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My mom, Jeanette, worked in land surveying, and my dad, Paul, was a detective constable with the Toronto Police Service who went after sexual predators and dealt with at-risk youth. They were loving and protective of my younger brother and me, keeping us away from kids they thought would be a bad influence and enforcing a strict routine: wake up, go to school, come home, do homework, go to bed. Once, when I got home five minutes late, my dad lost his mind: “I thought you’d been kidnapped!” I was too young to realize that his concern stemmed from his work.

Growing up, I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. I woke up many mornings wanting to be someone else. The summer I turned 14, my parents enrolled me in a week-long music camp. I knew immediately that I didn’t fit in. Most kids played guitar, bass or drums and dressed the rock ’n’ roll part—ripped jeans, band T-shirts, dyed hair. I played clarinet and wore track pants and baggy T-shirts, my hair pin-straight and short like a boy’s. I was confused about my sexuality, which made me feel lost and alone. Over the course of the summer, I gained a few pounds, which made my already fragile self-esteem even more brittle. I felt ugly and fat and wanted to hide. I struggled academically. It was hard to communicate why, so I would throw my hands up and say, “I’m stupid!” My parents tried to tell me it wasn’t so, but no one could convince me otherwise.

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