The Manitoba court in Canada has a new transgender judge, and his appointment is a milestone for the province.
Kael McKenzie was appointed to the bench this week by an independent judicial nominating committee. He worked for a private practice and as a Crown attorney before getting the new job.
"I had to ask them to clarify: "What do you mean I've been appointed?'" he said. "It was surreal for me."
McKenzie's appointment is the first time in the province's history a transgender person has been made a judge.
"I'm just one example of many of my colleagues and people who are attaining certain levels of notoriety that can show people we are just people," McKenzie said. "We are just doing what everyone else does and we can achieve whatever we want to do with hard work and dedication."
McKenzie said he understands the appointment represents a symbolic moment for people in the transgender community. He said the response has been very positive and hopes that is a sign of the kind of support others like him will receive in the future.
"I mean for my community, I think it means a lot. I think it means … we've hit that glass ceiling and broke through it," he said. "As a society, I think we're pretty much there."
On Friday, MacKenzie said he received a call from someone who said they were happy to share his story with their child, who is transitioning at the moment.
"I think they thought that their child was going to have a really hard life," he said. "I think it's important that we have people who are role models in our society."
While he didn't actively set out to become a role model from the start, MacKenzie said he understands he now has that responsibility.
"I certainly can't say I ever set out to do any of the work I did, or any of my own personal journey, to be a trailblazer," he said. "But if I am, I am happy to do that and be a role model for people as much as I can be.... If I help even one person, it'll all be worth it."
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