NEW WATERFORD, N.S. — Faith and courage.
Jordyn Crocker, 16, of New Waterford didn’t have to search for either because she has plenty.
Crocker, a Grade 11 student at Breton Education Centre (BEC) and professional performer, was born a boy but says she’s transgender and on a journey to being true to herself.
“I would say transgender because I feel, yes I’m a woman, a transgender woman,” said Jordyn. “I’m here now and there’s further steps I can take as anyone else would take further steps in their life.”
Knowing she will be in the spotlight throughout her life, Jordyn said she’s simply putting it all out there now and then will continue to move on with her busy life.
"“Our story to us is normal. We’re just us."
“I’m going to be a performer my whole life and that has nothing to do with whether I’m a woman or a man.”
By sharing her story, she also hopes to help others going through the same journey and educate the public.
“I know there’s a lot of people that don’t know much about it and I want them to know it is happening and it does happen and that it can happen with anyone.”
Growing up in a musical family, Jordyn’s mother Jenn Sheppard says Jordyn was always noted for being outgoing and personable from a young age.
Sheppard is a professional musician, graphic designer and former radio deejay. Jordyn’s stepfather Stephen Muise is a music educator at BEC, professional musician and conductor/business manager and technical director with the Men of the Deeps, Cape Breton’s world-renowned coal mining choral group.
“If our story helps for somebody else to feel more normal in their own skin or gives them a way to finally come out and tell someone what’s going down with them, then great,” Jenn said.
“Our story to us is normal. We’re just us. We don’t wake up every day and worry about it, we don’t wake up every day and worry about today.”
GETTING TO KNOW: Jordyn Crocker:
- Age: 16
- Grade 11 student at Breton Education Centre (BEC) in New Waterford.
- Has performed professionally since age eight.
- Prolific songwriter who takes the lead on recording, arranging, editing and the production of her own music. Currently has 30 songs including a four-song demo on iCloud.
- Plays many instruments including piano, bass, guitar clarinet and trumpet.
- Studied hip hop, step and highland dancing with the Forrester School of Dance.
- Member of two Cape Power Sydney Cheerleading teams.
- Co-editor of the BEC school paper ‘In the Kave.’
- Volunteers performing annually during the Palliative Care memorial services.
- In her spare time Jordyn enjoys working on music, being with friends and four-wheeling.
- Jordyn can be reached on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/jordynmichelle;
- instagram: @jordynmichelle16; twitter: @face_friendly and firstname.lastname@example.org
THE EARLY YEARS: Realizing Jordyn is transgender didn’t happen overnight
Jenn said Jordyn always had a caring personality. Daycare workers would often say instead of napping she’d be rubbing the back of another child who was sad or having a rough day.
“She’s always looking out for underdogs and when she spotted one she’d make sure that person didn’t feel left out or scared.”
It wasn’t surprising Jordyn’s musical career launched at age eight with her first paid gig at Glace Bay’s Savoy Theatre with The Three Pianos. She’s been constantly centre stage since, including most recently with ‘Legends’ which sold out in record time and added a third night.
“Jordyn has performed with us more times than we can count,” said Jenn.
Jordyn said her journey began when she was 12 or 13 years old. At that time, she realized she had a lack of interest in things the guys did and found things girls were doing more enjoyable.
“I always wanted to be in a clique of girls.”
She remembers attending a birthday party and the girls going to the bathroom together to share their secrets, sneaking her in.
“I had a ball,” Jordyn said.
That’s a time when Jordyn began to realize she didn’t know who she was and would spend time self-reflecting.
By Grade 7, Jordyn knew where she wanted her life to go and began heading there slowly — wearing her hair a little longer and adopting a bit more feminine wardrobe.
"I always wanted to be in a clique of girls.”
“Nothing at that time anyone would notice but just for my own self to test the waters and see what I really felt comfortable in,” said Jordyn.
Jordyn has been in a tight group of four best friends since Grade Primary. One day she was shopping with one of those friends, Bailie Head, also a Grade 11 student at BEC.
