British Columbia

How new census data can help improve equity and services for transgender British Columbians

This week’s first-ever release of census data on the number of transgender and non-binary Canadians, means governments now have the information they need to provide adequate services to the gender diverse population.

Despite progress on language and identification, province needs to do more on health care, advocate says

ChrŸs Tei, executive director of Rainbow Health Co-op in Victoria, advocates for transgender rights and access to health care. (ChrŸs Tei/submitted)

New census data is an opportunity for the province of B.C. to improve its services for transgender residents, a health advocate in Victoria says. 

For the first time ever, Statistics Canada allowed Canadians to identify as transgender or non-binary in the 2021 census. The results were released this week, and showed 9,910 British Columbians identify as transgender and 8,420 identify as non-binary

They also showed Victoria has the country's highest number of people per capita who identify as such. 

Census data gives governments and service providers the information they need to plan and budget by knowing how many people they need to serve. 

ChrŸs Tei, executive director of Victoria's Rainbow Health Co-op, says for transgender British Columbians, that means access to surgery, hormone replacement and primary care. 

"We often have more complex relationships in our health-care systems," said Tei, "and we need doctors and health-care professionals at different times, that are aware of our needs, to know how to take care of them."

Those complex needs include transitioning and mental health supports. Tei says research done by TransPulse, set to be released in June, shows a third of trans people have contemplated suicide or serious harm in the past year.

While she says the province did well in 2015 when it set up Trans Care B.C. — the provincial health body that serves trans, two-spirit and non-binary patients, in part by providing gender-affirming surgery⁠ — it's time to let the community make recommendations for change.

"It was based on what we understood about the community in 2014," says Tei. "We need to take what we understand about the community today and create a new set of recommendations for the next five years to guide the B.C. government in the delivery of programs that are efficient and effective."

While Tei applauds the government for what she calls social changes — allowing the symbol "X" for gender on ID in addition to "M" and "F," and removing gendered language from laws and regulations — she says it needs to work on health care too.

The transgender flag flies in front of the B.C. Legislature. MLA Grace Lore, the parliamentary secretary for gender equity, says flying the flag is one thing the province is doing to reduce stigma against trans British Columbians. (Province of British Columbia)

Ongoing consultations

As B.C.'s parliamentary secretary for gender equity, Grace Lore liaises with government ministries and departments to make sure gender rights are being recognized. 

She says she speaks to Trans Care B.C. regularly and is committed to making improvements to its services, and access to those services. 

Lore acknowledges that trans people struggle disproportionately with mental health concerns, suicide and homelessness. 

"Fundamentally, that is not because people are trans or non-binary, but because of the existing barriers and challenges within society," said Lore, who is the MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill. She says her job is to keep working to remove those barriers. 

One example, she says, is work that's underway to create a gender-based violence action plan for B.C., and consultations that are set to begin on pay transparency.

"We know they're disproportionately affected by gender-based violence, that there's larger pay gaps for those who are trans and non-binary," said Lore. 

Lore says trans, non-binary, and two-spirit people are being included in consultations on both projects — and that part of her focus is making sure those voices are included in all government consultations. 

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