Dee Sparling has lived as an openly transgender woman since 1997 and brings a wealth of experience of the everyday realities of life as a transgender citizen in Canada. In 1999 she was one of several trans people interviewed by Stephanie Nolen for the Globe and Mail’s groundbreaking Globe Focus feature entitled “The Third Way.” This mainstream media item helped give a positive, Canada-wide voice to transgender and gender-variant people who were seeking an independent path for themselves, despite the dominance of the medical establishment at the time and the associated psychiatric stereotypes.
In 1999 and 2000 Dee had essays published in the Toronto-based magazine The Monarch/Transgender Canada, and found herself being invited to give presentations to organizations that told her they were having difficulty finding transgender people who were openly public enough to speak with them.
From 2001 onward, Dee concentrated more on settling into her own work-a-day experience in corporate environments in Toronto, which has included working as an openly transgender woman in managerial, supervisory and staff-training roles. In 2007 she led a workplace seminar on transgender issues for her coworkers and was proud to be elected by coworkers later that same year to act as a union negotiating representative in collective bargaining.
This past spring of 2017 several circumstances coalesced to convince her that maybe it was time once again to share more about her experiences over the years. In April, she was invited to give a two-hour presentation about the trans community to a class of teachers-in-training at Queen’s University’s Department of Education in Kingston. The active engagement and interest of participants made this session a pleasure for her to lead, reminding her of past enjoyments in a speaker’s role.
All the while national debate was stirring over the pending passage of federal transgender rights legislation (Bill C-16) in Canada, revealing unsettling levels of misinformation in the media, in society, and in some quarters on Parliament Hill. Then in May an added controversy arose (worldwide, as it turned out) over trans references in Lou Reed’s classic song “Walk On The Wild Side.” Dee saw a growing danger that transgender rights were being linked with perceptions of censorship. Immediately writing a letter to The Toronto Star, published May 25th, she defended Lou Reed’s freedom of artistic expression in a song that historically was perceived as trans-positive and courageous in its time. Then she decided to reintroduce her availability for educating people about the trans community.
Dee holds a Master’s Degree in American Political and Social History (Queen’s University, 1995), a course of study which included race, class, and gender analysis throughout key phases in US history. Her undergraduate studies covered histories of several key global powers, the impacts of European colonialism, the politics of neo-colonialism, and several ethics courses covering varied issues in religion, culture and biomedical ethics.
She enjoys writing poetry, at times is obsessed with global politics, and is a long-time Toronto Blue Jays fan.