Gender Construction Zone, a new anglophone group, wants to give Montreal youth a chance to explore their gender identity outside of the predominant male-female dichotomy.
The group will provide peer support, resource sharing, and discussion groups for trans-questioning and gender-questioning this week – services that Canada lacks, according to organizers.
Most trans/gender support groups in this country are run out of gender clinics that offer hormones and surgery as solutions to gender-questioning individuals. But Telyn Kusalik, a facilitator for Gender Construction Zone, felt such groups are closed-minded and may alienate those who do not want surgery.
“Many gender clinics are concerned mainly with those who identify 100 per cent as one gender. However, there are a lot of people who don’t identify as either men or women,” Kusalik said.
Kusalik added that the extra stress and pressure faced by young trans individuals makes the presence of Gender Construction Zone even more important. It offers individuals the space to discuss issues concerning their gender identity and build a community with those experiencing similar doubts, based on mutual support.
“There is a demand in our culture to be the gender one was assigned at birth,” said Kusalik. “Those who question their gender are liable to be laughed at, harassed, or even subjected to violence.”
Kusalik hopes to create a non-judgmental environment.
“I became aware of a need for a place where individuals could talk about their gender doubts without coming out to their loved ones,” explained Kusalik. “The process of coming out is difficult, and there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed before one can take that big step.”
For other services, Kusalik refers individuals to the Head and Hands Clinic, whose approach is compatible with the Gender Construction Zone’s philosophy. At Head and Hands, young trans people can seek the help of doctors and counsellors, and access free services, such as peer counselling and legal services.
“Head and Hands has a non-judgmental mandate and provides a comfortable, less clinical atmosphere for patients,” said Jocelyn, the clinic’s Health Animator. “We take patients from wherever they’re coming from and make no assumptions about where they’ve been.”
McGill’s Student Health Services also offers individuals a place to ask their questions to medical professionals.
“We have a nurse on staff who is always available to sit down with students and answer any pressing questions they might have,” said Eva Adomako, the interim Clinic Manager of Student Health. “We also have a Mental Health Clinic available to students with similar concerns.”
Kusalik added that the Gender Construction Zone hopes to complement and fill the gap in this specialised service.
“Most people don’t question their gender. Most go through life 100 per cent okay with the gender they were given at birth,” said Kusalik. “But for those who don’t, Gender Construction Zone provides a confidential, safe place to gain peer support and assistance.”
Gender Construction Zone, to which a fair number of people have shown interest, hopes to hold its first meeting next week.
For more information about the group and its meeting times, email firstname.lastname@example.org.