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Main Body

CHAPTER 5: Extra-Community Strengths

The next thematic grouping was Extra-Community Strengths. This group is about the positives and strengths participants talked about in the spaces and relationships between trans and cisgender societies. The subthemes here were:

  1. Positive and Improving Relations
  2. Improving Services and Protection
  3. Increased Visibility
  4. Improving Access to Knowledge

It is important to note that this group of themes was the least frequently discussed in both the Edmonton and Calgary focus groups.

Positive and Improving Relations

Definition

Trans people are experiencing better treatment outside their communities than they’ve come to expect.

Description

Community members gave examples of positive or improving interactions they’d encountered in queer spaces, personal relationships, and sometimes in more formal relationships. “Attitudes are changing” said one Edmonton participant. Often people qualified stories of positive experiences, saying they felt “lucky” or that it was a “surprise.” One Edmonton member, when talking about a local Edmonton LGBT+ agency, noted:

“There’s more of us, you know. It’s pretty open now, that I don’t feel so much like an outsider. And I don’t feel the pressure to be cis-looking or stealth.”

A participant in Calgary said that cisgender people had demonstrated to her that “there’s a lot of willingness to listen.” She offered that inaccessible knowledge made it hard for trans people to represent themselves and for cisgender people to learn ally skills (see also Inaccessible KnowledgeChapter 4).

In both cities, participants said there was still much room for growth until trans people had achieved equality. Even within queer spaces inclusivity for trans people was variable (see also Inclusivity in LGBT+ CulturesChapter 4). Both groups noted that while social acceptance might be improving, human services and healthcare services were lagging behind (see also Inaccessible Needs and Services, Chapter 4).

Unexpected surprises.

Think of a time you felt surprised in a good way by someone else. How did this impact how you thought of them afterwards?

Improving Services and Protection

Definition

Trans people are experiencing improved rights, services, and protections.

Description

Community members described many structural improvements for trans people in Canada. These included increased attention to trans issues at the larger sociopolitical systems levels, improving healthcare services, and improved access to support resources. Improvements were not only an increase in the number of protections and providers available, but in the quality of trans-affirmative services provided. For example, the Edmonton group touched on the idea that in the past, gender expression was closely policed by cisgender service providers. In order to access appropriate healthcare, trans people were encouraged to adhere to masculine or feminine gender ideals. An Edmonton participant commented that the way trans people were treated in healthcare today is “better than having to be told ‘you have to wear a skirt or a dress to see [the gender specialist] or he won’t see you anymore’.”

Improvements were loosely credited to trans rights advocacy being more visible and well-received in cisgender society (see the next subtheme below). Participants did note there seemed to be some difficulties translating new trans policies into improvements at the frontline level (see also Inaccessible Needs and ServicesChapter 4, and Needs Outstrip ResourcesChapter 6). For example, one Calgary member said:

“Our political system is moving ahead, and we’re getting all these openings. So we can go see a psychiatrist, and we can go get reassignment surgery, and we can go get all this stuff. But the problem with that is. . . it takes too long.”

Another gave the example of school guidelines for LGBT+ youth inclusion.

“The guidelines were great. I’m willing to bet 60% of the teachers that read the guidelines didn’t know what half the words meant.”

Coming soon to a place near you.

Imagine that resources were not an issue and you could help create any type of trans-inclusive group, activity, or program. What do you think would be an interesting venture? Get creative!

Increased Visibility

Definition

Trans stories and people are more visible locally, in the media, and in larger social discussions.

Description

Group members in both Edmonton and Calgary talked about how an increase in trans representation in social discourses, politics, media, and at the local level impacted them. A Calgary member opined that greater visibility and acceptance was helping trans people “com[e] out more.” Participants in both groups talked about how visibility helped increase the knowledge and sense of community trans people had access to. One Edmonton participant framed it thus:

Visibility of other trans peoples does help you normalize it for yourself.

A Calgary participant said that visibility could inspire people towards greater advocacy, “keep[ing] that momentum going and push[ing] forward.” Indeed, another Calgary member noted he’d first found trans community because individuals had made themselves known as they advocated for political change.

An addition to helping trans individuals, group members also said visibility was helping relations between cis and trans people. As one Calgary participant put it:

“I know that there’s people who are learning about these things for the first time. With the advent of a lot of recent events, celebrities coming out and new rights being gained in various countries.”

Collage.

Maybe you’ve seen recent news stories, documentaries, TV shows, movies, or other media about trans people. If you put images from this media together, what picture would it paint?

Improving Access to Knowledge

Definition

The information and literature available about trans experience is improving.

Description

Again, focus group members noted not just an increase in the amount of available knowledge but in the quality of it as well. An Edmonton participant called trans people today “pioneers” for our voluminous contributions to the available trans knowledge. Improvements were credited in part to trans advocacy and in part to larger societal responsiveness to trans issues. For example, one Calgary participant noted that provincial health services had hired a person to develop guidelines for trans care. He said:

“It’s never happened before. . . I never thought I’d see that in my lifetime.”

Lights, camera, action!

How much of the information you’ve seen about trans people comes from trans-identified writers, researchers, artists, etc.? How would you want to contribute to trans-created knowledge?

License

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CHAPTER 5: Extra-Community Strengths by Mateo Huezo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.