Supporting Transgender and Gender Diverse Children and Youth

Providing affirming homes and services for transgender and gender diverse children and youth involved with the child welfare system means allowing them to freely and openly express their identity. This includes supporting a child or youth’s choice of clothing or hairstyle, which can be important aspects of self-expression. It may also include supporting access to tools (e.g., chest binders, packers, standto- pee devices), gender-confirming health care and/ or interventions (e.g., hormone treatments, hair removal) that for some children and youth may help them to feel their body better aligns with their gender identity.

It is critically important that transgender youth interested in hormone blockers, hormone treatments, and other gender-confirming health care interventions receive competent and affirming medical advice and care. Youth who don’t have access to the health services they need, for example, may resort to using hormones without a doctor’s supervision, which could lead to negative health consequences. Lack of access to trans-affirming health care can also lead to mental health concerns (depression, anxiety), self-harm, substance use, and suicide.

It is also important to avoid assumptions that youth interested in considering hormone blockers or therapies, or other medical interventions should wait until they are older to make decisions. Forcing youth to wait to access gender-confirming health care greatly increases risks, including suicidal thoughts and behaviours. Referrals to medical professionals who are competent in working with transgender and gender diverse youth should be sought, so that they can receive appropriate advice and care.75 Where qualified medical professionals cannot be easily accessed, especially in rural or northern communities, mentoring by experienced practitioners and collaborative care by local and distance practitioners may be possible.viii

Finding Gender-Affirming Supplies

It is important to look for stores or agencies, both online and in your community that sell or rent gender-affirming supplies such as binders, packers, stand-to-pee devices, and hair removal devices.

Read QMUNITY’s resource on chest health for trans, gender diverse, and Two-Spirit communities to learn more about safe binding practices and where to purchase binding supplies online. This resource can be accessed at: http://qmunity.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/I_Heart_My_Chest_-_English_version.pdf

Community Spotlight: The DressCode Project

The DressCode Project is an initiative to create safer spaces in salons for people in LGBT2SQ communities. The initiative highlights the importance of being able to look the way you feel and how going to a salon and asking for a haircut that is not traditional to your gender is sometimes a scary and difficult experience, particularly for people who are transgender.

The Dresscode Project has the objective of ending gender discrimination in the hair industry by ensuring an affirming, supportive and non-judgemental salon experience. All dress code salons undertake to use appropriate pronouns, have gender neutral washrooms and to complete sensitivity training provided by the Dresscode Project. The Dresscode Project also hosts "The Gender free Haircut Club," a free haircut event for LGBT2SQ youth once every two months in Toronto. For more information and the online directory of salons participating in the Dresscode Project, visit: http://dresscodeproject.com/

Instagram : @thedresscodeproject
Facebook : Dress Code Project

RESOURCES: Affirming trans and gender diverse children and youth

Additionally, child welfare professionals and caregivers can support self-expression of transgender and gender diverse youth by:76

“Not being able to make my own decisions means to me that my voice and opinion isn't being heard. Not being able to make my own decisions can make a person feel small and invisible. This could make people feel insecure because no one listens to their opinions, ideas, and decisions.”

-Youth (From The Ultimate Health Rights Survival Guide, Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth)

Government-issued identification and gender identity

Birth registration and certificates record the sex/assigned sex of all children and youth. Personal information listed on birth registration and certificates is used to develop other forms of government-issued identification. For transgender and genderqueer children and youth, this means that their government-issued identification aligns with their sex/assigned sex and not their gender identity (Rainbow Health Ontario, 2015).

It is important that transgender and genderqueer children and youth have the option of changing government-issued identification to align with their gender identity. Lack of access to affirming identification can significantly impact access to job opportunities, housing, appropriate health care and social services, and can decrease safety (particularly if what is on a child or youth’s identification doesn’t match their gender expression).

With the support of parents, guardians, and caregivers, sex designation can be changed on the following government-issued identification:

  • Ontario Birth Registration and Certificate
  • Ontario Driver’s Licence
  • Federal Passports

Note: Ontario Health Cards issued as of June 13, 2016, no longer list sex designation (although this information is still within the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s database). Take a look at the following websites for more information on how to change sex designations on government issued identification:

viii Contact Rainbow Health Ontario for information, training and referrals; consult their online Trans Primary Care Guide https://www.rainbowhealthontario. ca/TransHealthGuide/