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PTS programs aim to end discrimination

New initiatives focus on youth, trans people and women

Participants at Ottawa's Slut Walk called on decision-makers to create safer spaces for women.
Good things come in threes, according to Pink Triangle Services.
 
PTS executive director Claudia Van den Heuvel says the queer social outreach agency is rolling out three new programs to tackle discrimination. She says the programs target different demographics in the community.
 
The new initiatives include diversity training, advocacy on trans issues, and education on queer women’s health and sexuality.
 
“They are educationally based programs designed to help the queer community,” says Van den Heuvel, noting all are volunteer-run.
 
Creating Safer Spaces will provide diversity training targeted at youth, schools and service providers. Van den Heuvel says the aim is to develop a rainbow alliance.
 
The program provides peer-to-peer training and youth initiatives and is linked with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.
 
“We’re trying to engage the Catholic school board, but there’s a lot of controversy surrounding that,” she says. “We are working toward setting up a rainbow training program. I think many below the board and trustee levels have interest in setting up a program, but within the higher executive positions there are some restrictions.”
 
TransAction (TA) is PTS’s newest program.
 
“We received funding from Trillium Foundation last November to do a service audit by calling more than 200 organizations in the Ottawa area to assess their knowledge of trans issues and of their policies,” Van den Heuvel says. “This is so we can help them better serve trans people.”
 
The initiative will educate front-line staff around issues of gender and identity.
 
“Some organizations are better informed than others,” says Van den Heuvel. “There’s still a lot of misinformation out there.  A lot of organizations may not even know they are serving trans clients. Some have said they don’t need to do the audit because they don’t have trans clients, but that comment is rooted in misunderstandings.”
 
The third program is Queer Women’s Health and Sexuality. The main objective is to educate service providers, especially women’s shelters, on how to better serve queer women. “We teach them about how queer women may be facing barriers to services,” she says.
 
The program extends to both Carleton and Ottawa University.
 
Van den Heuvel has seen one prominent pattern emerge: “The one we’ve noticed the most is women being discriminated against at women’s shelters, not by staff, but by other clients. Staff need to create a safer space for clients who are queer; it’s a part of what we do by helping others enforce and maintain a safe space and to be aware of the different needs queer women may have.”
 
She says another issue is service organizations that do not have queer-friendly materials.
 
“It can make a clear difference. There are a lot of misunderstandings we find from health practitioners. There’s a lot of misinformation about queer women protecting themselves when they are sexually active. There are a lot of myths out there; it’s important people don’t communicate those myths.”
 
For more information, contact PTS at creating.safer.spaces@ptsottawa.org or by phone at 613-563-4818.