J.J Bowlen’s principal brought Jasper in to discuss the texts. His parents, Amanda and Corey Hicks, said the principal suggested Jasper use a gender neutral washroom or a staff bathroom instead. They said Jasper was told “boys will be boys” in response to his experience with the other students, while two of his friends were present inside the office.
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“It was unbelievably disappointing,” Amanda said. “This school has created a culture where these types of conversations are okay.”
In a statement to Global News, an Edmonton Catholic School Division (ECSD) spokesperson said “we are deeply saddened that the student had an ongoing negative experience during such a pivotal time in his life. We are committed to continuing to work with the family to make sure their son feels safe and welcome in the school.”
ECSD declined to comment on any specifics between staff or students, due to privacy legislation.
A letter addressed to the Hicks family from the deputy superintendent, Tim Cusack, detailed that the J.J. Bowlen principal “expressed his genuine and profound remorse regarding the way this matter has unfolded.” It went on to say that he “fully acknowledges that despite the intent of his interactions in support of Jasper, the impact was not as intended.”
Under the direction of ECSD, All J.J. Bowlen staff, including its principal, are undergoing inclusivity training.
The Hicks are now calling on ECSD to provide mandatory training for all staff and students in the district.
“We need mandatory training of educators for everyone. Not just for transgender issues but all [LGBTQ+] issues,” Corey said.
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ECSD said it acknowledges “we have work to do with the school community to ensure all students, staff and families will be provided with an inclusive, welcoming, caring…environment.”
CMHA highlights the obstacles people face when coming out as transgender
CMHA highlights the obstacles people face when coming out as transgender – Dec 3, 2020
Why Jasper is speaking out
The 14-year-old said he understands speaking about his experiences publicly could lead to more transphobia — both online and at school.
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But, he felt it was important to try to use his own experience as a teachable moment.
“People that don’t understand me or don’t accept me, are just ignorant,” he explained. “They don’t know the facts. They just need to learn.”
Jasper said he is hopeful that other transgender kids may take comfort in hearing him share his story firsthand.
“So they know they aren’t alone. There are other people out there going through the same things,” Jasper said.
“We are very proud of the strength that Jasper has, but what about the other students that didn’t have that strength?” Amanda said. “Reading through that chat…through those horrible messages, the harassment…he was trying to educate. He was trying to make the world a better place.”
Amanda and Corey believe without further action, Jasper’s experience will continue to mirror the stories of other trans teens.
“Being an ally is an every day thing. It’s not a thing that happens one week in June,” Amanda said. “How do we stand up and protect our youth today?”
Transgender Awareness Week: Margot’s Story
Transgender Awareness Week: Margot’s Story – Nov 17, 2020
How to support trans teens
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Dr. Kris Wells, a MacEwan University professor and leading national researcher on gender and youth, said Jasper’s story can be a learning opportunity for all of us.
“I really want to celebrate his courage and strength for speaking out,” Wells said during an interview on Global News at Noon. “That resiliency is amazing.”
Wells said there are four things a school can do to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth:
Finding supportive teachers
Comprehensive sexual and gender identity policies
Visibility and inclusion
Wells said if other students are uncomfortable with a trans student using the same washroom as them, they are the ones who should be getting an accommodation to use a private washroom.
“Because otherwise we are sending the wrong message.
“Trans youth are not the problem here, transphobia is.”
Though not all transgender teens will be ready to share their story openly like Jasper did, Wells said it’s essential to find a trusted adult to talk to.
“You don’t have to justify your existence. You are valid. You deserve to be safe and included in your school.”
Dr. Kris Wells shares 4 ways people can help transgender students in schools
Dr. Kris Wells shares 4 ways people can help transgender students in schools – Apr 14, 2021
Tamara Loyer proudly wears a bright red lanyard around her neck, from which dangles keys to the modest office where she oversees a unique Downtown Eastside drop-in program for trans woman that she designed this year.
She’s come a long way in the past decade: from a despondent homeless woman trapped inside a body with male genitalia to someone who has undergone gender-confirming surgery and now has a home, goes to school and is employed.
