Under a cover of misting rain, Leada Stray addressed a crowd of about 80 in front of New Westminster City Hall in January at a rally to demand justice for January Marie Lapuz, who was killed last fall.
Stray, who prefers the gender-neutral pronoun they, co-organized the rally with the Transtastic Coalition for Equality.
Lapuz’s alleged murder struck close to home on several levels. Stray waited for the community to react but was disappointed by the perceived quiet.
“I kept waiting for people to stand up, for people to say something, to display any kind of concern,” the 30-year-old says. “I talked to some other trans fellas, and we decided to speak up. It was a matter of brothers standing up for sisters.”
Stray was equally disgusted by the behaviour of law enforcement officials.
“They were using her wrong name; they were using the wrong pronoun.”
“These are the people that are supposed to protect us, and yet they are the same people we live in fear of, because we never know whether we’re going to get a police officer who paid attention in sensitivity training. That shouldn’t be.”
Five years ago, Stray was very involved in the gay and trans communities but eventually took a step back, partially because of friction related to being a female-to-male trans drag queen.
“It does get tiring,” they say. “I’m teaching people that yes, I’ve transitioned; no, that doesn’t mean that I want to be a woman again. It means that I’m a man in a dress.”
“The style of performance that I do is very in-your-face, and it can be draining to be a storyteller in a world that doesn’t want to hear it.”
Now a postulant with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Stray is ready to give back again.
“When I first came out, I had help. I had a group of older gays and lesbians and transgender people who took me under their wings,” they say. “They taught me about what life as a queer person could be, they taught me about joy, and they showed me hope where for me there wasn’t any.
“The next generation might have it easier than we did, but they still need help. Just because we live in a technological world, it doesn’t mean that we don’t need community.”