When she first came out, Kelly Schwab couldn't find many coming out stories from Canadians online. There were testimonials from people in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and more, but the transgender woman wanted to hear from Canadians.
After she connected with Cary Scott online, the two decided to co-found and produce their own online series to elevate gender diverse voices. They've now launched the Trans Canada Project.
The project includes interviews with people in Ontario, Alberta and the Martimes, but it starts with themselves.
"It was very emotional, but it was also very cathartic," Schwab told CBC Saskatchewan's The Afternoon Edition. "It really released a lot of good feelings and was just so nice to be able to get it out."
In the series, Schwab shares how she had a happy childhood growing up in Prince Albert, but would go to sleep crying and praying to be a girl. She said she received so much support from the LGBTQ community after coming out that sharing her story was a way to give back.
The series launched in April on YouTube. The reaction has been very positive so far, especially for the people who shared their stories, Schwab said.
"The cast members themselves are so thrilled to have a venue. They didn't think anyone would be interested in hearing their stories. But the stories have been so poignant and so beautiful to listen to," Schwab said.
LISTEN | Kelly Schwab spoke with Garth Materie on CBC Saskatchewan's Afternoon Edition
Schwab said she has learned through the project that she's not alone. She said there's a thread of happiness and joy throughout all the stories.
"It's something I've felt as well, that being able to transition and being able to be my authentic self has brought me an enormous sense of relief and joy. And that seems to be a feeling shared by most of the people we talk to," she said.
Schwab hopes gender diverse people see their own experiences reflected and know they're valuable, unique and not isolated.
"The larger population, we would love them to be able to see trans, non-binary people as just regular people that are," Schwab said. "Just part of your neighborhood, part of your own community … just people who love like everybody else."
Schwab and Scott are continuing to look for people throughout Canada to share their stories in hopes of capturing the diversity of the country, Schwab said. The two had to conduct the interviews virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but hope to travel in-person soon.