“I’ve not been in an office setting since the mid-1980s,” laughs Loyer during an interview at Atira Women’s Resource Society, where she started the Beyond the Street drop-in for trans women in September.
Now 57, Loyer believes her internal war with her gender was at the root of her 30-year spiral into drug addiction, sex work and homelessness, and that the surgery she had in April 2014 gave her the confidence to start putting her life back together again.
“After surgery, I thought I don’t want to have to think about (gender) the way I did before. I can be part of the world. I can go and do things now without being self-conscious,” she reflected. “I walk around here and I don’t have to be afraid that what’s in my head and what people see aren’t the same.”
She is happy with her outward appearance, but is inwardly still haunted by gender dysphoria — a crippling unhappiness with one’s biological gender.
“After surgery, we all like to think that it will never bother me again. It still does. I think about it every day,” she said.
Her dark thoughts are often triggered by still-lingering male gender traits, such as facial hair and a low voice. “That bothers me still to this day. I’m not as critical, as I was, at what I see in the mirror, (but) it doesn’t go away 100 per cent.”
The Vancouver Sun documented Loyer’s story in 2014: the challenges of applying for the surgery and organizing the logistics when you have a vulnerable lifestyle, no fixed address, a panhandler’s income, and no family supports. At the time, B.C. funded sex-reassignment surgeries, but the only place in Canada that performed them was a private Montreal hospital, where Loyer was flown by a charity airline.
“I had nobody with me and it was terrifying,” she said. “It was daunting. There is so much red tape to go through.”
The number of B.C. patients that must endure that flight to Montreal is expected to decrease in the coming years. A new gender surgery clinic opened in Vancouver General Hospital in late September, where the Health Ministry anticipates full-scale gender-affirming surgeries will be performed, likely next year.
B.C.’s new gender surgery clinic
Two surgeons with specialized skills have been hired to work at the clinic, and since September have done repairs and revisions to previous surgeries, and performed parts of so-called “lower surgeries” — but not yet the entire procedure, the Health Ministry said in a statement.
Until this year, patients in every province had to travel to Montreal for “lower surgeries” — which include vaginoplasty for trans women and phalloplasty for trans men. In June, Ontario started to offer these complex surgeries at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, and B.C. plans to be the next province to do so.
“The trans community has advocated over a number of years for improved access to care, including access to complex lower surgeries within B.C.,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said in November 2018, when he first indicated the services offered here would expand.
“For those seeking lower surgery, people were required to travel to Montreal or to the U.S., resulting in additional medical risks associated with travelling long distance after surgery and in receiving followup care if there were complications.”
The number of British Columbians travelling to Montreal has been on the rise, with about 100 patients annually in recent years. That number is expected to stay roughly the same in 2020, while the B.C. program fully ramps up, the Health Ministry said.
An estimated one per cent of the population identifies as trans, which includes a wide range of people for whom their gender is different from their assigned sex at birth. In B.C., the Health Ministry says, about 46,000 people identify as “trans or gender diverse,” but only a few will pursue medical or surgical services.
Offering the service closer to home will make it simpler to access and to allow friends to visit during recovery. That may encourage more trans people to consider surgery, especially those from marginalized communities like the Downtown Eastside, Loyer said.
And, she argued, it will benefit society in the long run to help more people feel in sync with their own bodies.
“You are going to get a person who is going to be more productive. Somebody who might want to go to school, get a job. Somebody who might want to join their family again,” she said. “You don’t have to live in despair, overwhelmed with what is described as an illness. You can be functional.”
Trans people face discrimination and harassment, which often leads to poor mental health and a greater risk for suicide, says the Calgary-based Centre for Suicide Prevention.
Loyer speaks softly when she remembers trans friends who committed “suicide, got killed, ran away, were never seen again, overdosed or became mental patients.” She hopes these tragedies will be less frequent among her peers with the new local access to medical help.
