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Toronto is on the way to making a plan to fight discrimination against trans youth

The proposed action plan aims to address the inequities faced by trans Torontonians in accessing city services

The trans flag was raised at this year’s Toronto Pride flag raising at city hall on May 31, 2017, to acknowledge the importance of trans rights. Credit: Nick Lachance/Daily Xtra

Toronto city council is taking the first steps to creating a plan to provide equal access and services to trans youth.

On June 7, 2017, the community development and recreation committee adopted a recommendation from city staff to create a working group made up of various city departments that would work with a trans youth advisory council to create an action plan. The motion will go on to city council for approval.

It’s a tentative step to address the deep inequities faced by trans Torontonians in accessing city services.

“There’s a lack of structural networks in the city to provide holistic care and support,” said Danielle Araya, the coordinator of the trans youth mentorship program at The 519.

A city staff report noted some of the issues that trans youth face in Toronto. Trans people face higher levels of violence and harassment, and face very high rates of discrimination in employment and housing.

According to the report, Toronto is home to around 57,600 trans people, which is about 32 percent of all trans people in Canada.

“The experiences of transgender people have traditionally been grouped with lesbian, gay, and bisexual issues,” it read. “However, this conflation silences the specificity of the trans experience defined by gender identity and gender expression, as opposed to sexual orientation.”

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam worried that creating specialized services for trans people may not be the right path in the long-term.

“In some ways I fear that we are actually creating an appendage-style services to what the system already has,” she said. 

She pointed to the shelter system as an example. In 2015, Toronto City Council voted to provide funding for shelter spaces dedicated to LGBT youth.

“That was a Band-Aid solution because we’re not going to be able to transform the system all together,” Wong-Tam said. “What would be a more appropriate solution is for us to transform the way we deliver services to Torontonians so they can access those services regardless of barriers.”

The proposed working group would complement other steps taken by city agencies to address transphobia and give trans people greater access to city services this year.

In April, the city released new guidelines on accommodating people of all gender identities and expressions. A trans youth advisory committee was also created and later this month, the city will launch a public education campaign on transphobia.