SOY, The 519, Sketch, support, youth, trans, homelessness, shelter system, theatre, digital story-telling, FTM, safety, poverty, identity, street life, gender-affirming surgery, CAMH, transphobia, medical field, Sherbourne Health, advocacy
Tara: As you know we’re interviewing folks about the experiences of LGBTQ families in schools and we know that you have worked with a lot of LGBTQ youth some who identify as two-spirit, some who identify as trans, some who identify as queer, some who identify in another way, and we thought that you might have some really interesting things to share about the experiences they have had at school. So just to start, can you tell us a little bit about the work you’ve done with queer youth and the things that you’ve talked about, the issues that you’ve taken on and then we’ll move to school.
Alec: Okay. I worked with SOY, I did some workshops with them.
Tara: SOY is Supporting Our Youth.
Alec: Supporting Our Youth. And then I worked at the 519…
Alec: As a policy consultant and a facilitator there so I –I wrote a play for some youth to perform…
Alec: … in the shelter system about basically trans people in the shelter system, what that was like, their experiences there. First we interviewed a bunch of people, maybe thirty people, not just youth but all trans people who have experienced homelessness in the shelter system. Um, and then we wrote a play called Trans Cabaret that four or five youth were involved in it. Um, and um, and then we toured it in the shelter system and it was pretty interesting. We did about twelve performances.
Alec: And then I did some work with some youth at um, where was it? Shaw Street. Sketch. Sketch. We have a program there too, I work with some youth there on creating digital stories. Yah, what they want to tell their stories, through the digital. Yah. So I worked with basically three organizations and a bunch of the youth. (Laughs).
Alec: Some of them were –had a hard time getting into the shelter system to begin with.
Alec: Like if they were F to M they wouldn’t have a very good experience going into a women’s shelter but some of them didn’t have any surgery so they couldn’t go to a men’s shelter, and we heard that it was very bad for F to M’s going to men’s shelters. They were harassed or stuff like that. So that wasn’t good. So as part of my position at the 519, I was involved with a study for safety of F to M’s in shelters, so I did that too.
Tara: Right, okay.
Alec: So I also interviewed youth for that.
Alec: Yah, and it’s very hard for them to get in a shelter, some of them were rejected by their families, right?
Alec: Um, ended up getting involved with street activities, stuff like that. Yah, so, it was kind of difficult. This was like ten years ago too, when I was working on this project. Um, one of them, actually most of them were going through a lot of stuff, um, about their identity, about poverty, about being vulnerable to not good influences on the street, stuff like that. So, yah, it’s really hard for them and I’m trying to think of specific stories that I actually used in the play. One of the characters in the play is having a –was kicked out – had an argument with their parents –their mother- so I used that in the play, kind of phoning her and trying to work things out. So there are scenes in the play of the character and their mother. In the end the mother comes around. Luckily.
Tara: Did that happen in that young person’s life?
Alec: Yah. Acutally I just ran into them. They just came back from a trip to Italy with their dad. They went around –travelling around Italy with their dad, drinking wine and tasting the food and stuff, and they’re also a chef, they’re also a really good chef now.
Alec: Yah, so um, and then one of the other actors they just had their bottom surgery like a month ago. They’ve been wanting it for years, right? ‘Cause there was an issue of not being able to access the surgery for years and years because Mike Harris defunded the surgery. So that was going on too. And it only got refunded five years ago. A few years ago. So there was all that, all that turmoil of not knowing where to go, not having the money to do it yourself, having to jump through hoops. If you went through that CAMH program, they make you jump through so many hoops back then. It’s a lot easier now, I think they’ve changed staff there in the last couple of years. They’re not so judgmental when they’re not so focused on creating straight trans girls or straight trans boys. They didn’t even consider that they might be queer or (unclear) queer, or identify as queer. So that was a huge hurdle too. Having to deal with transphobia from doctors and nurses and stuff like that when they want to get surgery or even hormones, right?
Alec: But actually the Sherbourne Health Clinic started up too about a few years ago so that helped. They found support there. That’s where SOY worked out of too, Supporting Our Youth. So yah.