July 21, 2019
Sea Beyond Binary: Pflag Halifax and The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
A humungous HUG to everyone who came out to show their support for Pflag Halifax and The Canadian Museum of Immigration's first annual Halifax PRIDE event in July. Under the Sea was where we were transported for an afternoon of celebration with about 138 children and families; strutting their sea-themed costumes and taking part in all the fabulous free activities. Special thanks to all our volunteers, Elle Noir, Haus of Jeckyll, MAC Make-up, LUSH Cosmetics, Woozles and Atlantic Cirque.
Photos courtesy of Robert Kirby, Calnen Photography. Click to see all the photos from the event.
Halifax Pride event celebrates LGBTQ youth and supportive families
Une activité familiale non binaire au Musée canadien de l’immigration de Halifax
Support Network For Parents Of Transgender Youth Launches
Posted on Wednesday, January 9, 2019 16:29 PM
A new support network is being set up on the South Shore for parents of transgender and gender diverse children and teens.
The network is headed up by BriAnna Simons of BriAnna Simons Therapeutic Services, who says there are few supports for parents of transgender youth under 16.
Simons works with people with younger transgender kids and says parents often feel isolated, like they are the only ones out there who are going through the experience.
"As people kind of get to know there are other people, it's like a snowball effect, once somebody connects with one person then they say 'oh, I know this person' and everybody starts to unite," says Simons.
Simons says it's easier in larger places like Halifax but on the South Shore, there's nothing that meets the needs she's identified.
This is way for parents to get linked up to professional services they might not know was aware of and also guide them through the experiences their children are going through says Simons.
"This is a population that essentially doesn't have a whole lot of services because there's not a lot of talk about it," says Simons.
Cyndi Sweeney with PFLAG (Parents and Friends for All) Halifax is also helping with organizing the network.
PFLAG Halifax aims to help parents better understand their LGBTQ children.
"They're scared and looking for support and looking for information on what (coming out) means," says Sweeney. "When you sit down and traditionally think about having children, you don't usually think about what happens if they identify differently."
Sweeney met Simons in a parent support group themselves and she says they recognized there was a void in support for parents on the South Shore, who may not always be able to travel to Halifax.
The first meeting is set for tonight at 7 tonight (January 9) at 4171 Highway 3 in Chester.
A meeting will be scheduled once every three months, unless parents express an interest in having more frequent meetings or other types of social activities like play groups.
Story by Brittany Wentzell
The Chronicle Herald:
Transgender Awareness Week wraps up
Published: Nov 19 at 10:01 a.m.
Updated: Nov 20 at 6 a.m.
Local activists encourage education year-round
It was a year and a half ago when Cyndi Sweeney noticed her youngest child’s marks at school were suffering and they were becoming more isolated, distancing themselves from friends. Then one day, Sweeney says her child told her he’s a boy and that he’s in the wrong body.
“It was like a bomb was dropped on us, but we didn’t know how big the crater would be for weeks,” Sweeney says. “We didn’t know what it meant; we had no experience with it.”
This past week was Transgender Awareness Week and Transgender Day of Remembrance is today (Tuesday, Nov. 20), which honours those murdered because of transphobic violence. Since Dillon came out as transgender, Sweeney has worked to support him and other transgender children and their families.
She created a blog (simplygoodform.com), where she shares her family’s story, helps other families and shares other positive stories about transgender and gender-diverse people to counter transphobic information online.
“There’s so much misinformation online that I wanted to draw that out and I wanted to share valid studies, valid research with the hopes that, one day, when people will search what it means to be transgender, the good links will come up,” Sweeney says.
She’s also the chapter leader of PFLAG Halifax, a local LGBTQ support, resource and education network that hosts support meetings the first Monday of every month. There is a PFLAG chapter in Truro.
Jay Aaron Roy says he celebrates transgender awareness every week at his store, Cape and Cowl Comics and Collectibles in Lower Sackville. But the shop is more than a comic store. Roy created a drop-in centre here for youth where they can get counselling and connect with others. It’s a year-round safe space for LGBTQ youth.
Roy says the drop-in centre is the “beating heart of my store.” Roy is an expert and fan of comics, but says the store also serves as a fun and welcoming place for youth who are transgender. He says they’re more comfortable there rather than at clinics and don’t have to face the stigma from others.
“No one is going to question why a youth is going into a comic book store,” Roy says. “It’s another way to support youth who may not be supported at home.”
Roy came out as transgender at the age of 27. He says his mother was always supportive of him, including in high school when he was being bullied. Only after he came out did Roy learn his mother started an art business in their community to keep an eye on the bullying behaviour. That art business was a safe place for Roy years before he’d create his own.
Roy says he often turned to the internet, particularly YouTube, to hear stories of other transgender youth. Today, he creates his own videos for YouTube that reach youth beyond the store.
“If there is anything I want to teach cis people is it’s just to listen,” Roy says. “It’s OK to sit in a space and recognize you don’t know something and to listen and learn.”
Sweeney says she wants those families whose children identify as transgender to know they’re not alone. Early in Dillon’s transition, Sweeney turned to his teacher, who suggested she talk with the guidance counsellor at his school, who knew about transgender issues. She was encouraged to contact the IWK Health Centre for support. The children’s hospital has a transgender health team, including a social worker and psychiatrist, that Sweeney says sees about 85 new families each year. Sweeney says they were on the wait-list at the IWK Health Centre and eventually worked with a registered counselling therapist with expertise in transgender youth.