“I bought nails and a small makeup product. Later at home Bailie was showing me different things about makeup.”
“She asked me, ‘Do you want to be a girl?’”
Jordyn answered, “I think so.”
Bailie said, “OK.”
Jordyn also searched a lot about the subject online and read other people’s stories.
“It’s really good to hear the experience of someone who has, maybe, finished their transition.”
In the meantime, Jenn said there weren’t big changes at home as Jordyn has wanted to dress in a feminine way since she was five years old.
Going shopping for clothes, Jordyn would leave the boy’s section and slowly make her way over to the girl’s clothes.
“It was more or less flamboyant boy outfits,” Jenn said. “We thought she was going to be a gay boy, no big deal at all.”
Jenn said they were always “attached at the hip,” so it wasn’t like Jordyn came out and told her one day that she wanted to be a girl. Gradually, she made that clear.
“One day I said, ‘I hear you, I see you and I see what you want to be and I’m going to help you get there,’” Jenn said. “What was important was for Jordyn to know she wasn’t alone in the things she was thinking and feeling.”
Jenn began researching and reaching out to people behind the scenes to educate herself to know the moves she’d need to take to help Jordyn.
“Anytime she’d bring that up with us we’d always tell her to be her true self. We’d tell her ‘You don’t have to make those decisions right now. You just have to be Jordyn.’”
Jordyn also turned to the school guidance counsellor for help.
“That’s when I knew I had to not only explain to people about me but also to make it clearer to myself,” Jordyn said.
Jenn said they are big advocates for counselling and knew Jordyn was struggling even around her family.
“We knew Jordyn was going to be careful with us because she’s full of empathy. We knew that,” Jenn explained.
“I also spent time with a counsellor, as I had questions myself and concerns as a mom.”
COMING OUT: When Jordyn first went public with her sexuality
A big step in Jordyn’s journey was the first day of Grade 8 when she officially came out publicly as a girl. Jordyn styled her long hair, put on some makeup and a pretty shirt and officially changed the spelling of her name from ‘Jordan’ to ‘Jordyn.’
Jenn admits she was worried.
“She came out in the hallway,” Jenn said. “I said, ‘Is this what you want to do?’”
Jordyn said, “Yes.”
Jenn asked if she was ready for questions and Jordyn replied she was.
“She is pretty strong-headed and always was,” Jenn said. “We were there for her. We’ve always said to her, ‘When life gets crazy you come back to this house and the people who love you will prop you up.’”
However, Jordyn said she wasn’t as nervous that day as she was excited.
Meeting up with friends en route to BEC they simply asked, “Oh cool, so this is what you want to do?”
Jordyn replied “Yes.”
“Then we went on with our day,” she added.
“The following morning, I remember I wore my hair up for the first time. After that day I wore my hair up a lot, as it showed the way I wanted to go.”
Jordyn said Grade 8 went well and so did the two years that followed.
She said she has always been friends with lots of people at her school from different experiences and was never bullied or had a rough time walking through the halls.
“I couldn’t have had a better support system at my school. The principal is one of the people I could talk to if I was having a rough time. She’s very understanding.”
There have been challenges, though.
Jordyn said on rare occasions she would hear that someone was talking negatively about her. But she said she understands that’s going to happen no matter where you go in life and concentrates on remaining positive.
“My outlook is that I’m in high school and haven’t even started life, so I’m not going to concern myself with the little things I’m going to forget in a week anyways.”
Writing her own songs since Grade 7, Jordyn found music was a great way to feel confident about herself. It was also a happy place for her to turn in tough times including one day in Grade 10 when she needed a boost and wrote “Fly.”
“Cause I'm taking control
Riding to the moonlight
Into the sunlight, baby”
Jordyn said writing music not only makes her feel better about herself but feels she learns more about herself through the lyrics she writes.
“I'm reaching a goal
To be strong and proud
Cause I will arise
And you will see me fly ...”
