A firefighter, a weightlifter and a conductor: Three LGTBQ pioneers share their stories


In communities across Canada, June marks Pride Month, a time to celebrate and commemorate the history and contributions of LGTBQ people.

From the first openly trans firefighter in the New York City Fire Department to a gay black bandleader who created Canada’s first orchestral drag show, these bold changemakers have chosen to live as themselves and to challenge preconceptions in their industries – sometimes at great personal and professional cost. risk.

Watch the documentaries that follow their journeys on CBC Gem.

Brooke Guinan: the FDNY’s first openly trans firefighter

Brooke Guinan is the first openly trans woman in the New York Fire Department. She shares her story in the documentary Woman on Fire. (CBC Docs/Woman on Fire)

Brooke Guinan is a third generation firefighter. She is also the first openly trans firefighter in the New York Fire Department.

She’s a trailblazer in a male-dominated force. There are more than 10,000 uniformed firefighters in the FDNY, and only about one percent are women.

At the first fire station where she worked, Guinan says it was hard to build relationships with the people she worked with because they didn’t accept her. In the film, her father recounts how she was humiliated at a social event when one of his fellow firefighters poured a pitcher of beer over her head.

woman on fire documents Guinan’s journey as she challenges preconceived notions of what it means to be transgender in her field and beyond.

“It took me a long time to learn the fact that the limits of the world around me didn’t have to be my own,” she says in the documentary.

“That I could be limitless in the face of a world that was not ready to understand me.”

Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser: a conductor who expands access to live orchestral music

Growing up in Calgary, Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser struggled with his sexuality. “I have often felt ‘other’ in my life”, he says in the documentary Disruptive driver.

Fortunately, he found solace in classical music. And as an adult, he found his purpose as a conductor.

Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser produced the first orchestral drag show in Canada. Its creation is shown in the documentary Disruptor Conductor. (CBC Docs/Disruptor Conductor)

“What music did for me back then was very healing, so I know what it can do for people,” says Bartholomew-Poyser. “I want people to be healed by the music they hear when they come to my concerts.”

Disruptive driver follows Bartholomew-Poyser as he strives to bring live orchestral music to groups who may not have had access to it or felt unwelcome in traditional classical music spaces . This includes youth, neurodiverse audiences, incarcerated people, and members of the LGBTQ community.

In the film, Bartholomew-Poyser collaborates with internationally acclaimed drag queen and classical violinist Thorgy Thor to create an orchestral drag show – the first of its kind – for Halifax Pride.

“We try to bring music to everyone,” he says. “We’re trying to get him out of the concert hall and into where the people are.”

Janae Kroczaleski: A Weightlifter Fighting Stigma

Janae Kroczaleski is a former United States Navy, world record weightlifter and competitive bodybuilder. After coming out as trans in 2015 and her biggest powerlifting sponsor dumping her, she made the decision to quit competing and transitioning.

Janae Kroczaleski faced discrimination in competitive weightlifting when she was outed publicly. The former US Navy and world record weightlifter shares her story in the documentary Transformer. (CBC Docs/Transformer)

The documentary Transformer follows Kroczaleski as she tries to find her place in the world and reflects on her journey.

While weightlifting was – and continues to be – a big part of her life, she says her participation in the sport as Matt “Kroc” Kroczaleski also helped her get over the feeling of wanting to make the transition. .

“I felt like the person I was was completely built,” she says.

Today, Kroczaleski works as a lecturer and has opened her own gym. She shares her story in hopes that it will inspire others to live like themselves.

“The things I do and the way I live my life, if it keeps even a child from committing suicide or a family from denying their child, then all the sacrifices I have to make are worth it.”

Watch these documentaries for free on CBC Gem.


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