Gabrielle Austin and Jessenia Feijo
The world of social media celebrated International Transgender Day of Visibility on Thursday using #TDOV to bring the community and its agents together.
It’s a day that shows visibility on social media and how may people are demonstrating their support, said Susan Gapka, a community and political organizer as well as lobbyist.
“It shows that the trans community has a lot of momentum, they are gaining public recognition and acceptance. But, we must be remembering that that’s not consistent,” said Gapka.
“I mean in Canada, I’d like to believe, that we’ve created a kinder society. Historically we’ve been pretty good with that and this is the reason why we did the passing of the human rights amendments,” said Gapka.
“We’ve amended the entire human rights code to include gender identity and gender expression,” said Gapka.
She said the significance of the passing of human rights amendments is they make it hard for a person to be denied services.
“Like going to the bank and being denied because ‘We don’t serve people like you’, or going to the restaurant or applying for housing because ‘We don’t serve people like you’, or going to the doctor and saying ‘Well, we can’t,’’ Gapka said.
The trans community, alongside other gender minorities often experience discrimination, including denial of services, verbal abuse, or forced psychiatric care, said Kinnon MacKinnon, PhD student in Public Health at University of Toronto who identifies as a queer trans man.
“These barriers are of particular concern given that gender minorities have an elevated risk of experiencing eating disorders, substance use issues, depression, anxiety, and suicidal behaviours,” said MacKinnon, who is a former Social Services instructor at Humber College and LGBTQ human rights advocate.
“While trans populations require mental health supports to reduce the severity and duration of psychological distress, and to improve quality of life, psychiatric institutions and clinicians lack the capacity to serve this population,” said MacKinnon.
Christopher Karas, a first year Paralegal Education student at Humber’s North campus, agrees that while the country has made strives for diversity, Canada is still a place of discrimination.
“While we are queer, transgendered, et cetera, we are facing the risk when we step into our doctor’s office,” Karas said.
“We are asking personal questions about our health. For me personally, it is difficult for me to ask about sexually transmitted diseases,” he said.
Kenny Dawkins, Event and Resource Assistant at Humber College’s LGBTQ Resource Center said he experienced similar feelings when donating blood.
According to the Canadian Blood Services, a man is now eligible to donate blood if it has been at least five years since he last had sex with another man.
“Obviously the whole problem is not about them having sex – it’s about anal sex, they don’t say that they specifically target gay men,” said Dawkins.
And that’s not where it ends.
Karas said it is very difficult to talk about mental health.
“It’s not easy. It should be easier,” he said.
Having a job as a medical practitioner is a privileged situation and practitioners are not representing the community they serve by making it difficult for us to speak, Karas said.
MacKinnon said that at the same time, though, many health care providers have not had access to proper training or education to adequately support trans people.
“Many well-intentioned health care providers are afraid of making a mistake, or saying the wrong thing, or misgendering a trans person,” said MacKinnon.
“This is why improving training and education on issues related to gender identity and sexuality is so important in all health-related and human services disciplines,” he said.
This, in part, explains why so many trans people avoid necessary health care. Or decide not to disclose their history of transitioning, or wishes to transition, or non-binary gender identity– to automatically be assumed to be cisgender may be a way of avoiding trans-related discrimination at the hands of health care workers, MacKinnon said.
“I feel like people just need to be more accepting,” Dawkins said.
“It’s all about intersectionality and everyone has different qualities about them and they just kind of meet somewhere,” Dawkins said.