Wonder Boobs for Jade
Jade Pichette works tirelessly in their communities. Although dedicating their time and life to trans and queer folks fills their heart, it hasn't necessarily filled their pockets. Jade needs a surgery that is not OHIP covered. Jade, along with their friends, needs help funding 'top surgery' (BOOBIES!)
Some of you reading may wonder how a surgery that is seemingly elective and cosmetic is, in fact, necessary to their good health? Daily, they experience incredible dysphoria and discomfort. Many times, while home alone, they feel the most comfort in wearing a super push up bra. As their roombabe, I can tell you that they really enjoy the freedom of NO clothes at all, and the turmoil of temporary 'fixes' to their body with restrictive clothing has negative effects on their mental health.
Money raised will go directly towards the life-affirming, life-altering, life-saving surgery Jade has been dreaming of. The total cost of the surgery is $9153 and they are confirmed for surgery on March 25, 2019! Exciting! They would fund it themselves if that was possible, but that's a hefty price tag for something that should be covered and isn't. Luckily, they have beautiful communities and networks of folks in their queer & trans & religious circles - Probably that includes YOU reading this, too! Friends have outwardly encouraged and supported Jade's fundraising of this procedure, and now, we are all excited to watch the outpouring of love manifest into dollars.
Perhaps you've experienced the labour of Jade's love. Perhaps you have the means to give generously to their quest for better health and life. Or perhaps you can afford to go without a few luxury items and can toss even a few bucks to the campaign. Maybe money is not your greatest resource at the moment, but you have social currency with your networks of friends. Sharing this gofundme with your people who do have access to money is a huge contribution.
If you need further reminding of some of the organizations Jade has given so much to: They've done great things at Trans Youth Ottawa, Kind* Space, CLGA, and Pride at Work Canada. They've also travelled all over to work independently as a workshop facilitator, a panelist, a speaker, and a consultant on 2SLGBTQ+ topics, anti-oppression training, and religious teaching & leading. PHEW - that's a LOT and it doesn't even come close to all of it!
Now, what do you say? Do you think you can contribute some money to their campaign? Can you share this with your networks? Can you talk to your people face to face about the realities of body dysphoria and how you can help Jade and others like them? Let's get busy! There are BOOBS for Jade calling their name <3
It certainly became clear that one of my biggest challenges was my own anxiety about putting my body on display in this way. I came out at a time when it was just assumed it was okay to have trans bodies on display, for cis people to feel like they had the right to know about my trans body. The amount of times I've been asked by strangers about my genitals, or asked about my hormones, or had my body explicitly critiqued has been beyond counting. So I told myself years ago that the only people I'd answer were people I was going to sleep with, and health professionals when it was appropriate (when I have the flu and they would ask about my genitals for example not appropriate).
One experience that I particularly remember about my body being critiqued was visiting a Pagan Pub Moot (that no longer exists). At it this couple decided to pick apart my body and specifically pointed out my small chest as evidence "I was really a man." Something tells me a cis woman wouldn't have had the same experience.
I've also had people gossip after seeing me naked about my "real gender." Telling others, and these were folks I thought were allies. So one concern of these fundraising as well is of people after surgey being like "well they are actually fake you know." If you hear people say that please stop them. Thank you in advance.
As I told someone who asked just last week if I was done "the transition": I will never stop transitioning. Life is transition. Life is constant change. There is no end, to that change, just major moments along the way.
Thank you all for being part of this one.
The next part of my trans story is PTS. PTS, was started the year I was born by some amazing gay liberation activists who had been parts of the Gays of Ottawa. Over the years it changed from Pink Triangle Services, to PTS, to its current incarnation Kind Space. My first experience with PTS was in 2003, when I went to the youth group and had some transphobic experiences, which resulted in the formation of Trans Youth Ottawa (the last story). When TYO ended however, was also a transitional point in my life, in 2010 I graduated from Carleton with a Bachelor of Social Work, Highest Honours. I then needed to find a job.
I landed the part time position at PTS as the Creating Safer Spaces Coordinator, this quickly became the full-time Education Programs Coordinator role. The role let me do what I love, which was educating, but with some pay (I say some because small charities are not exactly the best paid jobs). I was responsible for a number of programs including Creating Safer Spaces, which focused on supporting LGBTQ youth make their schools more inclusive, and to changes attitudes to be more positive of LGBTQ people overall. We did a lot of LGBTQ 101 workshops, but also workshops on how to address bullying, and make active change. In the role I got a volunteer team of amazing youth to work with. I am constantly astounded when I see where some of them have gone since, some are social workers themselves now, some are working on political campaigns, many of them have truly soared. I don’t know if I had a role in that, but I hope that I at least had a small footnote in their stories.
I also became in charge of the Queer Women’s Mental and Sexual Health program, and TransAction, a trans-inclusion program. Through both of those programs I got to go talk to community groups, educators, students, and even medical professionals. There are a number of doctors, social workers, and related health professionals working in Ottawa today, that the first time they received any trans training or queer women’s health training was from me.
We had moments of amusement and joy at PTS as a team. We were more intimate as coworkers than in many cases. One amusing moment was as a result of a fundraiser where I and others got painted blue (I did it twice once for AIDS Walk, and once for Pride). We also had really hard moments, like the memorial to Jamie Hubley, a gay child of a City Councillor who completed suicide. One particularly hard moment for me was the No More Apologies Conference.
