Black and White Image of Pree and colourful shapes around them.
Pree (they/them)

Pree (they/them)

Trusting my queer heart to guide my path

Hi IGBC! I’m Pree, and I’m so excited to share my coming-out (coming in) process, and how I’m right where I wanted to be (but didn’t think would ever be possible). To give you some insight into my positionality, I’m a fat, brown, disabled, queer, pansexual, acesexual (demisexual), working class artist-educator. And I’m pretty excited to share my narrative because I feel like a lot of the LGBTQ+ narratives we hear about, belong to cis, thin, able-bodied, white twinks. 

I was raised in a traditional, Punjabi household, by immigrant parents who did their best, but also caused a lot of harm. I was extremely sheltered and ended up being a late bloomer in all the ways that Western society deems significant. I first had internal dialogue about my queerness around age 16 or 17, and tried to talk to a brown friend about it – but they made me feel bad, and assured me I was straight. I tried to talk to my then boyfriend about it, and I got the same response. I tucked that part of myself away for a long time. It felt prickly and crossed my mind every now and then, but I thought for sure I couldn’t be one of ‘them’.

Image courtesy of @stickymangos

In my early twenties, I began having internal dialogue about my gender, and was realizing I may be trans. But raised in a homophobic and transphobic family meant I tucked this away, too. My mom was okay with my friends being queer, but she was clear that it was not okay for us (my siblings and I) to be queer.

My mental health kept deteriorating as I kept these parts of myself stuffed away. I was also dealing with other kinds of abuse and was feeling stuck in every way. I wasn’t allowed to move out because I needed to be at home to care for my little sibling, and widowed mom. I was told the only way I could move out was to get married. I almost did.

Artwork of Pree's Non-binary Body
Image courtesy of @stickymangos

I almost got married to get out, and begin living my life. The stars finally aligned and I realized I
was doing the wrong thing. I applied for a job in a different province. I got the job. I told my
mom, and assured her it was very well-paying (it wasn’t) and that it had promising room for professional growth (it didn’t), and I was on my way.

I was 25 when I moved out, and finally built a safe haven for every facet of myself. There I was, in my own room, with my own job, hopping on the STM (Montreal Subway system) to go wherever my queer heart desired. I didn’t have a coming out process in the ways white people do, for me it was more of a gradual and internal process. Two-spirit educator and professor, Alex Wilson writes about ‘coming-in’ in relation to Cree folks. She says, “Coming in does not centre on the declaration of independence that characterizes ‘coming out’ in mainstream depictions of the lives of LGBTQI people. Rather, coming in is an act of returning, fully present in our selves, to resume our place as a valued part of our families, cultures, communities, and lands, in connection with all our relations”.

Fast forward a few years, I’m back in Toronto, with a loving partner that’s been by my side
through my social transition and first gender affirming surgery, a community support system that
nourishes me in ways I didn’t even know was possible, and making a living off my art (I know!).
Let me know if you want to hear more about that part next time.

Gossip girl,
Just kidding, it’s still Pree

Image of Pree on the Beach

Pree (they/them)

is an artist educator currently based in Tkaronto, originally from Tiohtià:ke. They’e a child of immigrant settlers from Punjab. Pree’s work centres centres their identity as a queer, non-binary, trans, disabled, fat, and racialized individual. They have an interdisciplinary arts practice under the name: Sticky Mangos and co-founded the Non-Binary Colour Collective. Pree’s work has been featured in CBC, Xtra magazine, BlogTo and Salty.

Follow Pree at @stickymangos



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