Ottawa Trans Services Initiative

May 24, 2008

The next two posts, Ottawa Trans Community Consultation Document and Services for Trans People in Ottawa were part of a several year initiative I began in late 2006 to at least explore the kinds of services needed and desired by the Trans Community in Ottawa.

Trans people, variously called transgender, transgendered, trans-identified and transsexual, have recently been described by the Ottawa Citizen in an editorial as “more marginalized than drug addicts.” The editorial is called “The Courage of Poilievre” and can be read here:

There is no question that services for drug addicts are completely inadequate. But there are services and there are ongoing discussions among service providers, agencies, government and various formal and funded public education initiatives to address this lack.

Today, the President and CEO of the Centre For Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Dr. Paul Garfinkel, came out in support of the relisting of surgery in Ontario:

On behalf of CAMH, I wish to commend the province on its decision to relist sexual reassignment surgery as an OHIP-covered service. This puts Ontario back in line with other provinces.

As a hospital that sees people who require sexual reassignment surgery, we can verify the critical nature of it being accessible – it is no exaggeration to call it “life-saving surgery” to those who need it.

When I began this initiative it was unclear what services, in the sense of those being provided in the public sector, or even discussion of such services, such as those at the Gay Men’s Wellness Initiative, were ongoing to address the void where trans people live, work and sometimes die–usually enduring great despair which, we know with absolute certainty from much work with gay men, leads to self-destructive behaviours such as addictions, self-mutilation and suicide.

There is also no question that trans people are the object of violence and discrimination.

This is compounded by the void where human rights legislation should be.

When we look at federal, provincial and territorial human rights legislation (except North West Territories) gender identity or gender identity and gender expression do not stand beside sexual orientation. There is much confusion and routine misinformation on this point, which is, on the one hand, evidence of the greater marginalization of trans people and, on the other, worse than the silence from so many quarters that claim to support–but do so only in private.

Though there are changes, see my blog TRANS RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS

and the world does change every time someone actually says the words in public, there is yet not enough momentum to begin to address this need.

Speaking truth to power, however, remains as dangerous as it ever was.

The controversy over the Ontario Minister of Health’s recent announcement about relisting transsexual surgery under Ontario Medicare, a limited action at best, is more evidence of the greater marginalization of trans people.

The Ottawa Trans Community Consultation Document was the result of a community consultation in association with a number of community organizations, in particular Pink Triangle Services, to create a document to be later used to secure funding to at least begin the exploration of what is and what isn’t available in Ottawa and to move forward to address what is not.

In May and November, 2007, the Board of Pink Triangle Services (PTS) , as the premier GLBTTQ organization in Ottawa, was approached to sponsor such a project. At the May meeting the president suggested working with the Executive Director to investigate the possibility of funding such an initiative.

I co-drafted an application to the Trillium Foundation with the Executive Director of PTS which was submitted for the June 1, 2007 deadline. Unfortunately, difficulties with the agency’s relationship with the funder lead to the application being returned.

Regardless of this setback, community support and the support of service providers was identified and remains a basis for future action.

In the course of working with the AIDS Committee of Ottawa’s (ACO) Gender Identity/Expression Inclusion Policy Working Group I drafted the document Services for Trans People in Ottawa as a foundation for organizations to work together and as a basis for a “table”–that is, a body such as the Gay Men’s Wellness Initiative or the Around the Rainbow/Social Inclusion Project, where the needs of trans people can be discussed among community organizations, service providers and strategies for approaching government and funders can be devised.

Services for Trans People in Ottawa was adopted by the board of ACO at the end of 2007.

Further action at the end of 2007 was shoved off-track by infighting typical of marginal communities and often referred to as lateral violence.

I post these documents in the hope that in the not too distant future this agenda can be moved forward. I can only hope that in the interim trans people in Ottawa will not have to endure too much more suffering.

I am eager for input from trans people, service providers, community agencies and allies to further this agenda.


Pink Triangle Services

AIDS Committee of Ottawa

Around the Rainbow Project

Gay Men’s Wellness Initiatives

Ottawa Trans Community Consultation Document

Services for Trans People in Ottawa; A Public Commitment