It's been a heavy week. A week of emotions and learning and watching healthcare practitioners, social workers, psychologist and frontline heath-care workers come together to learn about caring for gender dysphoric, non-binary and transgender youth.
The second annual IWK Trans Health Symposium took place in Halifax on March 28 and 29th, 2019 where more than 70 healthcare workers from all over the Maritimes gathered to learn about 'Integrated care for gender dysphoric, gender non-binary and transgender children into adulthood'.
WPATH is the World Professional Association for Transgender Heath. The organization provides a benchmark standard in health care. Their guidelines outline research-backed affirmative care models for supporting gender diverse children into adulthood with healthier and more positive outcomes for living.
Living is spotlighted. Living is what matters.
By the end of the two information-packed days, hosted by IWK TransHealth Specialists, we would all leave WPATH-certified and tasked with an almighty role.
And if anyone there was a little like me, they'd have left overwhelmed with an urgency to do more, do better, share the learnings.
But how to make those on the outside listen... or care?
When I hear trauma-soaked stats; like 1 in every 3 transgender youth between the ages of 14 and 25-years-old, who are not supported, will be suicidal to the point of action; well, they could be talking about my child. And he's not yet 14-years-old.
The affirming model of care is about supporting a child's gender expression and allowing them the space to explore their identity without judgement or invoking fear of losing parental love. It's about looking beyond the binary of what 'defines a girl a girl; or a boy a boy.'
Support is needed in many ways for trans youth:
early childhood education about gender identity;
welcoming spaces - visibly welcoming spaces with staff knowledgeable in the language ensures respect and inclusion;
timely access to healthcare supports;
being affirmed as the gender you are through pronouns, proper name usage, ability to dress and present they way you want too -- but most importantly,
Family is one of the main pillars in positive healthy outcomes.
Family - whoever that may be for you - helps combat isolation. And I believe, nobody wants to feel alone all of the time;
Family provides the powerhouse of strength needed for crushing those scary ill-fated statistics. When supported by family, transgender, non-binary and gender dysphoric youth have comparable suicidality rates as all cisgender children. Which is very very low.
And yet, so many gender diverse youth are not supported or accepted by their families. They are cast out, refused, disciplined, denied. Unseen.
'The Light', is a compelling video I watched for the first time last week. I share it with a warning: it is heavy. It's visually impactful in illustrating parental fears, stigma and conflict juxtaposed against childhood determination in being yourself:
HollySiz - The Light:
For more information Families in Transition, the Central Toronto Youth Services has a wonderful resource document. PFLAG has chapters across Canada and offer monthly and sometimes weekly support meetings for families in transition. For information visit PFLAG Canada. Here in Halifax, we've two meetings monthly, one specifically to support parents of transgender and gender creative children. There is another along the south shore and peer-to-peer meetings can be arranged.
Want to help end stigma in schools?
Why not ask your child's teacher about borrowing from our Nova Scotia-based Travelling Inclusion Library! Simply Good Form and PFLAG Halifax is happy to provide a letter outlining descriptions of all of our K+ suitable books available free to schools.