- Matt Kanayok came out as transgender in his hometown of Ulukhaktok in the Northwestern Territories, Canada, home to fewer than 500 people.
- He started coming out at school, as it was the easiest for him where he was surrounded with a trusted circle of friends and faculty staff.
- He introduced himself with his preferred name to the community at the Rainbow Conference spring last year in Yellowknife.
For 17 year old Matt Kanayok, community support means a lot.
Growing up in the small town of Ulukhaktok in the Northwestern Territories, Canada, Kayanok came out in this isolated community that is home to fewer than 500 people according to the transgender news stories by CBC last April 6.
Now in his final year in high school, he had disclosed his gender identity by coming out.
“I would say the last year is the first time I’ve felt most comfortable with myself,” he shared.
“The whole process of me becoming me started when I was around 12. That’s when I realized … what LGBTQ identities are, and it really appealed to me.”
It has been a monumental year for him as he transitioned from being called Chloe to Matt. He explained that he never got a liking to the name given to him at birth.
“I would respond to people when they called me [Chloe] but it never really clicked,” he said.
Moreover, he said that he at first identified as a gay woman. Later, he adopted the masculine pronoun when he was with his friends.
He made the big move to come out to the community at the Rainbow Conference spring last year in Yellowknife. Together with a teacher from his school as his support, he introduced himself to the group as Matt.
“It was the first time where a whole building of people — who I was surrounded with for a week — called me by the name that I wanted to be called by,” he narrated. “And it made it more real and made me come to terms with I’m not cis-gender. I’m trans[gender].”
Before the big day, he made a course of action to gradually come out in stages.
He started with coming out at school, as it was the easiest for him where would be surrounded with a trusted circle of friends and faculty staff.
Then, he told his family about his decision.
“But then I came out to my family and they were just super accepting,” he stated.
His mother, Janet Kanayok, recalled the day her son came out.
“It was a hard thing to try to grasp for a second, but really in the end, he’s just the same person,” she explained. “Just a boy. Just my son.”
It was not easy for him to get to the point where he was ready to tell people about his identity. What daunted him was the fear of rejection.
“I think with every LGBTQ person, there is always this fear of rejection. It was hard for me to do that but once I did … I realized I already have the people I care most about,” he shared. “They still accept me, so at this point, I don’t care what anybody else thinks.”
The support that he received from the community was surprising for both Kanayok and his mother.
“Which makes it so much easier,” Janet said. “I don’t have to worry about people bullying him or outcasting him, so it’s been great that the community, the school especially, has been very open and welcoming.”
While the community influenced the length of time it took for him to gain courage in coming out, he said that he is now the only openly transgender individual in the small town of Ulukhaktok.
He now collaborated with seven other students in organizing a gay-straight alliance club to start at the opening the school year in order to help young people who might be facing similar struggles. His group are planning to come up with social events and creating LGBT educational materials.
He looked forward to attending university this fall. Set to move to Nanaimo in British Columbia, Canada, he was glad his journey started back in his hometown.
“It was a nice surprise to see that a lot of people in the community are very accepting,” he said.