They were addressing serious topics, but they often had people laughing.
Chris Cochrane and Lynn Jones were the guest speakers at Truro’s International Women’s Day luncheon which was organized by The Lotus Centre.
Chris Cochrane talked about the challenges she faced growing up in Glace Bay and not fitting in with the other boys.
“I wanted to have the long flowing hair and I wanted to wear the nice frilly dresses,” she said. “I literally asked my mother when I was 10 years old, ‘When are my boobs going to come in?’ And she frankly told me. ‘I don’t think it’s going to happen.’ And then I gained 300 pounds and they came in.”
She joined the navy and secretly began to perform in drag. She calls the drag performances the catalyst that propelled her into being the person she is today.
When she told her family she was going to be a woman and start taking hormones she got an unexpected response. Her mother, who was serving dinner, said, “That’s nice. Do you want gravy on your potatoes?”
Her family was supportive, and only urged her to be safe, but there was danger ahead.
In June 2011, she was shot in the arm by men who showed up at her door and were yelling at her for being transgender. Showing her resilience, she was back on stage three days later.
Cochrane now lives in Halifax, where she works as an esthetician and makeup artist, and is known to many by her drag persona of Elle Noir.
Civil and human rights activist Lynn Jones, who grew up in Truro, and was the first African Canadian to join the executive of the Canadian Labour Congress, said having only two people from the labour movement attending the event was unacceptable.
“In the town of Truro, to begin with, there should be no International Women’s Day without a strong labour presence in the house actively taking part, actively being here, actively supporting financially and otherwise.”
She said when she was working with the trade union movement she found people were often affected by gender and race.
“I was doing women’s work within that movement and at that time, keep this in mind, there weren’t human rights committees or anti-racism committees. In fact, even sometimes womens’ committees were just being organized, and I remember thinking that what affects me often more is racism.”
Jones, who is chair of the Nova Scotia chapter of the Global Afrikan Congress, also read from a book the organization put together by working with children. The book, ‘R is for Reparations,’ is designed to help children learn the alphabet while looking at issues such as the slave trade and poverty.
Two young Indigenous singers - Jaici Syliboy, from Sipekne’katik First Nation, and Summer Syliboy, from Millbrook First Nation, also took part in the women’s day event, performing the strong woman song.