Transgender kids and their families top of mind this Calgary Pride
Local restaurants, bars are fundraising for charity that supports transitioning youth
Ace Peace says he wants to make sure other teens can come out as transgender as safely and seamlessly as he did.
The 18-year-old from Calgary came out as a transgender boy about four years ago — with the full support of his mother.
"I was really shocked at how well and how easy it went," Peace told the Calgary Eyeopener on Monday.
"A lot of kids struggle a lot, especially if they have even one factor missing, like even if only their family isn't good and they have good friends, good school, good support outside their family."
For this year's Calgary Pride Festival, more than 30 local businesses are offering special themed cocktails and donating a dollar from each to Skipping Stone Foundation — a non-profit that Peace's mother started to support other families of transgender youth.
Lindsay Peace co-founded the non-profit after finding that, to support her son's transition, she had to essentially volunteer for a year. Few services were offered and no single place explained how to get everything done: from mental health support, to name changing to alerting schools.
Now Skipping Stone usually gets two or three calls a day asking for help, she said.
"It's a phase, it's the internet, it's TV," Peace said parents have told her. "It's a pretty hard thing, I think, especially when they're kids."
A study released last Fall found 65 per cent of Alberta transgender youth, between ages 19 and 25, have considered suicide. Almost 90 per cent between ages 14 and 18 don't seek mental health help because they're scared their parents will find out.
"I say, listen and believe them. That's a really big thing," Peace said. "Ultimately, it truly comes down to, you need to get behind this and you need to support them or you'll lose them."
The Calgary non-profit connects kids and families with medical services such as hormone replacement therapy and psychology. It explains how to change names and tell schools, and offers peer mentoring, parent support groups and free gender-affirming gear, such as chest binders and breast forms.
'Believing and then learning'
Not all outreach is fully successful, Peace said. Some kids drop out of school after coming out, she said, and one client changed schools seven times.
"In this situation, it really is learning from our kids," she said. "Not just about this but about everything: really listening and believing and then learning."
Good experience possible
Ace Peace said his experience and the foundation's work show that the trans kid experience doesn't have to be negative — and families can be supported, too.
"It was fairly seamless, like it went really well with my family, with my friends, with my school," he said. "You hear about scary things and it makes you not want to come out."
Listen to Lindsay and Ace Peace talk about their work supporting trans children:
The experience of trans kids is front and centre at this year's Calgary Pride. Skipping Stone says two of its young clients are carrying the Pride banner in Sunday's parade.
The parade marshals also will be LGBT youth, selected from local school gay and queer straight alliances.
The festival runs until Sept. 3.
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With files from Lisa Robinson and the Calgary Eyeopener.