‘Alarm­ing’ trends re­vealed in trans sur­vey

Trans­gen­der youth in Al­berta fac­ing health-care bar­ri­ers, vi­o­lence

Metro Canada (Edmonton) - - Front Page - Kevin Maimann

The first sur­vey of trans­gen­der youth in Al­berta high­lights the im­por­tance of not “out­ing” kids to their par­ents, ac­cord­ing to one of its lead authors.

The Al­berta Trans Youth Sur­vey, re­leased Wed­nes­day to co­in­cide with In­ter­na­tional Com­ing Out Day, showed many trans youth age 14-25 are fac­ing vi­o­lence, dis­crim­i­na­tion and sig­nif­i­cant health-care bar­ri­ers.

Al­most two-thirds of teenage trans youth re­ported they could not ac­cess men­tal-health ser­vices, and 91 per cent of those said it was be­cause they did not want their par­ents to know. More than 80 per cent of trans teens sur­veyed said their fam­ily mem­bers did not un­der­stand them or only un­der­stood them a lit­tle, while al­most one in three re­ported hav­ing run away from home.

“Many of them don’t ac­cess men­tal-health ser­vices be­cause they don’t want their par­ents to find out. So we see a big bar­rier here,” said Kristo­pher Wells with the Univer­sity of Al­berta, one of the re­port’s lead authors.

Wells said the num­bers un­der­score that trans youth should not be “outed” to their par­ents if they dis­close their gen­der iden­tity or join a Gay-Straight Al­liance at school.

The re­port brings other “dis­turb­ing and alarm­ing” is­sues to light as well, Wells said.

Nearly three-quar­ters of those sur­veyed re­ported hav­ing self harmed, while 67 per cent un­der 18 had se­ri­ously con­sid­ered sui­cide — and 41 per cent made at least one at­tempt.

Al­most 70 per cent of those sur­veyed said they had ex­pe­ri­enced sex­ual ha­rass­ment, and 35 per cent of those un­der 18 re­ported they had been phys­i­cally threat­ened or in­jured in the past year.

Ade­bayo Kati­iti, a trans­gen­der man from Uganda who was granted asy­lum in Canada af­ter get­ting death threats in his home coun­try for be­ing trans­gen­der, knows what it’s like to not have an ac­cept­ing fam­ily.

The 23-year-old said life has been bet­ter dur­ing his first year in Ed­mon­ton, thanks to a strong queer com­mu­nity and sup­port from so­cial work­ers.

But he still faces dis­crim­i­na­tion — Kati­iti said a man re­cently ap­proached him on a bus to make racist com­ments and then re­peat­edly called him a woman.

Kati­iti said he stood up for him­self, but won­ders whether it was the right de­ci­sion.

“It still gives me headaches — if I did the right thing, if it was right for me to talk back, how my safety was, what if this guy could hit me,” he said.

Kati­iti, who came to Ed­mon­ton for an in­ter­na­tional swim­ming com­pe­ti­tion and has since founded an LGBTQ soccer team and started teach­ing autis­tic kids to swim, is also fa­mil­iar with health care bar­ri­ers.

He said he re­cently got into a “small fight” with a psy­chol­o­gist who would not rec­og­nize his gen­der iden­tity.

He’s also ex­pe­ri­enced long wait times for ther­a­pists and gen­der spe­cial­ists, which “makes you doubt a lot, and it makes other peo­ple doubt you.”

The re­port makes four main rec­om­men­da­tions, in­clud­ing: in­creased sup­port for fam­i­lies of trans youth, safer school en­vi­ron­ments, knowl­edge­able and in­clu­sive health care ser­vices, and di­rectly en­gag­ing trans­gen­der youth and their fam­i­lies when de­vel­op­ing poli­cies and pro­grams to help them.

Kati­iti said the last rec­om­men­da­tion is es­pe­cially im­por­tant, and that peo­ple need to treat trans youth equally and ex­er­cise pa­tience when lis­ten­ing to them talk about their ex­pe­ri­ences.

The sur­vey was taken on­line; 114 Al­berta youth par­tic­i­pated.

Kevin Tuong/for meTro

Ade­bayo Kati­iti is a trans­gen­der man from Uganda who was granted asy­lum in Canada af­ter get­ting death threats in his home coun­try.

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