Pride in the Trades: Eoin Helmsen

Our Pride in Trades series chats with Eoin and learn what their experience as a trans tradesperson has been like.

COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of many Pride events this year, but apprentice cabinet maker Eoin Helmsen says it will always be an important celebration for the LGBTQ+ community.

“Pride is still very necessary in the fight for equality, especially for trans folks. But, also queers,” they say. “People sometimes use micro aggressions in the workplace, like asking how you have sex. Or they don’t use your pronouns.”

Eoin identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns. They were working as a geotechnical engineer a few years ago but travelling to mines in isolated communities for months at a time forced them to think about shifting gears.

A trades foundation program at BCIT helped Eoin realize that a love of woodworking could make for a great career as an apprentice cabinet maker.  

“The experience at BCIT was fantastic,” they say. “The joinery program is welcoming to everyone. It’s not easy work, and there’s a lot of on the job problem solving. But if you like to work with your hands, be creative, work hard and have an eye for precision, this can be a great career.”

Being trans in the workplace hasn’t always been easy. Although Eoin had positive experiences as a newcomer in the trades, they were recently let go from a cabinet making job because of a conflict with a transphobic colleague.

The incident has spurred Eoin to activism. They filed a complaint with WorkSafe BC and plan to continue fighting against widespread discrimination against those who identify as transgender. “There is still a lot of work to be done in that area and Pride is still very necessary,” they say.

For now, Eoin and their wife are enjoying life on the Sunshine Coast, where they moved a few years ago. Eoin is a second-year apprentice, and hopes to start up a cabinet making business in the future.

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