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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Rainbow Health Ontario (RHO) works to accomplish similar goals as The 519’s Trans Access program, but on a provincial scale and for the LGBTQ2I population more broadly. According to RHO, approximately 70% of Ontarian trans people live outside of Toronto. For these trans folks, comprehensive primary health care is even harder to obtain. With funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and in partnership with The Sherbourne Health Centre, RHO launched Trans Health Connection (THC) in April 2011. This project aims to foster more accessible health care for trans folks throughout Ontario. Thus far, THC has focused on the regions of Thunder Bay, Ottawa, St. Catharines, and Windsor. It has collaborated with one health centre in each area, with each centre serving as the city’s hub for trans-inclusive services.
The NorWest Community Health Centre (NorWest CHC) in Thunder Bay is one of these hubs. It is an integrated health facility that offers a variety of services, including those pertaining to mental health, primary health and sexual health. Wendy Talbot, Chief Executive Officer of the NorWest CHC, praised RHO for being “a partner and a big support for us in terms of training the physicians on the medical aspects of our trans population.”
In spite of these measures, within the region of Thunder Bay certain barriers exist that impede accessibility to sexual health care. These barriers affect both the LGBTQ2I youth community specifically, and the greater youth demographic more generally. Transportation is one obstacle. “We’re talking about people living, say, 200 kilometers, 300 kilometers from Thunder Bay,” Wendy says. “The only way they can get here is if they have someone to drive them or if they have a vehicle. There’s not the transportation that you will see in urban centres. There’s also not the number of specialists [that you would find in Toronto]. And when you have that small a number, you can’t effectively provide comprehensive care. People have to go to where the providers are.”
There is also the issue of anonymity and a lack of a support network. According to Wendy, “Everybody knows everybody up here. If you have a youth that’s going through gender reassignment, it’s very difficult in small communities. The discrimination can be pretty brutal.” As a result, many young people relocate to Southern Ontario, where there is a safety net of a larger LGBTQ2I community presence. “Thunder Bay is getting better in recognizing the need to support this [LGBTQ2I] population,” Wendy says, “and has made some important steps.”