Published in the Fall 2012 issue • In web :: Features
Sexual healthcare for youth needs a revamp
Comprehensive sexual health services are our right, but LGBT2QI youth face numerous obstacles.
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Morgan suggests that, unfortunately, it isn’t always better at sexual health clinics. “Even though it says it’s inclusive of trans people, they’re not actually expecting us to be there.” At one clinic she went to, everything about the form pertained to a woman assigned female at birth. “It was asking me about things related to menstruation, things that aren’t relevant to me and my body. There was nowhere for me to write in, ‘I need a prostate exam’.” She adds that many doctors “call people the wrong pronoun, refer to body parts wrong, and do not know what to do with a trans body.”
Such experiences deter many in the trans community from going or returning to clinics. This means that many trans people aren’t getting tested for STIs, which is troubling. Trans people, especially trans sex workers, are considered a high-risk population for contracting HIV. “There are statistics that say as much as 68% of trans women sex workers are HIV-positive in Atlanta, Georgia. In Rome, Italy, it’s 74%,”* Morgan says. “It’s very high percentages, so the fact that we’re not getting tested is a really big deal.”
Sarah also acknowledges that trans youth aren’t getting the services that they need. “There’s a lot more that we can do as a clinic to make sure that services are accessible and meaningful to trans youth,” she says. “Sexual health organizations have an obligation to train their providers, and to ensure that the services that they provide are non-judgmental and don’t discriminate.”
Aside from regular training for all staff, Morgan believes that hiring more trans people can “completely transform the way a place runs.” The trans employee can “advocate for all the tiny changes – like changing the forms slightly – that will change the way a trans person experiences the place.” Further, having trans people on staff at an agency can convey to other trans folks that it is safe space. Across the country, these safe spaces are few and far between. Toronto fares better than many other cities in this respect. According to Dr. Wijayasinghe, “the larger and denser a city, the greater the number of advocacy groups there will be.” In turn, these groups will demand services that cater to specific communities.
While The 519 does not offer health services on site, they do provide counseling and referrals, along with a comprehensive list of trans-specific programs. One such program is Trans Youth Toronto (TYT), created in 2001. TYT provides a social space for trans-identified youth, and is Canada’s longest running trans-youth group.
Another service is Trans Access, which is a training program for social service agencies, including sexual health clinics. The goal is to help these agencies become more accessible through the embrace of trans-inclusive policies. Alongside this list of trans-specific programs, The 519 has a reference list of trans-friendly health care centres in Toronto. These include The 410 on Sherbourne Street, Hassle-Free Clinic, and the Sherbourne Health Centre. Morgan also recommends Women’s College Hospital.