Forwards, Backwards- Trans Care and Support

Today is the final day of Transgender Awareness Week, and today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance (#TDOR if you want to check Twitter for what’s happening around the world).It’s a time to “help raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and address the issues these communities face, “ as GLAAD so finely puts it.    Gender identity is our inner sense of being male, female or a unique mix. Most people never have to question gender identity, as they fit into one or other role. For trans and gender non-conforming folk, how they feel in their hearts is not how their bodies are shaped, and that can cause a lot of pain.


To state the obvious, trans people face stigma and discrimination, words we hear a lot in connection with HIV too. As with HIV, these words frequently translate into pain and suffering. Self-harm and violence against trans people are too common. A UK survey found that nearly half of trans youth had attempted suicide because of discrimination, intolerance, bullying, rejection and violence. The Trans* Violence Tracking Portal (trigger warning- some tough stuff here) monitors international stats of reports on murders, physical violence, missing persons and suicides. There are way too many.

Making society more trans educated and supportive is taking time, and that’s why weeks like this are so important. There are steps forwards and backwards. Looking locally, in the Vancouver school system there is good and troubling news. In late spring this year, the Vancouver School Board (VSB) passed a policy supporting trans kids more fully, formalizing what many say has been in practice for years. However, getting the policy passed wasn’t easy. There were numerous meetings with transphobic statements and claims made. Because of the hard work of supporters who used science based evidence and human rights arguments, the policy passed. But those challenging the policy haven’t given up. In the last few weeks their transphobia has arisen again, as a group of parents is suing the VSB over the policy. What does this say to trans kids and communities? Hopefully they are aware and energized by those of us who support them, and can carry that with them as they move through their days. I’ll be watching (and reporting on) how this develops.

Healthcare is a huge issue for trans people, who frequently encounter a lack of knowledge and support from doctors and other healthcare providers. Kudos to the American Association of Medical Colleges which has released new guidelines on how to improve med school curriculato better prepare young doctors to treat their LGBT, gender non-conforming, and DSD patients.” One of the big parts of health care can be gender affirming surgery (also known as sex reassignment surgery). It is not funded in all Canadian provinces, but it is in BC.

That doesn’t make it easy, mind you. In late October, the funding ran out for the office that works with trans people to assess their eligibility for gender-affirming surgery. The Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre released a statement that expressed deep concern about how this would affect trans people at the start of “an already long and arduous process.” Then on October 30, the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority issued a release saying “Programs and services for transgender community to be strengthened.” It promises

“Beginning April 2015, the Provincial Health Services Authority will assume responsibility for provincial co-ordination of transgender services in B.C. and will look to expand capacity for these services in consultation with clinical experts and stakeholders from the transgender community.”

More steps backwards and forwards in the process of fully integrating trans rights and health in our communities.

In honour of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, tonight there will be a memorial for trans people who have experienced violence. It’s at the Carnegie Community Centre (401 Main Street) from 7- 930.

Here at Positive Women’s Network, trans women are always welcome. C’mon in.

Photo: jschumacher, MorgueFile