A new program is hoping it can connect members of the transgender and gender-diverse communities to social supports across Saskatchewan.
TransSask Support Services, a Saskatchewan-wide support and resource network for transgender and gender-diverse individuals has been awarded a Community Initiatives Fund grant to develop a pilot peer-support program.
The program, called ‘TransConnect: Social Supports for Trans and Gender Diverse Communities in Saskatchewan,” will facilitate social support groups in Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Prince Albert and create an online peer-support system for people living outside of those four centres.
In each of those centres, TransSask hopes to hire a group facilitator on a contract basis to develop in-person peer-support groups that provide social opportunities, referral services and other supports to help people look out for one another.
Other goals of the program include training medical practitioners and other service providers on best practices surrounding dealing with transgender and gender diverse individuals, “especially when it comes to names, pronouns, bathroom policies, and a little bit on the dos and don’ts of how to talk about bodies and when it’s appropriate to reference genitals,” said Nillin Lore, TransSask Support Coordinator.
“For example, if someone is in there with a broken arm, you don’t really need to know what their transition status is.”
Lore knows from personal experience what it’s like to live somewhere without support. It’s one of the things the program is hoping to alleviate.
“As a transgender individual myself, growing up in Alberta and Saskatchewan, especially in some of the smaller centres, it’s very, very, very isolating,” Lore said.
They were a military kid, moving from place to place, and living in some smaller communities.
‘it’s very lonely and overwhelming and scary when you feel that you’re on the outside. When you look around in public culture and social opportunities and don’t see yourself reflected back, you’re the outsider. You’re the odd one out.”
Lore said that can lead someone to a lot of harmful isolation and harmful practices, “not knowing where to turn when you need help, or where to find someone to be friends with.”
According to a press release issued by TransSask, 64 per cent of transgender youth in Saskatchewan and Manitoba have reported avoiding medical care because of previous negative experiences, and 50 per cent of transgender youth have attempted suicide in the previous year.
“While there have been no efforts to collect similar information around transgender adults in Saskatchewan,” TransSask wrote, “an analysis of peer-reviewed and grey literature around transgender suicidality indicates that approximately 10 per cent of transgender individuals have attempted suicide in the past year, and over 50 per cent have experienced suicidal ideation in the same time period.”
Lore said the program hopes to also reach people in many smaller communities. That’s why they’re setting out the online forum space to connect rural centres where people have more trouble meeting individuals like themselves or finding social opportunities where they can feel safe, affirmed and welcomed.
‘That will hopefully connect more individuals with friendships or work opportunities,” Lore said.
They have already reached out to existing organizations, such as OutSaskatoon, Moose Jaw Pride and Prince Albert pride.
“Through this involvement, we’re hoping to connect with, not even just pride and LGBTQ organizations, but any little local groups that might exist in rural areas that are LGBTQ friendly and can be another outlet or avenue for people who don’t realize that’s a safe space for them,” Lore said.
“Or, to even encourage other organizations who have been on the precipice of queer and trans support, to push them over and help them with some education on how they can be more welcoming and inclusive as well.”
The hope is the program can secure additional funding, through more grants or through sponsorship opportunities, to help even more people.
“I’m hoping to see this develop into a thing where we’re empowering a lot of these communities to start up groups themselves,” Lore said.
“If we can get some extended funding …. That could help us hire more people to create these … groups and to educate their communities on LGBTQ issues, as well as to help a lot of those people currently in those spaces isolated, feeling unsafe or unsupported becoming comfortable coming out and being more of a part of their community in a productive way.
“This is an important opportunity to show people that they’re not alone and to help them realize their worth and their involvement in society,” Lore continued.
“As well as to help them find outlets to be creative, to express themselves and transition and live healthy for themselves.”
TransSask is currently hiring for a paid facilitator in Prince Albert and in Moose Jaw. The deadline for applications for the contract work is April 8. Interested individuals can email email@example.com