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Challenges and changes for the transgender and non-binary community

When Jasper Myers came out as transgender at the end of high school in 2014, he was sick of explaining himself and pretending to be something he wasn’t, but he worried he would face adversity like many members in the transgender community.

He had been weighing the pros and cons of this decision since he was 10 and made the choice to become his true self before post-secondary started.

However, Myers knew what the hardest battle would be to fight in order to expose real truth – his mom and her feelings.

“I don’t know if she is going to think differently because it’s her own kid,” said Myers.” I thought, my mom is not going to be one of those moms who disowns her kid and kicks them out…and then I thought, I don’t know that yet.”

He turned to social media after he told his immediate family and let emotional turmoil at home resolve.

Myers used Facebook to come out to his friends and other family members.

“One day, I made an event page, and I posted this video with everyone else to see because I already told my family – my support system, so I figured no one could get mad,” said Myers.

In early December, Hollywood star Elliot Page came out as transgender on Instagram.

Both Myers and Page used social media to share and receive support for their authentic selves.

Gender inclusivity goes beyond social media.

The government has done research to be more gender inclusive for next year’s census.

“Canadian provinces and territories have also made changes in recent years to allow citizens to change the sex designation on some official documents, such as birth certificates,” according to a technical report of the 2019 census studied by Statistics Canada.

In June 2017, Bill C-16 was adopted by parliament and it amended the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited discrimination.

Bill C-16 also added gender identity and expression to the Criminal Code’s definition of unidentifiable groups to protect people from hate crimes.

The response to gender identity has changed a lot since Myers came out six years ago.

Jake Farr, president of Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays (Whitby), pflag, says people have difficulty reflecting on gender-related topics if they aren’t undergoing any personal exploration such as transitioning, coming out, or figuring out identification for themselves.

“I was semi-happy most days but like, I went to a Catholic high school and wore a uniform,” said Myers who had to wear a kilt. “I felt very, very, uncomfortable because I didn’t like the fact everyone was looking at me as this girl when I didn’t feel like it.”

Farr realizes these experiences have an impact on mental health because those who do not identify as cis gender are not always being understood, and more often than not, are being misrepresented. Cis gender is used to refer to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their sex at birth.

“We have a lot of people mistreating trans people. They discriminate against them because they just don’t understand it,” said Farr. “A lot of people still think of being trans as sex workers only or having addictions and mental health.”

Myers and Farr both shared the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder to obtain any sort of medical surgery or assistance pertaining to transitioning or gender development.

However, since then, a medical ruling stating one can skip the long waits on psychiatric hospital lists and have informed consent through a doctor has become available.

A doctor or nurse can now explain all side effects, procedures, terms and conditions, to a patient. This makes the journey to transition easier.

According to Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), some forms of gender dysphoria may be temporary, but transsexualism will never disappear.

Over the last decade, issues relating to trans people have been identified and supports have been created.

On Transgender Day of Remembrance 2020, Minister Bardish Chagger, the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, made a statement that said, “Transphobia, trans misogyny, and all other forms of violence, including racism against Black, Indigenous, and racialized Trans people, have no place in Canada.”

Even though trans identifying and non-binary people will continue to face discrimination of some sort throughout their lives, Dr. Amir Mostaghim, professor of Social Science and Humanities at Ontario Tech University, says things have gotten better in terms of gender but it depends on each person’s definition of “better.”

Minister Chagger, who was elected in 2015 as the Member of Parliament for Waterloo, encourages Canadians to honour the memory of transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence, as we work together to make all communities safer and more inclusive.

“We must do better by continuing to condemn all acts of violence against transgender people and to integrate Trans perspectives into Canadian institutions so that they can meet the needs of all Canadians,” according to the statement from Minister Chagger on Transgender Day of Remembrance 2020.

Although some may never understand trans identity or even half the trials and tribulations it comes with, Myers knows in his heart that no one’s opinion matters because he has found himself.

He recalls his first moment of freedom happening while sitting in a lecture on his first day of the Journalism – Mass Media program at Durham College.

No one had ever called him his new legal name before, and no one knew three weeks prior he had reconstructive surgery performed on the chest.

“It was the day I could finally take the surgical binder off and I could wear just a shirt,” said Myers. “It was the first time in my life I didn’t have to explain anything to anyone because all the professors had ‘Jasper’ on file.”