Another set of surgeries many trans people pursue — breast augmentation or chest construction — were, until recently, offered in only Vancouver and Victoria. Now B.C. has 16 surgeons who do this work, and these procedures have been extended to Abbotsford, Burnaby, Port Moody, New Westminster, Kamloops, Kelowna and Prince George.
The demand for these upper surgeries in B.C. has quadrupled in just three years, with 49 performed in 2015-16 and 254 in 2018-19. The Health Ministry anticipates 300 breast or chest surgeries will be completed by the end of this fiscal year, in March 2020.
And B.C. has a waiting list for this procedure with more than 200 names.
In 2015, the Provincial Health Services Authority launched Trans Care B.C., which offers details about health care and support for trans people or their families. Its service directory lists dozens of drop-ins and information groups across the province, including in communities outside Metro Vancouver such as Prince Rupert, Fort St John and Cranbrook.
She hoped B.C. would offer acceptance
So much as changed since Loyer first arrived in Vancouver in 1984, at age 23, leaving behind a turbulent childhood on a Quebec military base. She came here to seek acceptance. She assumed the name Tamara, found work as a computer programmer and continued to pursue post-secondary education.
But she faced discrimination, numbed her pain with drugs, and eventually worked the streets to earn income. In 1989 she began inquiring about a sex-change operation, but had no stability to pursue surgery.
She was homeless, sick and dejected in 2011 when an outreach worker took her to the first place she felt at home: a shelter for woman, run by Atira. Despite the obvious challenges of sharing communal bathrooms with the female tenants of the modest shelter, Loyer began to heal and, through a new network of support, was able to get her surgery in March 2014.
The Healthy Ministry paid $20,000 for the procedure and $2,000 for her post-surgery care in Montreal. Doctors removed her male organs and created a vagina.
The Vancouver Sun’s first feature on Loyer was published one month after the operation, when she was still healing and had modest ambitions to live a more stable life.
Today, she says that it took her about six months to physically heal from the invasive surgery while she lived in Atira-supported housing in the heart of the Downtown Eastside. There were infections that required cleaning, extreme tenderness, and a daily routine of using dilators to ensure her new vagina wouldn’t close up.
And there are post-operation steps that will be necessary indefinitely. Attached to her stomach is a patch that supplies very large doses of estrogen, a female hormone that her body considers a foreign substance and tries to reject.
But, overall, she is elated with the outcome of the surgery. “I wake up in the morning and I’m happy that I don’t have to encounter a body that is what I had. That was one of the most horrible things in the shower and the washroom and getting dressed. And that is gone.”
Loyer does not wear makeup, jewelry or fancy clothes, but rather prefers basic, gender-neutral garb.
“I am happy with what I look like,” she said. “It’s not the outside that’s the problem. It’s the inside that is giving me the problems.”
In early 2019, Loyer was upgrading her high school credits at the South Hill Adult Education Centre in south Vancouver, but she was also still panhandling, which she found increasingly demeaning, to supplement her disability pension.
“I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be in school.”
Loyer appeared “isolated,” recalled Janice Abbott, the executive director of Atira, so she suggested Loyer open a drop-in for trans women. Atira offered space to hold the meetings, a small budget for food and communication, and the encouragement for Loyer to independently create a program that was needed in the Downtown Eastside.
“The trans community is complex, it’s not homogeneous in any shape or form. So I think that more opportunities for safe space in ways that trans women identify their own communities, I think that there needs to be more (of) that,” said Abbott, adding that Loyer’s drop-in is a low-key environment where people can make friends and share challenges.
“I think everyone in the Downtown Eastside needs an informal place, where you don’t have to come in and fill out a form that says I need social services. It’s a place to get a snack and have a cup of coffee and hang out for a couple of hours. And I think that’s part of what makes it beautiful.”
Beyond the Street trans drop-in
Loyer’s program, Beyond the Street, is among the first peer-led drop-ins for trans women in Vancouver. It has been holding two-hour sessions every Sunday afternoon since September.
