Thank you for taking the time to consider me for the one of the positions on the PHSA Trans Health Steering Committee. I am interested in being a part of this steering committee on both a personal and professional level.
Personally, I am interested because as a transgender man of color who began transition as a teenager in Nanaimo with very little resources I understand the difficulties presented to those looking to transition. In the past four years I have gone through the process of accessing gender therapy, hormone replacement therapy, and surgical funding in the province. Through this process I have identified many challenges that trans people face such as lack of resources outside of metro Vancouver and Victoria and long wait lists for therapy and surgery. I understand the negative impact this can have on those suffering from gender dysphoria.
On a professional level this intrigues me. I am currently an undergraduate student at Simon Fraser University where I am studying history. I have always been interested in the history and struggles of marginalized groups. Throughout this past semester for an oral history project I have been researching the history of medical services in British Columbia for transgender people. This research has included interviewing trans people who accessed the gender clinic at Vancouver General Hospital and doing extensive reading on the subject of trans health care. I believe the knowledge I have gained from doing this project would be extremely helpful to drawing conclusions to how the medical system can properly serve trans people in B.C.
This opportunity would mean a great deal to me. I have been advocating for queer and trans people for a little over six years including collaborating with Nanaimo City Council, Vancouver Island Rainbow Association, Vancouver Island University and School District #68 since 2008.
I feel very strongly about making adequate health care available to all trans people in B.C. Thank you for your time.
Julia O’Dwyer advocated with and for her son Cormac as he transitioned while attending Lord Byng Secondary School in Vancouver. The O’Dwyer family were vocal advocates of the Vancouver School Board’s efforts to introduce protections and guidelines for supporting trans and gender non-conforming youth in schools in 2014. They did extensive media work, and made presentations to the Board, all which helped the historic policy be approved.
Fin Gareau is a member of the trans and two-spirit community and has been working with gender diverse and questioning youth and their families for over 9 years. He is the founder of the Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre, where he volunteers as an organizer and nurse. He also helped create the Trans Youth Drop-In. He currently works as an Outreach Nurse in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.
James has sat as one of the Board Co-Chairs for the Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre since the clinic has operated as a society. As a self identified trans* person James understands and values the importance of being able to access services that are respectful, welcoming and celebratory of gender identity and self-expression. He has worked in community, primarily in youth services for many years in both front line and management capacities. Currently, the Executive Director of a provincial alcohol and drug, live-in, treatment centre for youth operating in East Van, he also presents workshops and provides consulting for gender inclusive service delivery for other agencies and organizations. James is passionate about social justice and committed to providing anti-oppressive and inclusive services for all people.
I believe I would make a strong community voice because I have worked as an advocate within various communities in Vancouver and the lower mainland since 1988. As an outreach worker employed by a non-profit I advocated for and supported trans women, women and men doing street level survival sex work, I have been employed as a counsellor/support worker with homeless youth and youth struggling with addiction and alcoholism. Presently I am employed as a support worker to youth moving from homelessness to stable housing and I am involved in a new initiative providing housing specifically for youth who identify along the LGBTQ2S spectrum. I am also presently involved in community volunteering for Boys R Us a resource for men and trans* women doing survival sex work and the CWHWC as a yoga instructor and recently I had the pleasure of hosting the BC Trans Advocacy Day.
I have a very current perspective of trans* health care in BC as I am in the process of medically transitioning now. I believe I am very aware of the diversity that exists along the trans* & gender non-conforming spectrum. I would bring excellent public speaking skills to the role as I have much experience running workshops, doing public performances of my writing and teaching yoga. I believe strongly that health care in BC should provide efficient, fair and just treatment for transgender and gender non-conforming people and I am passionate about being able to be involved in making a difference toward that end.
I’d like to nominate myself for the PHSA Transgender Program Review
I’m worried that we won’t have representation for folks outside of the
coast and want to make sure their voices are heard as I don’t think
most people living in Vancouver understand how different the situation
is outside of this region.
Some health authorities are openly hostile, claiming that they don’t
have to treat trans people because VCH does. In IHA, letters to
patient care directors and ombudsperson’s offices on trans issues go
unacknowledged and unanswered and psychiatrists use non trans billing
codes for trans patients out of fear that the health authority will
crack down on them.
As for me – in 2008, I started my transition in Kelowna. At the time,
there were no trans resources in Kelowna – and while seeking
resources, I was even told by a psychiatrist that they didn’t “believe
in gender identity disorder” and that I should stop trying to find
resources as it wasn’t a legitimate condition. Another supposedly put
me on a “priority list to the gender clinic” which had closed a decade
Realizing that there was no way that I would be able to access
competent, caring medical care in Kelowna – and having the finances to
do so – I travelled repeatedly to Vancouver for medical care and a
sense of community.
I quickly realized the benefits of a group and started one in Kelowna.
While initially small, it grew quickly. At this time, we currently
have approximately 50 members on our facebook page and another 20 or
so members who don’t use facebook (and also had a few dozen people go
“stealth” and leave the community)
Running this group for years gave me an intimate understanding of the
issues trans people living outside the coastal areas. I learned that
trans medical care requires a holistic approach – it’s not merely
enough to have a doctor, but low income patients expected to travel
across the province should be educated on travel subsidies so they can
make it to their appointments, patients should be pointed towards
PharmaCare if they are unable to pay for medications, patients should
have a post surgical care plan in place before going to surgery, etc.
A few other things I can bring to the table are
– A history of advocacy and searching of resources for trans
people in the less populated parts of BC.
– Awareness of various faults of the current system, ranging
from difficulties accessing post surgical care to the lack of
information available to doctors
– Knowledge acquired from keeping up with the academic
literature and policy guides written on trans medical care /
resolutions from medical bodies and sharing that information with
future medical personnel such as UBC-O nursing students and other
– Strong connections with a growing community outside of
Vancouver (Although I moved to Vancouver in 201, I regularly host
people who come to Vancouver for medical care)
– Ability to analyze situations to identify gaps and suggest
– A history of working with vulnerable youth when I ran the
Kelowna chapter of PFLAG Canada.
– Experience with the Transgender Health Program’s Advisory Group.
Having seen too many nightmare outcomes, I’m passionately dedicated to
the issue of competent and timely post surgical care, but I fully
realize that there are other equally serious issues that face our
community, such as the lack of buy-in from various health authorities
I believe that I can contribute greatly to the process of analyzing
the current system, recommending and implementing best practices and
creating plan for the future.