Becoming a man

Shaun LaDue was a five-year-old girl when he picked the name "Shaun" for himself. He was 44 before he told anyone. LaDue, a First Nation man from Ross River, is transgendered.

Shaun LaDue was a five-year-old girl when he picked the name “Shaun” for himself. He was 44 before he told anyone.

LaDue, a First Nation man from Ross River, is transgendered.

He was born with a female body, but feels more comfortable living and identifying as a man.

But it took him a long time to come to that realization.

“I didn’t tell anybody because the people in my life at the time weren’t listening to me and didn’t really care about me. It was a secret I kept to myself.”

It was a counsellor in Vancouver who broke the silence.

“One day I talked to a counsellor and said, ‘I’ve had these dreams about being a man all my life.’ “He said, ‘You’re transgender.’

“It was like a light bulb going off. I grabbed a computer and typed in ‘transgender’ and started reading other men’s stories about transitioning, and the knowing that we all seem to have.”

LaDue had never heard the word “transgender” before. He finally had a name for the feelings he had been living with his whole life.

He started taking testosterone a year ago. He injects himself every Sunday morning.

“Your body changes. It masculinizes the body. Your voice deepens. You get muscles.”

It also changed the ways he perceived the world, he said.

Watching TV, he would notice a deeper identification with male characters, seeing the world a little more clearly through a man’s perspective, said LaDue.

Everything has changed for LaDue since coming out as a man, he said.

He feels more confident, more comfortable in his own skin.

The people in his life have been incredibly supportive, he said.

“I haven’t lost any friends. My ex-husband said, ‘It’s about time you came out.’ He’s my best friend. My ex-girlfriend, now she calls me her brother, her big brother.”

He came out to his family and community in Ross River through a letter to his brother.

“The letter explained very specifically what I was going to do, and that my name was now Shaun. Explaining about HRT, hormone replacement therapy, and about the surgeries I was going to be undergoing in the future. I explained that I was a lousy woman but I was a good human being, and I was meant to be a man.”

He told his brother to share the letter with anyone he thought should see it.

“I think he took it around to everybody in the community.”

He was nervous coming home for the first time after that, he said.

“I hitchhiked home. I was walking on crutches back then, because I had a minor nerve conduction problem, I wasn’t walking real stable.

“My aunt’s man picked me up, and he recognized me.

“He said, ‘Oh, you’re Shaun.’

“I went, ‘Yeah.’

“‘Oh, good to see you again.’

“Everybody said they loved me, and they accepted me for who I am. They were proud that I was willing to come home and show them that this is who I am.”

Growing up wasn’t easy for LaDue.

He was taken from his parents as a baby, and adopted into a “very destructive household,” he said.

“I bounced through life for quite a while, just going from one plan to the next. I was in the army for a while, I was in university for a while, just going back and forth, and not sure what I wanted to do.”

LaDue eventually graduated from the Yukon Native Teacher’s Education Program, he said.

He did teaching stints in Yukon, South Korea, and British Columbia.

He returned to Ross River and taught at that community’s Yukon College campus.

Now he splits his time between Ross River and Vancouver, mostly for health reasons, he said.

He is a writer and an actor.

LaDue is working with a new television comedy, The Switch, about living as a trans person in Canada.

He also has written a chapter for an upcoming book, Manning Up: Transexual Men on Finding Brotherhood, Family & Themselves.

He wants more people to hear his story, especially here in the Yukon, he said.

“More people are coming out of the closet as being transgendered, and I think people need to hear that there are transgendered people in the Yukon, living here. I think the government needs to know it, too, so they can have a transgender health program.”

He doesn’t know any other trans people from the Yukon, he said. But they have always been here.

“I know a story from a long time ago, that there were transgendered people living amongst the Kaska people.

“It was usually a ceremony where, when a family had too many daughters, the girls who were closest to the age of about five were part of a dance that happened where they had two blankets.

“On one blanket they had all men’s tools and on another blanket they had all the women’s tools. And the girls would be danced around these two blankets. The girls would pick up the tools that called to them.

“The girl that picked up men’s tools, from that day on, she would be raised up as a boy, as a man. And she’d even be given a wife. That couple would be given any orphan children to raise up.”

Forty years late, finally, LaDue is coming home.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at