“The supports are there if they can reach out and just to continue to love their child and follow their lead,” she says. “The child will lead you were they want to go. And it gets easier.”
These days, Sweeney says Dillon’s life is better every day and she’s continually inspired by his bravery and how he stands up for himself.
“He’s happier, his marks are soaring and he’s going to be able to live a really great life because we’re going to support him,” says Sweeney.
For more information, visit iwk.nshealth.ca/mental-health/youth/facing-sexuality.
Transgender Day of Remembrance honours those who have lost their lives
'Without visibility like this we can't foster acceptance and inclusion for all transgender people'
Paul Palmeter · CBC News · Posted: Nov 21, 2018 6:31 AM AT | Last Updated: November 21
Cyndi Sweeney and Halifax mayor Mike Savage at Tuesday's flag raising ceremony. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)
Halifax mayor Mike Savage was joined by members of the Halifax transgender community Tuesday morning for a flag raising ceremony at Grand Parade to mark the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was founded in 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender woman, to memorialize the murder of transgender woman Rita Hester in Allston, Mass.
"This is extremely important to have this day recognized here in Halifax," said Cyndi Sweeney, the chapter leader of PFLAG Halifax.
"Without visibility like this we can't foster acceptance and inclusion for all transgender people in our community."
PFLAG Canada is a national charitable organization founded to unite families and allies in support of loved ones in the LGBTQ community.
The transgender flag was raised at Grand Parade in Halifax on Tuesday. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)
The transgender flag flew all day Tuesday to honour and remember people who lost their lives to anti-trans violence in the last year.
Sweeney gave birth to three girls but her youngest, now 12 years old, began transitioning to a boy a couple of years ago when he was in Grade 5.
"When a child comes out and transitions it's difficult to pull all the pieces together," said Sweeney, who says Dillon suffered a broken nose in a playground altercation with a male student.
"We need to be doing more education around gender in schools because it would help us define who we are on the inside, because not everybody fits into the boxes that we've been labelled when we were born."
Cyndi Sweeney's child Dillon began his transition when he was in Grade 5. (Submitted by Cyndi Sweeney)
The IWK Health Centre has a Transhealth Clinic and over a four-year period new referrals to the unit have almost quadrupled, going from 14 in 2014 to 55 in 2017.
"I always say sexual orientation is who you go to bed with, while gender identity is who you go to bed as," said Sweeney.
"Unfortunately our society is structured in a way that children become acutely aware at an early age that to identify differently doesn't fit and it's not right and that's the narrative that needs to be changed."
Jessica Dempsey began her transition seven years ago and attended the flag raising ceremony.
"I'm happy because there are people who have survived, but there are still a lot of challenges we face," said Dempsey.
"People who are trans-feminine like myself face a disproportionate amount of discrimination in things like employment and housing."
CBC Information Morning
Nov. 20, 2018 Radio interview - Transgender Day of Remembrance 2018
CTV: N.S. students will be able to choose preferred name and gender in school system
Published Tuesday, October 9, 2018 10:17PM ADT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 10, 2018 8:13AM ADT
Students in Nova Scotia will soon be able to choose how they want to be identified in the provincial school system when it comes to their preferred name and gender.
For two Grade 11 students at Citadel High School, learning they will soon be able to use their preferred names and genders in school records is happy news.
“It's good to know that they're finally coming around and changing that because it's more comforting and making school safer for people,” said student Ray Lucas.
Grade 11 students Ray Lucas and Hanley Smith are celebrating the fact that students across Nova Scotia will soon be able to choose how they want to be identified in the provincial school system.
“It's about inclusion, and it’s about respecting every child's right to privacy and to be accepted,” said Cyndi Sweeney, who was part of a group supporting families around gender identity. She lobbied for the change after her child was mis-gendered on his report card.
Hanley Smith was also pleased with the news.
“It also affects the idea of like, this is another human being, we don't need to look at them differently,” Smith said.
By the end of this month, all Nova Scotia students will be able to choose the name they would like to use at school -- for everything from report cards, to attendance lists, to honour rolls.
“If a student enters a preferred name in their registration process, or if they make a request for a preferred name, that preferred name will be automatically populated into all areas of their school life,” said Joanne Syms of the Nova Scotia Education Department.
A high school health coordinator says the move will make a huge difference for trans students in particular, who right now run the risk of being inadvertently “outed” at school.
“So, if your classmates see that name, maybe you're not even out as a trans student, you're just a boy, and if you read a very female name, they're gonna be like ‘oh, oh!’ and know something about you,” said Erin Poirier, the youth health centre coordinator at Citadel High.
There are exceptions to this new policy: a student's legal name has to appear on their graduation certificate and high school transcript, unless the student changes their information through vital statistics.
“As of January, there will be no charge (for) that, students will be able to go with their parents and actually change their gender marker,” Syms said.
That news has been a long time coming for Cyndi Sweeney.
She's part of a group supporting families around gender identity. She lobbied for the change after her child was mis-gendered on his report card.
“It's about inclusion, and it’s about respecting every child's right to privacy and to be accepted,” said Sweeney.
For her, and for some students, what's in a name makes all the difference in creating that inclusive place where everyone can learn.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Heidi Petracek.