City to tackle improving inclusion for transgender youth

As the Pride and Transgender flags fly outside City Hall for Pride Month, a city committee is set to consider a move aimed at increasing inclusion for transgender young people.

City committee meets June 7 to consider action plan

The Transgender flag is flying at city hall as part of Pride festivities. The city is looking at ways to make Toronto a more inclusive place ofr transgender youth. (Torbak Hopper/Flickr)

As the Pride and Trans flags fly outside city hall for Pride month, a city committee is set to consider a move aimed at increasing inclusion of transgender young people.

The community development and recreation committee will look at developing an action plan for transgender youth when it meets on June 7.

The recommendation to the city comes as the federal government weighs whether to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression. Both are already prohibited under the Ontario Human Rights Act.

Danielle Araya, a transgender woman who co-ordinates the trans youth mentorship program at the 519 Community Centre,.says she hears directly from trans young people about the difficulties they endure,

Some have either left their family home or been kicked out. Then, she says, they may face further discrimination at shelters.

'A tough choice'

"Sometimes living on the streets is safer ... than living in a shelter or going back to their families, so it's kind of a tough choice for some," she said. "But it's often the only choice they have."

Araya, who's in her early 30s, sees herself as lucky, growing up in a home with a supportive family. 

Through her work, she tries to give back to young trans people who are struggling. She welcomes the city's attempt to better serve transgender youth. 

Danielle Araya mentors trans youth and welcomes the city's move to make them feel more included. (submitted by Danielle Araya)

She says there have been improvements, but says some staff at official agencies still reject these young people.

"So you lose trust in the places that are supposed to protect you. Even health care is one that should be there for us but it isn't always understanding of us."

The trans community in Toronto numbers 57,600, which equals almost a third of transgender people across the country.

A city manager's report recommends creating a working group from a range of city agencies, including police, employment services and the Medical Officer of Health, to work together with the Trans Youth Advisory. They would develop a trans-inclusive action plan and then report back to the Community Development and Recreation Committee in November.

The plan would have to first be approved by the committee, then by city council in July.

'I'm just thrilled that it's happening in Pride month'

Coun. Paula Fletcher is part of the committee and feels this type of plan is needed.

"It's a very exciting initiative and I'm just thrilled that it's happening in Pride month."

Fletcher hopes this will send a strong message and help decrease all forms of discrimination trans young people face, saying it's important to have."public awareness that we're a safe city for everyone who lives here."