It focuses on offering people help in three main areas: housing questions, such as dealing with transphobia while looking for an apartment or getting evicted; legal matters, such as how to change your name or marriage breakup help; and counselling issues, such as being trapped in a lifestyle that isn’t true to your identity. The program also offers fun activities like Thanksgiving dinner and movies.
“Sometimes trans women get stalled. Something happens and you stop. You can’t get anywhere, whether it’s housing or medical. The idea is to keep them going,” said Loyer.
The three-month-old drop-in has 12 regular attendees, but Loyer also helps women in other communities by phone or email.
She hopes the program can offer marginalized trans woman better options than they often faced in the past: “You end up on the street corner, or you end up in the alleys, or you break down and cry, or you suicide.
“We try to keep people from saying, ‘Oh well, this is what I get.’ Which is easy to think when you don’t have anybody saying anything different,” Loyer said.
Among Atira’s many social housing buildings, which accommodate more than 1,500 women and children every year in the Lower Mainland, up to 20 per cent of the adult female tenants identify as trans, depending on the building type and location, Abbott said.
Many trans women also use Atira’s SisterSpace, which is described as the first women-only overdose prevention site in Canada. Evaluation reports on Atira’s website quote trans women who say the “safe space” offers empathetic workers and an escape from transphobia.
Trans issues have increasingly been in the news. In a high-profile court case, a local father who opposes his transgender child’s pursuit of testosterone therapy fought lower-court decisions all the way to the B.C. Court of Appeal.
For Loyer, trans issues are not new. They’ve been bottled up inside of her for five decades. She hopes, though, that more attention will lead to increased acceptance.
Since her surgery in 2014, she said, her health has improved drastically. The hepatitis C she contracted in 1989 from intravenous drug use is now not detectable in her blood. She is drug-free and quit her 30-year smoking habit. She can walk without a cane, which she had used since her leg was broken in a nasty 2011 assault. Her sight has improved after a hole in her cornea, likely from a beating, was repaired. And she now weighs 165 pounds, up from the 109 she weighed when she arrived on Atira’s doorstep nearly nine years ago.
She no longer lives in supported housing, and has moved to a mixed-income Atira building where many of her neighbours have jobs and go to school. While B.C. Housing subsidizes her rent, Loyer must pay for utilities, internet, and other living expenses.
Perhaps she is most excited about the high school science and math courses she is taking to boost her marks so she can one day apply to the University of British Columbia for a combined degree in astronomy and physics. A downtown investment firm, who read about Loyer in 2014 in The Vancouver Sun, has told her it will pay for her tuition if she gets accepted to UBC.
But with that excitement also comes the fear of failure.
“I need to find a place to apply myself. But the science part I was really nervous about. I didn’t want to think that I could do something and find out that I made a total mess of it and lose confidence,” she said.
Loyer will need confidence to complete her academic goals. She has displayed confidence already, though, in the pursuit of her gender goals. And she has a favourite saying that has, in the past, given her courage and determination: It’s a song title from the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which she saw in Toronto in 1978 after she ran away from home, at age 16, so she could start living as a woman.
Cyclists ride across a trestle bridge, part of the Columbia and Western Rail Trail. Handout/Trails Society / PNG
A historic rail trail that was donated to the province by the Trans Canada Trail society could be opened to logging trucks if a government proposal to cancel its trail designation gets the green light, say trail advocates.
The Ministry of Forests is seeking to transfer management of a 67-kilometre portion of the Columbia and Western Rail Trail to unspecified agencies to reflect local interests and support “access for industrial activity,” according to a letter sent to stakeholders soliciting feedback on the plan.
A major logging company holds tenure for several cut blocks near the trail, which runs from Castlegar to Fife, east of Christina Lake.
“It’s mind-boggling that they’re even considering this,” said Ciel Sander, president of Trails Society of B.C. “The trail is a government asset. It should be protected as a linear park, not an access road for logging trucks.”
The Columbia and Western Rail Trail was donated to the Trans Canada Trail decades ago by the Canadian Pacific Railway for inclusion in the The Great Trail, previously known as the Trans Canada Trail, a national trail network stretching 24,000 kilometres across the country.
