Episode 18: Fibromyalgia + Gender Identity with Freeman Willerton



Freeman Willerton is a business consultant and sits on a government advisory board in Alberta, Canada. He's been on a multifaceted health journey that has changed his relationship with his body and his identity. Freeman has been living with fibromyalgia since the early 1990s, impacting how his body responds to stress. He also began transitioning his gender in 2011 and lived as a woman for the following four years. He is now re-transitioning and currently identifies as a man.

Freeman is guided by Brené Brown's work on vulnerability, shame, and how we relate to feelings of worthiness and belonging. He is always on the search for the multiple truths within himself and focused on finding balance in his life and identity. On the side, he gravitates toward any work or activity where he can find enlightenment, such as cooking, woodworking, being outdoors and adventuring.


  • Freeman outlines the dual branches of his health journey.
  • His early realization in life how people, lifestyles and social roles are gendered.
  • Getting out of a negative headspace by allowing your thoughts room to evolve and resolve.
  • How even the littlest physical steps—getting out of bed, getting outside—count toward personal progress.
  • Using the "desktop window" method of understanding thought processes and putting them in perspective.
  • Finding power in viewing physical symptoms as challenges rather than dead ends.
  • Looking for "multiple truths" in every issue and avoiding binary thinking.
  • How young Freeman felt limited by the boy "box" he had been put into.
  • Freeman's four years identifying and living as a woman, and when he began missing the masculine parts of himself.
  • Realizing how the social, gendered boxes we're put into change dimensions from era to era.
  • The challenge of "circling back" to his previous identity and dealing with deeply ingrained feelings of shame.
  • Viewing gender, disability and mental acuity through the lens of social rather than physical constructs.
  • Why having an open and flexible perspective on disability and illness can lead to greater satisfaction with our reality.
  • Freeman's surprising and humorous experience with a liver biopsy.
  • What it felt like to be automatically treated less seriously while living as a woman.

"Just because something feels bad or negative right now, it doesn't mean that there aren't positives to it as well." - Freeman Willerton


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Lauren Selfridge