Girl in the Dream


Stephanie (Sydney) Castle Heal, A Transgender Life 2018

Margot E. Wilson

Girl in the Dream is the life story of Stephanie (Sydney) Castle Heal, an advocate, activist and elder in the Canadian transgender community. The outcome of an almost four year collaboration of story-telling, recording, analysis and writing, Girl in the Dream is a first person narrative that depicts in intimate detail Stephanie’s transgender journey. The title is not only an acknowledgement of a pivotal moment in Stephanie’s young life when at the age of 4½ years old, her gender dysphoria made itself manifest in a dream that stayed in her memory for almost 90 years. The dream serves as a metaphor for her entire transgender experience and a talisman for gender mutability that today is taken for granted to a significant degree but does not reflect the reality or experiences of gender variant individuals in the early to mid-20th Century. Stephanie remarks, “When I took on the identity of Stephanie, I like to think that the image that I had in my head merged into who Stephanie became; me in female form. I am a female named Stephanie but I am also a male named Sydney. I am content with that status.” Details of Stephanie’s life prior to her transition—including her early childhood, growing up in Britain prior to the Second World War, military service in the British Navy during WWII, two marriages, immigration to Canada and the birth of two children—contextualize her experiences and her ultimate decision to undergo gender reassignment surgery at the age of 62. Our understanding of Stephanie’s many years of silence, secrecy and indecision is set against a background of familial rapprochement (or lack thereof) and the social and political times in which she grew up. An enthusiastic and accomplished raconteuse, Stephanie tells her story with the verve, passion and expressiveness of a veteran storyteller. In the end, Girl in the Dream provides a candid, revealing, nuanced and genuine rendition of Stephanie’s transgender experience in the world.

ISBN 978-1-7751027-0-0 (Paperback)

ISBN 978-1-7751027-2-4 (Smashwords e-book edition)

ISBN 978-1-7751027-3-1 (Kindle e-book edition)