Finding our Bliss.
A more apt title probably couldn’t be found for a recently-launched art exhibit that offers an intimate and raw look into the life of a teenager who has finally started to find himself and a mother who has helped share in his journey and has come to revel in his transformation.
The exhibit, part of Struts Gallery’s Living is Easy series, features a myriad of artwork by 15-year-old Bliss Behar and his mom Meg Edwards created over the last three years, a time in which the pair shared an intense passage of change.
Meg says she and her son felt it was important to do the show “to show our story” and to perhaps get people thinking about their preconceptions about gender.
Bliss, a Grade 10 student at Tantramar Regional High School, says sharing his personal journey hasn’t been easy but it’s something he felt needed to be brought out into the public eye. And his artwork was his way of relating how he has been feeling throughout his transition from a girl to a trans guy.
“I just felt it needed to be out of the way, something to be addressed that people were always wondering about,” says Bliss.
“I want people to know, rather than just think stuff.”
Bliss and his mom have always had a close relationship – and that didn’t change as a preteen Bliss, at the time known as Maude, began to question and struggle with his identity.
The two shared many long car rides and long talks as they both grappled with what was happening, becoming even closer throughout the process.
So doing a mother-and-son show seemed to be a natural fit.
“We’ve kind of been transitioning together so we thought we would have a lot to say about it from different perspectives . . . about mentally and physically transitioning together,” says Bliss.
The collaborative exhibit, which will be on display until Sept. 6, draws from their experiences over the past three years, from blog writings to paintings, from hooked rugs to sculpture installations, along with re-created photo albums, baby books and passports.
Bliss was about 11 or 12 when he remembers starting to feel inner turmoil, suffocated by many of his thoughts and his uncertainty. A Grade 5 student at Port Elgin Regional School, Bliss says no one really talked about LGBTQ issues there. He tried to find ways to be comfortable in his girl’s body, trying out different styles, different hair cuts and even different friends – but none of that was working.
When he transferred to Marshview Middle School in Grade 7, however, that’s when things started to change.
“There was just a different kind of openness there,” he says, which allowed him to start feeling more comfortable and to open up.
For Meg, she was trying to wrap herself around what was happening to her child and admits she didn’t know much about what it meant to be transgender. So, as she began to educate herself, through books and videos and lengthy discussions with Bliss, she herself went through a bit of a metamorphosis in her life.
“It was mind-blowing for me. It made me rethink everything,” she says. “We were sort of walking each other through this.”
When Bliss was 13, his mom took him to see an endocrinologist in Saint John where they began discussing the different treatment options he could take. Several months later, he began taking very low dosages of testosterone, a bit at a time, to ease slowly into the transition.
During this first stage of his transition, Bliss was homeschooled for his Grade 8 year and spent a lot of his spare time creating art.
But Bliss decided to return to school in Grade 9, a year that he absolutely blossomed, according to his mom. Even with having top surgery in the middle of the year, Bliss earned high honours and music awards, made lots of new friends, continued his artworks, and founded the school’s queer room for LGBTQ youth. He also became involved in helping organize the climate strikes in Sackville, where he read his own poetry.
“He’s just so much happier and more outgoing,” says his mom.
Meg says she has no regrets about helping her son out on his path to transition, saying it felt more painful for Bliss to be a different version of himself rather than the authentic person he is now.
She hopes telling their story might help make someone brave enough to come out and be who they want to be.
Bliss says he feels fortunate that his mom has been so accepting and been willing to shake away her conceptions of gender, to support him in becoming his true self.
“I was pretty lucky that it’s been a fantastic transition.”
They both truly have ‘found their bliss’.