In 2012 after the first No More Apologies: Trans and Cis Women Coming/Cumming Together happened in Toronto for the launch of Brazen the trans woman safer sex guide, we decided to hold one in Ottawa a few months later. This was a joint effort of PTS, Planned Parenthood Ottawa, and some committed community volunteers to actually discuss transmisogyny in queer women’s communities in regards to relationships and sex. As a result of being the lead organizer and an out trans one, Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) decided to attack me with a hate campaign. I was doxxed, put up on many hate sites, had every single social media I had (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr etc) bombarded with hate messages and death threats. I had to be put on suicide watch by friends and lovers of mine, and almost didn’t make the conference itself. I did however, and had a large showing at Jack Purcell Arena. I was grateful the event itself went off quite well.
After two years at PTS, I decided it was time to move on in order to go back to school and get my MSW, which is where Toronto enters my story...
As a note Kind Space has stayed open over the holidays and is a charity, so if you are unable to give to my individual campaign, but need a tax receipt from a charity before the end of 2018 you can donate to them here: http://kindspace.ca/donate/
In 2004 when leaving high school I found there was a lack of support for trans youth in Ottawa. I remember going to a community LGB...t... youth group where I was actually questioned somewhat aggressively about wearing a skirt. I also found that the only trans group I could find was Gender Mosaic which at the time was mostly men who identified as cross-dressers in their 50s and 60s, as well as a few transgender (but not so much transsexual) identified women. I also had some experiences with members where I was unconsentually touched and told that I would make "such a pretty girl." Keep in mind I was an underage teenager at the time.
As a result I went searching, and found a yahoo group list "Trans Youth Ottawa." I was excited and joined the list. I found most members were slightly older than me in their early 20s, but I was still very excited as people were much closer to my age, and more were transsexual identified. I suggested we meet at Cafe Nostalgica (primarily because it was an adult venue that I had been going to previously for poetry nights). The first meeting there was only four of us (though I think we met up with a fifth later).
More comfortable now with the other members I suggested that we meet again, and held the second meeting in my living room with my mom's approval. After one of the other members who was older than me and lived downtown offered to start hosting more regularly (happy to give her credit, but don't want to unconsentually tell someone else's story). We started to have a lot more members and I remember meetings where we would have close to 20 people through the night.
The host in question realized we needed to move it into a more public location and so started to pay out of pocket to cover rental fees at Pink Triangle Services (PTS). She helped raise the money to cover through dance party nights called Divergence that were held at Shanghai a local Asian fusion restaurant in Chinatown some of whose family members are openly queer. We would change the bathroom signs to random different pieces (drawn by an artist member) of things like pie or cake, dogs or cats. etc.
After a while the host stepped down once we officially became a group of PTS. This meant that we had free space, and a very small budget at our disposal for snacks. We had some challenges though with the administration as Trans Youth Ottawa was always meant for youth, but we had defined that as under 30. PTS admin at the time felt that no one underage could come because we didn't have a youth counselor on site for the group, but we also couldn't have anyone over the age of 24 as that "wasn't considered youth." We essentially solved this problem by ignoring the admin, never asking ages, and continuing to function quasi-independently. As someone who has been on the other end of volunteers, I can now understand how annoying that might have been.
In the five years in which we ran (2004-2009) we were very active in the community. We would give trainings in the community about trans 101 (something others were not doing at all at the time). These trainings were usually unpaid or well under-paid. We went everywhere from the Rainbow Youth Forum, to community groups, to social services, to businesses, and even a couple religious groups. You'd find us tabling at Pride, and many other community events just to get the word out about the importance of trans inclusion, and to provide a space for trans youth, when no one else would really have them. I remember one occassion in particular where I and another facilitator of TYO was brought into the LGB..t... youth group as a trans youth had come and was referred to as "it" by other attendees. Even the group facilitators were woefully ignorant on trans issues, and bi issues as well, during the same session I had to correct them as they had taught the youth that pansexual meant you wanted to have sex with everything all the time, uncontrollably.
We were sometimes the troublemakers too because, we weren't afraid to speak truth to power. Even in 2007 when I won the Capital Xtra Youth Activist of the Year Award, I used it as a platform to call out the other organizations in the room. I believe one of the lines from that speech was "Just because you have a 'T' in your acronym does not mean that you do anything for trans people." The editor of Capital Xtra would not even shake my hand as I left the stage, and I was very aware that I was the only one he didn't shake hands with (the assistant editor was an amazing human though).
We also of course held our support group. During that time as facilitator we had so many difficult stories come up, but also stories of joy. Youth who had been disowned by their families. Youth who were struggling with suicide or substance abuse. Being denied access to any type of medical treatment and OHIP coverage and more. We did the best we could to support one another from a peer-support model. None of us truly knew what we were doing, but we tried because, that was what we needed.
By 2009 attendance had a steady decline. The need for TYO in that form had reduced, and those of us who were facilitators no longer had the energy to take it on. In particular due to the start of GenderQuest, a group for trans people at PTS which still runs at Kind Space and I was consulted in the creation of, as well as Pink Triangle Youth (Now Queer Trans Youth) had become a much more inclusive space for trans youth. We had worked ourselves out of need in that form. So as a result we decided to close TYO's doors and end that chapter in our lives.
Photo is of me at the Ottawa Pride Parade in 2006. I am carrying an end of the Trans Youth Ottawa banner.