When Jaymes Simon was in Grade 7 they wrote a poem called I See a Boy, about their experience with gender dysphoria.
Now Simon, who will be starting Grade 10 in the fall, is one of 12 recipients of the James Bartleman Indigenous Youth Creative Writing Award for that poem.
The award, established in 2008, honours James Bartleman, who was Ontario’s first Indigenous lieutenant governor. It celebrates young Indigenous writers who have shared their experiences through storytelling.
Simon said they were struggling with their identity when they wrote the poem.
“Back then, I didn’t know what being trans is and I didn’t know how to express myself,” they said.
Maggie Ziegler, a resource teacher in Sheguiandah First Nation, on Manitoulin Island, encouraged them to submit the poem and apply for the award.
“It’s a first person perspective and it’s about me seeing myself through a mirror. Who I am versus, like, how society sees me,” Simon said about the poem.
They hope other young people also experiencing gender dysphoria might read the poem and see themselves in it.
“They’re not alone,” Simon said.
Ziegler, who encouraged them to apply for the award, said she was thrilled when she heard Simon was one of this year’s recipients.
Just being able to tell their story, in general, I think was great,” she said.
“Many kids could see this and read this and maybe feel like, ‘Hey, you know what, I’m not alone. They did it. Look at them. They’re, you know, happy and being heard.'”
And I think James is just such a positive role model for a lot of the younger kids and even the older kids too.”
Up North6:14Manitoulin teen wins Indigenous creative writing award