When the Flying Trannys set out on a cross-country quest from Victoria at the beginning of May the course was clear: trans activist twosome Keenan Pinder and Noah Adams were planning to cycle between 80km and 120km a day, stopping for trans 101 workshops and fundraising events along the way, in order to make it out to the finishing point, St John’s, Newfoundland, by August.
They’ve hit a few unforeseen snags since they’ve been out on the road.
“Yeah, we had a bike stolen in Saskatoon,” says Pinder. “They were on the back of the van and around 2am a bunch of teenagers started pulling them off. Noah was actually sleeping in the van at the time.”
Although Adams was able to chase the bandits off, it wasn’t before they had made off with one of the two bikes donated to the trek, dubbed the Trans Cycling Odyssey.
Now the odyssey is relying on the four-wheeled support vehicle — a 1977 Chevy — to get them where they’re going.
“It would have been nice to cycle more, but, especially because we had to condense things a little bit, [local hosts] were faster to organize so I wonder if in the end it’s been a positive thing,” says Adams, explaining that more of the proposed workshop stops came together better than expected.
“By and large it’s been more successful than we had hoped for. I would rather have bikes, but we’re not able to help that now.”
In addition to stolen wheels, the grassroots trans awareness project has run dangerously short on funds. After a stop in Winnipeg they decided to burn rubber to the east coast and start working their way back.
“Gas prices are pretty expensive across the country,” says Pinder. “By the end of it it’ll have cost us $4,000 in gas alone. We decided to try to get to St John’s as soon as possible…. Now we’re trying to raise money while we’re here to try to get back to BC.”
The Trans Cycling Odyssey was born out Pinder’s desire to pay tribute to deceased friend and trans woman Alexandria Tucker.
“I think for Keenan it is a way of dealing with the loss of his friend and giving something to that memory,” says Adams. “It feels the same way for me as well, although I never knew Alex.”
Tucker, originally from St John’s, moved to Victoria when she was 20. Her life was turned upside down several years later when, while vacationing with her partner in Montana, her partner’s transphobic ex attacked them with a knife. Tucker, a black belt in karate, managed to wrestle the knife away from him but stabbed him in the process. Tucker was sentenced to more than two years in a Montana maximum-security men’s prison, where she was forced to stop her transition and was allegedly abused.
After returning 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.”
But despite her successes, Tucker suffered from post-traumatic stress related to her experience in prison. She took her own life in April 2005.
Pinder, who became close to Tucker after meeting her at a trans community consultation, was devastated. He soon began thinking up ways he could harness both Tucker’s experiences and his own experiences as a trans man to fight transphobia. Last summer, he and Adams came up with the idea of a cross-Canada bike trip to raise awareness of trans issues and suicide prevention.
St John’s was a natural end point for the odyssey. Pinder, who had already spread half of Tucker’s ashes in Victoria, wanted to spread the rest in her hometown.
“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.”
In addition to running workshops for trans people, allies and service providers, Pinder and Adams were hoping to raise $10,000 to start a scholarship fund for trans students at the University Of Victoria in Tucker’s name.
But the dream of a scholarship fund has been fading as money gets tight.
“We had nothing when we got to Newfoundland,” says Adams, by phone from St John’s. “People have been quite generous here. But we’ll need at least $3,000 to $3,500 to get home and I doubt we even have $500 right now.”
Although they were nervous about the kind of response they’d get out on the road as visible trans men, Adams says they’ve been pleasantly surprised.
“I would have expected to have been run out of town with a pitch fork but I guess not,” says Adams. “They ask, ‘What are you doing? Oh that’s great!’ I imagine it’s great ’cause we’re not staying in town… but people have been really compassionate.”
“We’re basically trying to raise awareness that we are a marginalized community,” says Pinder. “There’s a lot of misconceptions out there about what trans people look like, what they do, what they’re about.”
For Pinder, an essential part of trans education is sharing personal experiences. He says he’s been 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.”