Thursday’s Youth Trans March was a milestone for young people struggling with their gender identities, and the LGBTQ2+ community as a whole.
Last year, director of education and LGBTQ2+ youth initiatives at Kelowna Pride, Davina Kula, created a program called Etcetera, which was comprised of members between the ages of 11 and 17 who have had a lived experience with being transgender.
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In between the trenches of precarious non-profit funding, the group would meet in a peer-support setting with clinical supervision to talk about the social issues and stigma that comes with being trans, along with their individual struggles as a trans person.
“Safe places for LGBTQ2+ kids are just not set up within our society, within our structure,” Kula said. “As long as kids are hearing those messages of hate and exclusion, (having a safe community) is that much more important.”
Now, after Kula can “happily say” the program is sustainable, with funding from groups such as Kelowna Women in Business and Trans Care BC, the Etcetera team along with partners had the fiscal and physical ability to bring together an event for those who are discriminated and neglected.
“I think it’s important for the them to see who their village is,” Kula said. “Because everyone needs a village and these kids are leading the way.”
One of those leaders is Thai August, a 19-year-old trans person and the lived experience peer youth facilitator at Etcetera.
“Just having one day where trans people can get together and they can feel safe in a group, it honestly helps so much with getting through those day-to-day conflicts,” August said. “Just knowing that there are others and that you’re not the only one going through it.”
August said they have gone, and currently still go through bouts with transphobics, family, friends and greater society but has managed to enter a place in their personal journey that grants the ability to help others.
Between 2016 and 2017, 75 per cent of surveyed Canadian transgender youth reported self-harming and at least about 33 per cent had attempted suicide, according to UBC’s Stigma and Resilience Among Vulnerable Youth Centre.
Kula is quick to remind the public about how imperative it is to support and accept these young people for who they.
“The kids are listening,” she said. “And words can kill.”