THE STRUGGLES: Life’s not always easy for a transgender teen
Along with support, there are struggles, including the BEC winter ball last year.
Jenn said Jordyn was upset in feeling no one would want to take her to the ball.
“I told her, ‘I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t let having no one to go with stop me from going somewhere I wanted to go.’”
Jordyn went with a group of friends.
“There’s pictures of us pigging out on ice cream and dancing,” Jordyn said.
But there’s been hurt as well.
Jordyn said what gets her down is she has laughed and had great conversations with boys who have said to her, “I really want to be your friend” and “You’re really pretty.”
But then added, “I’d totally hang out with you if you weren’t transgender.”
Jordyn’s voice broke a bit with emotion while recalling a conversation with one boy who said, “I know you’re transgender, so we can’t talk anymore.”
“I’ve had boys say, ‘Don’t tell anyone we’re talking because I don’t want to seem gay,’” she added.
“That doesn’t make any sense to me, but I understand to the outside world he’s not fully educated. It’s not his fault.“
However, Jordyn said then she tries to continue on.
“You do your hair, you take your hormones and everyone says, ‘You’re looking good,’” Jordyn said. “You’re feeling like a million bucks and talking to a boy and having great laughs when all of a sudden he says, ‘Oh, you’re transgender?’”
“Then they never talk to me again.”
“It then makes me feel angry of how people’s perceptions will change of you because of that. It’s very hurtful. There’s been nights where I’ve cried out my feelings about it.”
STRONG SUPPORT: Family and friends never wavered
Jenn said when they first moved into their neighbourhood in New Waterford, Jordyn was about four. One day, two little boys knocked on the door, one dressed in a Batman costume and the other in Spiderman, looking for Jordyn to come out to play.
“She’s just Jordyn. She’s been just Jordyn since she was born."
Jordyn looked at the outfits sadly as if to say, “I don’t have one of those.”
“Then they held up a Superman outfit and said, “We brought one for you, too.”
These two boys, Drew Baldwin and Daniel Nemis, have maintained the friendship with Jordyn through all of this and in an amazing way, Jenn said.
“They came out to the (family’s) log cabin when Jordyn was a little boy and now they come out to the cabin with her as a girl. There was never a change to how the friendship functioned.”
Meanwhile, Jordyn’s journey has continued.
Jenn said they didn’t take Jordyn to a doctor who treats transgender patients at the IWK in Halifax until she was 16. The idea was to go slow to make sure Jordyn was perfectly fine with everything in her own mind.
“When we got there they told us Jordyn, being 16, didn’t need our approval or anything to start this process. Even to take her hormone replacement therapy that’s she’s on now. She wants us to be there with her and hold her hand through it, but she doesn’t need our permission. It’s pretty important to us as a family that we all got to experience that.”
Jordyn said she feels even if you’ve gotten everything done and you’re transgender you’re technically still in transition.
“You’re not just in transition with your body but also in transition with your mindset and where you’re going.”
Through this, Jenn said she’d receive remarks from people such as, “I can’t believe how well you’re dealing with it.”
She said it tells her a lot about the person, that they are looking for an explanation.
“It’s not dealt with as a constant sense of drama or a travesty in our house. We just love each other and we show it and we expect to get love back when we act in that way.”
Jenn said there are naturally times when Jordyn is down and she faces challenges such as shopping for clothes but many of these moments are natural teenager experiences and temporary.
“Part of it is to do with the hormone therapy,” Jenn said. “Some of it is natural being a teenager and going through life.”
One day they were shopping and Jordyn got quite upset over how certain clothes looked on her.
Jenn explained to her it’s a problem everyone has with one area or another of their body and that clothes look different on everyone.
“I don’t have time for self-pity,” Jenn said. “I put her in the dressing room and went out and grabbed armfuls of clothes.”
Jenn said they take each challenge as it comes.
When people ask how she identifies Jordyn, Jenn says it’s easy.
“She’s just Jordyn. She’s been just Jordyn since she was born. The fact that she wants to wear a dress as opposed to pants to put herself out in the world really doesn’t define her.”
