Trans Connect Storyline
Trans Connect opened its doors on January 20th, 2009. Our first year and 10 months has been incredibly successful. The educational part of Trans Connect (Trans 101) has been presented in 9 communities to 16 organizations with over 203 Service Providers attending. An outcome from this is improved knowledge and skills on the part of service providers with respect to Trans awareness, which results in easier access to services for Transgender People. Another important outcome is the building of relationship between Agencies and Trans Connect, which in the future may lead to our program becoming sustainable in our rural communities. The Nelson City Police and Hospital are actively working with Trans Connect to provide training for all their employees as well as making policy changes that would dramatically effect treatment of Trans People. An unexpected outcome from the evaluations by those who participated in the workshops were that 100% said they wanted more education for their agencies in the form of policy development, Trans 201, removing barriers and social inclusiveness. This speaks to the need for Trans Connect to continue this work in our communities.
The resource and referral part of this project made it easier for Trans People to find local resources. Liaisons with community agencies such as Mental Health, the Women’s Center, Advocacy Center and the Nelson City Police have developed. In the long term this is essential to community building and sustainability.
Gender Outlaws, the peer-support/social group in Nelson, has not only grown in size, but has become self sustaining. The coordinator of Trans Connect has stepped back from an active leadership role to mentoring this group as it continues to run with internal leadership. Gender Outlaws also receives a small amount of money from another group in our community, which helps keep this important group going. An outcome of this group is the connections made to Trans People in communities outside of Nelson via email and phone. An additional Gender Outlaw group has been formed in Cranbrook to meet the needs of Transgender People in the East Kootenays.
Trans Connect has held several events, one of which is “Changing Keys”: a voice training workshop for Transgender Women offered by Shelagh Davis, a world-renown expert on this subject. This workshop was co-sponsored by the Trans Health Program in Vancouver. Outcomes included the increased self-confidence experienced by participants when talking on the phone and applying for jobs and housing. Trans Women were able to obtain skills from a trained speech pathologist that had only been available in the past in Vancouver. Technology (Skype) was used to make this possible for follow-up voice training. An unexpected outcome was that this model of training is now being examined worldwide. Another event held for the public was the Trans Day of Remembrance. This event, in conjunction with other world-wide activities to recognize Trans violence, was held twice on November 20th. Trans Connect also held an open house in the first year to invite the public to celebrate the beginning of this program where we had talks, testimonials, and some educational videos. Outcomes included support from Agencies and awareness of Transgender Issues. In the near future CPATH (Canadian Professional Association for Trans Health) will come to Nelson to train local doctors and other health care professionals on hormone assessment training. A perceived outcome of this would be more Doctors being available for the needs of Transgender patients, and Trans Connect partnering with CPATH will add to the credibility of our program.
Funding is urgently needed in order to keep this active and vital program running. We have documentation of community support for this work and testimony of its effectiveness in mitigating the challenges faced by people who do not fit the expected gender presentation according to their birth sex.
Based on our experience so far, we have targeted needs in our rural community that are beyond what we have been currently providing.
There are many people living in this area of BC who need our services and there is no other nearby organization currently providing such services. We are isolated during the winter months when driving the considerable distance to cities such as Vancouver, that also offer support Transgender People, is difficult. Even during the rest of the year many people are unable to travel this distance because of the expense or work demands. In addition, the services we provide help to build our communities, increasing understanding among people who live with and provide services to Trans People.
The presence of Transgender People in the community often engenders fear and uncertainty as to how to proceed since our culture leads one to expect that gender and sex are fixed. Service providers do not usually receive training in how to approach and treat such people who come to them for help. There is considerable confusion among such helpers as the staff at women’s shelters, hospital workers, advocacy groups, and other personnel regarding such questions as what bathrooms to allot, what criteria to use when assigning gender, and even if, in the case of women’s shelters, the client is allowed access to services. Trans Connect fills this gap in education and understanding, thus building community, creating more possibility for inclusive services, and ensuring that Transgender People are recognized and are treated as deserving human beings.
Trans Connect Successes – 1st Year
This is what we accomplished in the first year! In 2010 we are being sponsored by Columbia Basis Trust for Phase 2 of Trans Connect.
TRANS 101 WORKSHOPS FOR SERVICE PROVIDERS, MENTAL HEALTH WORKERS, EDUCATORS, HEALTH PROFESSIONALS, AND POLICE. 16 workshops were presented throughout the East and West Kootenays. 218 professionals, from 14 organizations in 9 communities, attended these workshops. Outcomes include professionals wanting to stay in contact for 1:1 support in working with Trans clients, significant contacts garnered for workshops in other agencies, and improved knowledge and skills of participants with respect to Trans awareness.
BUDDY SYSTEM FOR TRANSGENDERED FOLKS IN RURAL COMMUNITIES. The major outcome centred around a relief from the isolation felt by so many Trans clients. Three participants moved to the Nelson area because of the growing resources and support for the Transgender population.
WEEKLY DROP-IN FOR TRANSGENDER FOLKS. Positive outcomes from this service were: shared housing; sharing of resources (i.e., electrolysis clinics); communication around safe and unsafe spaces in the area; reporting of violent crimes; and general networking and social connections.
PROMOTION OF TRANS CONNECT VIA MEDIA (facebook, websites, radio, newspapers). Outcomes encompass general support for awareness, transgender folks finding our services, and support for family and friends. One elderly woman, with an adult Transgender daughter, contacted us as she has been shunned from her community. Trans Connect is a place in her community for her to give and to get support.
GENDER OUTLAWS: A group that meets twice monthly for peer-support and activities. Outcomes: Increasing number of participants; provision of a safe opportunity for folks to dress in their preferred gender; and networking.
CHANGING KEYS. A voice training workshop for Transgender Women. This was co-sponsored by the Trans Health Program in Vancouver. Outcomes included the increased self confidence experienced by participants when talking on the phone and applying for jobs & housing, etc. They were able to obtain a skill from a trained speech pathologist that had only been available in the past in Vancouver. Technology (skype) was used to make this possible for follow up.
RESOURCE AND REFFERAL NETWORK. Outcomes: Participants found local resources; more Dr.’s became willing to work with Transgendered People in the Nelson area; and liaisons with Mental Health and other community agencies were formed.
Testosterone Shots (with prescriptions) are administered by student nurses from Selkirk College, providing easy and safe access for Trans Men, forming a valuable relationship with Selkirk, and providing education and training for the student nurses.
TRANSGENDER DAY OF REMEMBRANCE On November 20, Nelson held a vigil on the streets in downtown Nelson. Trans Day of Remembrance is a day to acknowledge the violence and other forms of discrimination that Transgender People experience. This day’s event is held worldwide. The American Human Rights Campaign estimates that 1 in 12 transgender will die through violence. Trans Day of Remembrance is a day to understand this oppression, and fight for our rights through assertiveness and education. 16 people turned out and people on the street dropped by for information and to give support.
TRANSGENDER PARTICIPANTS. Usage of programs offered by Trans Connect is 303 participants. This number includes multiple usage of programs. Approximately 30 Transgender people from 6 communities in the E. and W. Kootenays use our programs. There has been Trans people from rural communities outside of our region who use our programs and Trans people have moved to Nelson because of the support and resources we have for Trans and Gender Variant people. This usage speaks to the unique programs that Trans Connect offers.