Morgane Oger likes to believe social change is in her blood. Her grandfather was excommunicated from the Catholic church for providing abortions; her great-grandmother was convicted as a terrorist for her protest efforts only to be knighted for them years later.
Perhaps that’s why when Morgane came out as a trans woman, she quickly became a champion of gender diversity. As chair of Vancouver’s Trans Alliance Society and a member of the city’s LGBTQ2+ Advisory Committee and the BC Safer School Coalition, she helps to influence policy-makers, organize inclusive events and “demystify and humanize” gender identity. “Essentially, what I’m trying to do is normalize it and give as many people as possible an opportunity to have a trans person in their experience.”
Growing up, Morgane didn’t have that. Born Ronan Oger in Rennes, France, she spent her childhood following her academic parents across France, Morocco and the United States. “I was so busy constantly adapting to new locations, spaces and cultures, I didn’t have any time to think about my gender identity.” But even at a young age, she adds, “I remember distinct memories of being different from the boys.”
Those feelings intensified when Morgane moved to Vancouver in Grade 10. “As a trans youth, you’re desperately trying to fit the mould,” she says. “I was the most hapless teenager in the universe.”
After initially studying medicine, Morgane switched to mechanical engineering because of the University of British Columbia’s naval architecture program. “I was going to be the one who figured out how to talk to whales and dolphins,” she says with a laugh. When that didn’t happen, she decided, “if I can’t be a marine biologist, maybe I can be a submarine scientist.” With her colleagues, she founded a celebrated human-powered submarine racing team—the first non-American squad to compete internationally.
After graduating, Morgane followed a partner to Germany and Switzerland, where she worked in IT. “Through all of this, my identity was so secret,” she says. “Every once in a while, I’d tell my partners about it, and that was usually the end of the relationship.”
Morgane returned to Vancouver with her partner in 2009 and, as she started to look after her two small children, she began to, “as a friend put it, bleed gender identity issues.” The first Mother’s Day was painful, as she couldn’t tell her family that she wanted that for herself. She also felt like she was misleading her kids when she told stories about her past. Eventually, she opened up—first, to her kids. “I couldn’t lie to my children anymore,” she says. “So I started telling them about my gender identity. I found it so freeing.” Morgane’s relationship with her children’s mother ended when she began transitioning, but she says she’s otherwise had few negative experiences as a trans person.
Morgane is an advocate, but, she doesn’t call herself an ambassador. “I don’t represent trans people,” she says. “I only represent myself.” Still, it wouldn’t be in her nature to take a back seat in the battle for trans rights. “You can live your life being angry and having society eat you up, or you can live your life trying to make changes. That’s the road I decided to take.” — Luc Rinaldi
(Portrait by Jimmy Jeong)