In 2004, the committee transferred the trail to the B.C. government with the “expressed intention that it would be used and managed as a recreational trail,” said Trans Canada Trail vice-president Jérémie Gabourg.
While the government’s proposal is clear that recreational access will remain, it marks the first time a group has sought to convert a portion of The Great Trail from a trail to a road in any province or territory.
“Sections of The Great Trail of Canada are on roadways, and we strive to move these sections of the trail to greenways, where possible,” said Gabourg. “To see a trail go from greenway to roadway is disheartening … It could set a dangerous precedent.”
The Columbia and Western Rail Trail connects with the popular Kettle Valley Rail Trail, a route that attracts cyclists from around the world. In accepting the trail from the Trans Canada Trail in 2004, the government made a commitment to preserve and protect it from motorized use, said Léon Lebrun, who was involved in the process as past president of Trails Society of B.C.
“We have a government who has not taken real responsibility,” he said. Officials have “turned a blind eye” to motorized users who have graded parts of the trail and removed several bollards designed to prevent access. “They had no permit and no permission, and the government did nothing.”
In its letter to stakeholders, the Ministry of Forests recognized vehicles are already accessing the trail, explaining the proposed administration change would ensure it was being maintained for that use.
“This portion of rail corridor contains engineered structures including steel trestles, hard rock tunnels, major culverts and retaining walls atypical of recreation trails and requiring management beyond typical trail standards,” said the letter by John Hawkins, director of Recreation Sites and Trails B.C.
But Rossland Mayor Kathy Moore said that allowing motorized vehicles would be rewarding people who broke the law.
“While we acknowledge that this change reflects current use, this is clearly the result of years of mismanagement of what was intended as, and should have remained, a high-profile recreation and tourism amenity,” she replied to Hawkins in a letter that was shared with Postmedia.
“Those who have consistently flaunted trail use regulations are now being rewarded … We expect (Recreation Sites and Trails B.C.) to acknowledge this as a tragic failure, and ensure that resources and strategies are in place to prevent further losses of our valued trails.”
Stakeholders were given one month to register their feedback with the Ministry of Forests, ending Aug. 26.
In a statement, the Ministry of Forests said the process is ongoing to receive more information from regional districts. A decision is expected before the end of the year.
Matthew Vieira, 39, was given the name Margaret when he was born, but he’s been out as transgender and male since he was nine years old.
About a year ago, Vieira was homeless. Now he has an apartment in Delta, but he’s on disability assistance and has been relying on support from the food bank for the past three months.
Vieira has run into barriers when trying to get help at some food banks. For one, his driver’s licence has his old, or “dead” name, which can cause confusion for some — he doesn’t have the funds to get a legal name change. Then there are the moral hang-ups some people still have about transgender people.
“I’ve been refused at some food banks. A couple of the food banks I’ve gone to have been very Christian or Catholic-orientated, and they don’t deal with trans very well, so I’ve been refused,” he said. “It’s very hard when you need help and to get refused.”
Those worries disappear when Vieira makes the trip twice a month to East Vancouver’s Saige Community Food Bank.
“Everybody’s welcome,” he said.
Anyone setting foot in the Kiwassa Neighbourhood house on the second and fourth Friday of each month will instantly know there’s something different about the food bank. It’s immediately clear that it’s a safe space for people in the LGBT community.
Different colourful flags representing bisexual, transgender, non-binary and two-spirited communities adorn the room, along with the traditional LGBT rainbow flag.
Most of the volunteers wear name tags that include their preferred pronoun, including he/him, she/her, or them/their.
“It’s pretty cool. We’re very unique that way — we’re like a family,” said Tanya Kuhn, co-founder and director of the food bank.
According to Kuhn, between 150 and 200 people will visit the food bank each month, along with others who get prepared bags of fresh produce and food. She said that about half the guests are members of the LGBTQ community.
