“I was 8 years old the first time I was teased for being gay,” says Mitchel Bowers. “I didn’t want to play sports with the other boys. I wanted to make a fort and play house with some of the girls in my class.”

Mitchel, a procurement advisor with Suncor, and other members of the Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (or questioning) plus other sexual identities, or 2SLGBTQ+, community have lived many moments like this through their lives—at every new job, new meeting, new transaction—many never stop coming out.

"From classmates, to my parents, to church, growing up I consistently heard that being gay was a bad thing,” adds Mitchel. “I had no safe place to vent or explore and eventually saw in myself what I was taught to hate.”

Thankfully, Mitchel says the experience generally became easier each time, but the journey to finding themself was not an easy one. 

Before coming out, even to themselves, Mitchel began acting out and rebelling, eventually turning to thoughts of suicide and made two failed attempts over the next couple years. 

Opportunities to try come out to family felt futile and eventually Mitchel struggled with housing insecurity opting to stay with friends and a teacher to finish high school and leave the small town that didn’t feel like home. 

A person with pink hair.
Mitchel Bowers spent years struggling to come out to friends, family and themselves. Their experiences have fueled their passion to help others in the 2SLGBTQ+ community feel safe and supported. 

June is Pride month, providing the perfect opportunity to recognize the lives and achievements of those in the 2SLGBTQ+ community and reflect on the most common experience that unites almost every queer person: coming out. 

Whether the experience is positive or negative, slow or all at once, the mixed emotions of anxiety, anticipation and relief are all felt. 

The prospect of moving to a bigger more accepting place gave Mitchel the courage to accept themselves.

“Months before graduating, I was with one of my closest friends and casually said to her, ‘I think I like boys.’ She replied, ‘Cool, I like girls.’ It was the first time I vocalized the feelings I had been having for years and I was immediately accepted and not questioned.”

Something they had been bullied and harassed about for almost an entire decade was accepted without question. The feelings of worry and dread became relief. 

“As I’ve grown and got to know myself better, my identity has changed. First coming out as bisexual, then gay, then genderfluid,” explains Mitchel. “Finally, after reconnecting with my Métis culture, I realized the identity that fits me best is Two-Spirit. An identity that I am so proud to come out as, and to share with people.” 

Mitchel has been a force in their community during Pride month and throughout the year, supporting 2SLGBTQ+ events such as Pride YMM, speaking at Gay-Straight-Alliances and teaching the drag and theatre makeup module at a local school every semester. Their passion for helping 2SLGBTQ+ people feel safe is also part of their work life, as a volunteer and member of Suncor’s 2SLGBTQ+ employee inclusion network, Prism. 

Prism recently helped with a team at Suncor’s Fort Hills site show its pride all-year round by painting stairs the Pride flag rainbow colours in the main administrative building. Each colour of the flag has meaning. 

  • Red for life 
  • Orange for healing
  • Yellow for new ideas 
  • Green for prosperity 
  • Blue for serenity 
  • Violet for spirit 
  • Black or brown for people of colour 
  • White, blue and pink for the trans community 
People stand on a set of stairs. Each stair is painted a different colour
The stairs in the Fort Hills administrative building have been painted for Pride.

“Now every time I come out to someone new, it is a reminds me of all the Two-Spirit people who have stewarded this land for time immemorial and have actively opposed colonial views of gender and sexuality, of homophobia and heteronormativity. Now when I come out, where I used to hold shame and regret, I now hold pride and honour.”