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B.C. trans woman looks for childhood friend in new documentary series

Joanne Wittstock is among the people looking to reconnect in the TVO show Yearbook

The missing piece in Joanne Wittstock’s life was a childhood friend whom she hadn’t seen for nearly four decades. She just wasn’t sure if he would want to see her.

Wittstock and Kent Wiley were inseparable growing up in a Toronto neighbourhood. They played and went to school together, and were even each other’s best men at their weddings.

But as their lives changed the pair drifted apart, as people do.

They last saw each other at Expo 86 in Vancouver, and in the years that followed Wiley moved halfway around the world. Wittstock meanwhile transitioned from being a man to becoming a woman. She told her family and friends, but never had the chance to tell Wiley that Jeff had become Joanne.

“I had some trepidation. I was hoping for the best, fearful for something else.”

Wittstock, who lives in Salmon Arm, is the subject of a new TVO documentary series titled Yearbook. Over six episodes, a variety of people reconnect with someone from their school days.

Wittstock’s episode features scenes shot in Nelson, where she credits the organization ANKORS with providing her support services during her transition. The series debuted Jan. 16 and can be watched in its entirely online for free at

Wittstock was approached by Yearbook’s casting director Laura Morris on the website Quora, where Wittstock writes about trans issues. She knew immediately who she would want to reconnect with.

“Childhood is formative. The people who share experiences, they’ll become part of you at the core. I think Kent knows me as well as anybody despite the fact we hadn’t seen each other for a very long time.”

Executive producer Mark Johnston was tasked with finding Wiley, who had moved to Thailand where he had a family. It wasn’t too hard — the TVO team looked him up on Linkedin — and Johnston said the timing of the call was serendipitous.

“[Wiley] was flabbergasted because I think the day before he had just been sorting through childhood pictures in which Joanne appeared.”

Wiley committed to meeting Wittstock in Toronto for a reunion, but Johnston didn’t tell him about Wittstock’s transition. That moment he would leave for the cameras.

Wittstock, a 70-year-old retired geologist, lives with her partner Marsha Bradcoe. She came out publicly as trans in 2016 or 2017, and the pair helped form Shuswap Pride Society in 2022.

In the TVO episode, Wittstock and her daughter Morgan share a scene in which they discuss how Wiley might react to seeing her. Wittstock remembers dressing in girls clothing as a child and came out to some people as a teenager, but for years she stayed silent.

When Wittstock began telling friends and family she was transitioning, it required time and a delicate approach.

“Coming out as an individual, one-on-one, done right is a complicated discussion with one other person. It’s a very high energy event. So finding the time and the opportunity to do that is not that easy.”

Reactions tend to be mixed. Wittstock estimates a quarter of the people she tells are enthusiastic, while most are apathetic. A small percentage are either hostile or eventually drift away.

The positive is that has made room for people in her life that wouldn’t be there if she hadn’t come out as trans.

Readers will have to watch the episode to find out how Wiley reacts to meeting Wittstock again for the first time. Johnston said the joy of the series is in watching people find each other.

“In all the shows, for us as filmmakers we’re kind of holding people back on each side and then releasing them as they come back together. It made for what I thought was such a beautiful reunion. It was just so wonderful after all these years.”

No matter how the reunion played out, Wittstock is confident in who she is now. It’s for the world to meet her where she is.

“My authenticity is in many ways an armour because if you’re being authentically yourself, it’s quite easy to take the attitude ‘it’s your problem, not mine.’ It’s like you either deal with it or you can’t. That’s your problem, sort it out.

“I’m happy to be a friend.”

Support services for the 2SLGBTQI+ people and their families in the Shuswap Region can be found at Essie’s Place, located at 450 Okanagan Ave. E in Salmon Arm. In Nelson, ANKORS’ Trans Connect program is at 101 Baker St.

Tyler Harper

About the Author: Tyler Harper

I’m editor-reporter at the Nelson Star, where I’ve worked since 2015.
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