By Shari Narine
Two people live in one body and each has his and her own personality. The distinction was a result of severe childhood abuse and bullying.
Massey Whiteknife does not suggest anybody “pretend they have a split personality.” But after years of counselling, he’s managed to turn what society views as negative into something that works for him. And it works for Iceis Rain, too.
“She is her own person and when I’m dressed up as Iceis, Iceis speaks for herself and she will refer to myself as Massey,” he said.
Whiteknife has been diagnosed with dissociative post-traumatic stress.
“Through counselling, I’ve learned how to hone that, and turn it into a positive and so I actually disassociate when I become Iceis and she takes over the body and I basically get to have a little rest,” he said. “I’ve learned to hone that, so I can use it as an advantage, so I can get through life.”
Whiteknife will be speaking this week at the symposium “Building Empathy, Conquering Apathy.” The two-day event begins May 17, which marks the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
It’s the second event in a three?year plan to prevent and raise awareness of human rights violations, such as gender?based violence, discrimination, harassment, and bullying at the intersections of gender?identity, race, sexual orientation, and poverty.
Whiteknife has felt that discrimination first-hand. Despite being a successful award-winning entrepreneur, CEO of the ICEIS Group of Companies in Fort McKay, he has lost clients because he is “openly gay” and performs as Iceis Rain. But he has also been “embraced by companies because of how brave I am.”
That’s why Whiteknife sees empathy as so important, and he admits, he is an empathetic person because of all the pain he’s gone through as an abuse victim.
“Without having empathy, I don’t know how people survive. For me, I want to be able to share my story to let people know … people can affect the outcome of some person’s life. And they need to take a second to look before they talk,” he said.
Later in the day, after Whiteknife has delivered his address, Rain will be performing.
Whiteknife wants people to see Rain as a two-spirited award-nominated recording artist and not as “that’s Massey in a dress.”
“When they see her, I’m hoping that they can see that they too have a second spirit and they just need to embrace themselves, their feminine side or male side … that it just means they are able to love themselves 100 per cent,” said Whiteknife.
Rain sings, does speaking engagements and conferences, and teaches courses in anti-bullying and suicide prevention.
“By being able to stand up to your fears and push back from all the adversity and just be yourself, the Creator and the Universe will be there for you and you can change your life,” he said.
The timing of such a symposium couldn’t be better, he adds.
“More than ever, with so much going on in the world, for me, I’m a big advocate for anti-bullying, suicide prevention and talking about this epidemic about fentanyl,” he said.
He adds that social media makes it easier for people to judge others.
“Words hurt and people don’t realize that. You can say something about somebody and that will affect them for the whole day, the whole week, for months, for the year, for the rest of their life,” said Whiteknife.
“The message I would love for (people) to walk away with is … not to judge a book by its cover, really. Because people see a person standing outside begging for change, they need to be able to feel that person’s pain and what they’re going through,” he said.
Without empathy, there is no understanding anybody else, Whiteknife adds.
The symposium aims to bring together educators, policy makers, human?rights advocates, academics, non-profit and front?line service workers with the goal of exploring promising approaches to preventing human rights violations, such as empathy?based human?rights education.
The “Building Empathy, Conquering Apathy” symposium takes place at MacEwan University, in Edmonton May 17 and May 18.
For more information, check out http://ccsorg.ca/events/beca/.