“You aren’t alone. This isn’t rare. Gender is socially constructed, which means it is not abnormal to be transgender, intersex, or anything outside of the “norm.”
I first met poet and writer Piper Kearney about a year ago through my friend Jessica. Immediately, I was inspired by her boldness, fun-loving nature and willingness to speak out against the unjust. Here, she talks to PSYB about what it means to identify as intersex, learning to love herself and the therapy of poetry.
Tell us about yourself:
I’m a 25-year-old woman living in London, Ont. I am a poet and writer in the London community and I share my work at poetry slams and other artistic productions. I love cooking and I also volunteer at a collective kitchen where I cook meals for the elderly.
I was born intersex, which means I have both male and female parts. My gender is something that a lot of people find difficult to understand, because mainstream society doesn’t fully support it yet. Intersex is an umbrella term that refers to people born with differences in their sex characteristics. These differences can occur in places like genes, chromosomes, genitalia, reproductive organs, hormones, or secondary characteristics (like body hair). When I was born, I was assigned a male gender identity. As I grew, my body showed signs of female secondary characteristics.
I never felt comfortable identifying as a boy. This was an extremely difficult time in my life. I began to reach out online and research the feelings I was experiencing. I soon discovered the transgender community. With support from my parents, and a lot of reading, I came out as a trans girl. I attended PFLAG, and other social groups available in London for those of us who are living as trans. So my gender identity is female, and my sex is intersex.
What are three words that describe you best?
Kind-hearted. (To everyone, even to strangers)
Compassionate. (To everyone, especially those of the LGBTQ+ community)
Driven. (To speak my truth)
What have been some of your biggest life challenges so far?
Coming out was a tremendously difficult challenge, but I found there were a lot of supportive people out there, and I have never felt more comfortable in my own skin.
Another challenge was the first time I had my heart broken. This was a short while after I came out, and belonged to a coffee social club where I met a trans man. I felt very connected to him, and shared some amazing times with him, including a lot of personal disclosure. He got back together with his partner and it devastated me. I learned to channel this heartbreak into my poetry and writing. It has showed me that everything happens for a reason.
What do you wish people knew about you that you don’t think they already know?
Even though I am an advocate, I still get insecure and question myself. It’s easy to feel discouraged or concerned about safety when you are an intersex trans girl. I want people to know that I struggle every day, even though I am comfortable within my identity. Every day has its unique struggles and I take them in stride, always looking for signs and positive light.
What have been some of your happiest moments?
I feel the happiest when I am onstage. I started to share my poetry and writing with people, and was encouraged to submit a poem about being intersex to a production that explored gender, race, sexuality, and identity. I performed this piece to 200 people on a beautiful stage at Western University. It was one of the happiest moments ever. There was a huge burden lifted from performing my truth, and hope that I would inspire others to be themselves and speak their own truths.
Another one of my happiest moments was the first time I performed at a poetry slam, reading a poem I wrote about my friend who had recently passed. This was my very first time performing on a stage to an audience of strangers. I felt a little nervous, but felt I was doing exactly what I was meant to be doing.
Tell us about your proudest moments?
One of my proudest moments was when I found the inner strength to tell my parents that I am a girl. They were supportive and helped me start the journey to HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and the legal process of officially changing my name. Another one of my proudest moments was when I got to play the cowbell for a band called Creekside Strays, at my friend’s band, High School Sweetheart’s CD release show.
“Every day has its unique struggles and I take them in stride,
always looking for signs and positive light.”
What are your biggest goals?
My biggest goal is to change people’s views on gender so I can make people’s lives better. I was so alone for so long in the closet, and know that it would be helpful for somebody who’s in the closet to hear my story. I would like to speak my truth to audiences with the hopes of educating, breaking down our society’s rigid gender barriers, and making the world a better place for everyone.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Speak your truth.
What advice do you have for anyone who is struggling with their identity (in terms of gender, sexuality, etc.)?
You aren’t alone. This isn’t rare. Gender is socially constructed, which means it is not abnormal to be transgender, intersex, or anything outside of the “norm.” There are people and resources available to you, even if your own family doesn’t support you. IT GETS BETTER.
If you could go back in time and tell your 13-year-old self-one thing, what would it be?
I would tell my parents that I am a girl.
Thing to do on a Friday night? Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Gilmore Girls on Netflix.
Movie? Ben Affleck’s Paycheque.
Song? I’m the Lucky One by J. Boomen.
Food? Colourful salad made with local ingredients.
Biggest role models? Lori Ward and Jessica Vanden Boomen, facilitators of PFLAG in London, Ont., a support group for the LGBTQ+ community. They helped me so much grow as a person, and helped me validate my life as a trans girl.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself in a relationship with someone. We’ll have a child and live in an apartment and I’ll own my own coffee shop downtown.
A poem for yourself
Live in the moment
Everything you want in life is possible
Being unique should be celebrated and not something to be ashamed of
The power is inside of you
Be free and live
Speak as loud as you can until the earth is shaken
Speak until your voice is heard
Speak for other people who can’t speak for themselves
Speak the truth
Speak and change the world to be a better, safe, understanding place to live