“They love coming here. They love coming to socialize,” said Kuhn. “They love coming to see us and to say hello.”
Jess Chan, who identifies as non-binary (preferring the pronouns them/their), has been volunteering at Saige for a few years.
Chan considers themselves privileged, having the resources to get a legal name change and corresponding documents. And despite struggling to hold a job for about a year, Chan hasn’t experienced challenges with access to food or housing.
“I realized there’s a lot of people out there who don’t quite have the same level privilege that I have,” said Chan.
“I do have trans friends who have experienced homelessness in the past, or extreme poverty,” they said. “I know oftentimes it was because they were kicked out of their parents’ houses because their parents couldn’t accept them, and that’s very hard.”
According to Kuhn, the food bank started because she believes it’s important to provide people with healthy food in a dignified way, but elsewhere, that’s not what Vieira has encountered.
“There should be no boundaries anywhere. It’s not the 1800s anymore,” he said. “We’re all human. We all bleed the same blood, we all breathe the same air. No one is different.”
The National Energy Board will hear from Indigenous groups in Victoria next week as part of reconsideration hearings for the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion.
Sessions are set to take place at the Delta Hotel Ocean Pointe Resort beginning Monday, Nov. 26 and continuing through Thursday.
Over the week, the board will meet with members of the Stó:lō Tribal Council, Kwantlen First Nation, Tsawout First Nation, Tsartlip First Nation and Squamish Nation from B.C., and the Swinomish, Tulalip, Suquamish and Lummi Nations from the U.S.
In August, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned Ottawa’s approval of the project, saying the NEB’s initial environmental assessment was flawed.
The project was sent back to the review phase to address tanker traffic concerns and engage in more meaningful consultation with First Nations.
That decision came on the same day Kinder Morgan sold the pipeline to the Canadian government for $4.5-billion, not including construction costs.
In September, the NEB was given six months to complete the new review. It completed one hearing in Calgary on Tuesday, with the second taking place in Victoria next week.
First Nations and environmental groups have expressed concerns about the potential for diluted bitumen spills and increased tanker traffic on B.C.’s coast if the pipeline expansion is built.
Possibly expecting a large turnout of protesters, Victoria police said they would deploy temporary CCTV cameras near the Delta for the hearings.
After the new NEB hearings conclude, the board will have to submit a report with its new findings by Feb. 22, 2019.
In their first committee meeting since the municipal election, Vancouver Park Board commissioners voted unanimously to approve $35,000 in funding for new trans and gender diverse programs in the city’s community centres.
The funding will help the Queer Arts Festival develop arts workshops, staff training and appoint a representative to advise staff on implementing inclusive programming.
The board’s decision came the night before the transgender community marks its International Day of Remembrance on Tuesday.
SD Holman, Queer Arts Festival artistic director, says the funding will be used to make community centres more welcoming for transgender people.
“For gender non-conforming people, gender diverse folks, going into parks and pools and change rooms is very dangerous, can be humiliating and really really very difficult,” Holman said.
One of the festival’s initiatives proposes to play videos created by trans artists in the common areas of community centres.
“We do everything at the Roundhouse [Community Centre] in the downtown,” said Holman. “Being able to get gender diverse, two spirit and trans art and videos that are going to be played much further out in Vancouver where you wouldn’t necessarily see that is going to be a very important piece of art.”
The Park Board’s trans, gender diverse and two-spirit inclusion (TGD2S) advisory committee was created in 2014 to increase accessibility to parks and community centres for trans people.
Since then, the board has appointed a steering committee to advise on TGD2S specific programming and in 2016 hired two TGD2S facilitators to train staff.
In 2018, new park board pilot programs have included a TGD2S weight room at the Britannia fitness centre, a teen Pride pool party at the Templeton Park Pool and queer and trans youth drop-ins at the West End Community Centre.
Commissioner John Irwin hopes the funding will continue to support trans and queer young people who are at higher risk of substance abuse and suicide.
“Hopefully, it’ll add to the empathy and support in the wider community,” Irwin said.