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Gemma Hickey gives powerful speech about identity at Stephenville event

Gemma Hickey is seen given the keynote speech at the International Women’s Day event in Stephenville on Friday to a full house of 120 people at the Caribou Curling Club.
Gemma Hickey is seen given the keynote speech at the International Women’s Day event in Stephenville on Friday to a full house of 120 people at the Caribou Curling Club. - Frank Gale

Gemma Hickey and Janice Kennedy say they made history this week in Stephenville.

Kennedy, executive director with the Bay St. George Status of Women Council, said she didn’t think it was acceptable for Hickey to have to choose male or female in order to check into their flight (Hickey prefers the pronoun “they.”) Kennedy then called Provincial Airlines and insisted Hickey, who identifies as non-binary, was issued the first plane ticket that didn’t include gender markers.

It's a sentiment Hickey certainly appreciated.

“As someone who has walked 938 kilometres across this glorious island of ours, I appreciate you going the extra mile,” said Hickey, who was keynote speaker at an International Women’s Day event hosted by the Bay St. George Status of Women.

In the speech entitled Roads, Hickey talked about a connection to the Bay St. George area while doing a walk across the province. A week into the walk and three more to go, with swelled legs and inner thighs raw from chafing, Hickey sat in an ice bath.

Hickey’s body felt like a frozen carcass.

“Weeping, I looked down at my body," they said. "It was as though I saw it again for the first time. I forgot I was a survivor and remembered how I was hurt, not from my immediate wounds – only skin deep — but from wounds of the past.”

Hickey said those wounds were much deeper and surviving the sexual abuse suffered, but doing fine at that moment, it was as if the body held memory.

“I remembered the little child, still hurting," Hickey said. "I had to come out of myself and in doing so asked myself this question: ‘Was I abused as a boy or a girl?' "

A couple of years ago Hickey came out of another closet, telling the world about being transgender.

“You know what, I finally began to love myself," Hickey said. "I may have been broken, but I put the pieces back together. I’m no longer haunted by fear because I’m letting my light shine."

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