A fiercely close family, there are many things Jordyn and Jenn like to do together including eat, Jenn said while laughing, with cold treats at the top of the list.
“It’s nothing for Jordyn and I to hop in the car in our pyjamas in a snowstorm so we can get ice cream and Mr. Freezies at Needs.”
There are also game nights, Wii bowling and most recently it’s having fun with stereograms.
Jordyn’s older brother, Jeremy, has also been by her side. Even though he now works as a pipefitter in Alberta, they are still close.
“Jeremy has been a big source of support for Jordyn from the beginning,” Jenn said.
She has also had a great level of support from others in her life.
Danielle Aucoin, principal of BEC, describes Jordyn as, “A leader and strong role model for their students.”
“She’s overcome many obstacles with her skills and abilities.”
Aucoin said Jordyn has received great support from the student body which is because of who she is, very honest and open.
“She has great confidence, shows great empathy towards others and has strong conviction and courage. That’s what makes her such a great role model.”
Aucoin said Jordyn is passionate and inspiring and has such a big heart, has always shown selflessness and acceptance of everybody.
“That shows as she’s heavily involved in many aspects of the school and in the community. That’s a strong testament to her personality.”
WHAT'S NEXT: Jordyn’s performing career is taking off and campaign to educate others continues
Jordyn’s career has continued to heighten over the years. She performs in many capacities including at the palliative care services, Christmas Daddies and the shows at the Savoy Theatre including Happy Ha Ha Holidaze and, more recently, Legends.
Jordyn produces, records and edits her own songs in her own makeshift studio at home and currently has 30 original songs. She has recorded at Lakewind Sound Studio working with sound engineer Mike Shepherd and has a four-song demo on iCloud with hopes to have them on iTunes soon.
After high school, Jordyn plans to focus on a degree in business and administration while continuing on the path of her music career.
"I do my music. I do shows. I have friends and go out."
“It will help with the music career that I’m really aiming for but also, if I ever needed something to fall back on, I won’t regret not doing that early on,” she explained.
Looking back at her transition journey so far, Jordyn encourages others who might be going through the same thing and need help to find someone they trust to talk to.
“Also trust in yourself to remembering that a lot of things you’re doing at the time will probably not be your biggest problem in the world and are much smaller than you really think they are,” she said. “And, remember time is your best friend and taking it slow is the best way to go. It’s important going through this to understand that not everything has to happen right now.”
She said the transitioning period is different for everyone and depends where their own personal journey takes them.
“It really depends on where you are in your mindset, what you have around you and how far you are in life.”
However, Jordyn said it’s important for someone going through the transgender journey not to consume themselves with it and make it their every thought and being.
“I do my music. I do shows. I have friends and go out,” she said. “In all of that I’m also transgender. I don’t see myself as a transgender singer, I see myself as a singer that happens to be transgender.”
As well Jordyn advises others not to be afraid of people asking questions.
“It doesn’t bother me when people do ask questions for the right reasons, not someone coming up saying, ‘OK, what’s your deal?’”
For example, Jordyn said people come up and ask why she wears that wig all the time.
“I’m not wearing a wig.”
However, if someone came up and asked if she is transgender she’d tell them, “Yes.”
“It’s no one’s business if you don’t want to share it but at the same time don’t be afraid to answer some questions,” she said, offering advice to other teens in similar situations.
“You’re not just telling them about your business you’re also educating them on people everywhere.”
Where some people may think a gender is no one’s business, Jenn disagrees.
“Someone transgender wants to be recognized for their gender,” said Jenn.
Jenn and Jordyn understand not everyone agrees with their views.
“We only ask those who don’t to come with understanding and love, rather than hate,” Jenn said.
In the meantime, Jenn said nothing has changed. Their house is constantly filled with teenagers and Jordyn loves to shop for clothes and work on her music.
And they love to spend time together, Jenn added, affectionally hugging her daughter.
“And, I couldn’t be prouder.”