quietly delisted from public health funding by the provincial government. “I was so incensed that I went through all this to get my surgery, and they cut my funding with it just as I was about to get my approval.”

This kickstarted her own activism. Stonehouse filed a landmark human rights complaint against the Ontario government for delisting the surgery.

Stonehouse became vice-chair of the Trans Lobby Group, an organization that advocates for trans people, in 2001. The group was among those that fought for Toby’s Act, which added gender identity to the Ontario Human Rights Code in 2012.

And in 2010, after winning her case in 2006, Stonehouse was able to have her SRS fully covered by the Ontario government after it was added back to public health coverage in 2008.

When Stonehouse saw the call-out for torch bearers this year, she decided to apply to represent not only the trans community, but also the autism community.

Her philosophy on life is a simple one: “We’re all equal in this world,” Stonehouse says. And by participating in the torch relay, Stonehouse believes she is showing that anyone can contribute to society.

“If we deny even one person a chance to be a part of society . . . we as a society don’t know what we have lost.”