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Caden (left) and Jaime (right) together at McMaster Children's Hospital.
March 28, 2018

What does Trans Day of Visibility mean to you?

Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV), celebrated on March 31 each year, is a day to show support for the trans community, raise awareness of the discrimination trans people face, and honour their accomplishments. We asked Jaime Campbell and Caden Craig from Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) what TDOV means to them ‒ and what health care providers can learn about treating trans patients.

Jaime is a Nutrition Associate, and a graduate level social work student in the Adolescent Medicine program, working specifically in the Pediatric Eating Disorders clinic and Gender Diversity clinic. Jaime is also involved in HHS’ Gender Inclusivity Committee. Caden is a social worker with the Child and Youth Mental Health Program at HHS. Prior to this, Caden worked as a counsellor and manager at Kids Help Phone.

What does Trans Day of Visibility mean to you?

Jaime: To me, International Transgender Day of Visibility is about celebrating the diverse ways that trans and gender diverse people survive and thrive in a world that’s often hostile to our very existence. It’s about recognizing the resiliency of trans communities in the face of historical and ongoing violence and oppression, as well as acknowledging the many contributions that trans and gender diverse people make to the LGBTQ2S+ movement and to society as a whole.

From my perspective as a privileged member of the trans community, Transgender Day of Visibility is also about highlighting that visibility is not safe for many people within the trans community. Being visible as a trans or gender diverse person also means being vulnerable to experiencing violence or other forms of oppression, such as being denied employment, healthcare, or housing. Trans women of colour in particular continue to experience this violence at alarming levels.

Transgender Day of Visibility is in many ways a celebration, but it’s also about recognizing the work that we still need to do as a community and as a society to ensure that all trans and gender diverse people are respected, not only those of us who “pass” as cisgender.

Caden: It’s an opportunity for trans people to be celebrated in their diversity. For me it’s an opportunity to show others that trans people are quite common and a chance to show people who may be questioning their gender, that trans individuals can be successful and happy when their gender is affirmed. I also think it’s necessary to be visible to help reduce the stigma and provide hope – there is no shame in being trans.

2022 update from Caden: There has been an increase in anti-trans legislation in the US and young people are worried this will happen in Canada too. For example, bills criminalizing providing care to trans youth, bills legislating bathroom use, bills limiting the discussion of 2SLGBTQ topics in the classroom and involvement in sports. This anti-trans legislation makes visibility on days like today, and every day, so much more important.

What do you want other health care providers to know about treating trans patients?

Jaime: We’re just like any other patient. Of course, like all sub-populations of patients, we have unique healthcare needs, but our entire lives do not revolve around being trans. I think a lot of providers get hung up on the idea that trans patients are complex or outside their scope of practice, and in most cases, that’s not true. More often than not, being trans isn’t even relevant to our medical care, or it’s only relevant for determining which types of routine testing need to be completed. If being trans isn’t immediately relevant to our care, you don’t need to worry about it.

Caden: Every trans individual is different. Take time to ask patients what being trans means to them. Also, be mindful of what you ask; asking questions to satisfy your curiosity or to develop your professional knowledge puts unfair pressure on patients. There are many great resources to gain knowledge around gender; the office of Human Rights and Inclusion has wonderful trainings on the topic.

What is one gesture or action health care providers can do to make trans patients feel comfortable?

Jaime: Respect us enough to trust that we know who we are and what we need. On its most basic level, this means believing us when we tell you who we are and using our name and pronouns without question, even if you don’t fully understand our gender or the pronouns we use. On a deeper level, this means trusting that we’re competent to make informed decisions about our care, including initiating gender-affirming healthcare such as starting hormone replacement therapy or getting gender-affirming surgery. Don’t make us prove to you that we’re “trans enough” to deserve gender-affirming healthcare. I can guarantee you that we have thought through our identities and what we want for ourselves in far greater depth than you have.

Caden: Become comfortable with asking all patients about what pronouns they use. Not only will it make trans patients more at ease, it helps encourage dialogue on the topic and helps educate cisgender patients that gender goes beyond the binary.

Learn more about how HHS is moving towards trans-inclusive health care.