Tackling Transphobia

Today is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

I’ve seen so many high school students struggle to understand themselves in the midst of a society that fears talking about sexuality and gender.

Part of being a teen is figuring yourself out- and that includes gender and sexuality. Yet still in schools and in families there can be a denial of those aspects of the human experience.

The truth is, everyone has a sexual orientation. Everyone has a gender identity.

As an English teacher, I ask my students to write from the heart, and what sometimes comes pouring out are the elements of their identity that they’re struggling to understand; they write about  all the ways that they’re getting the message that they’re not right, or they don’t fit. What teens need, what EVERYONE needs is someone to listen deeply, so that we know that we’re not alone. So that we know that at least one person sees us, and hears us.

Today is a day for listening deeply. Today is a day for knowing that you’re not alone.

Today it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Stevie Gregg. I first met Stevie 10 years ago when Stevie was a female high school student at the high school where I was teaching. Now Stevie has transitioned to male and he’s earned both a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Marketing, and he now has a career in Human Resources.  On March 31, on Trans Day of Visibility, Stevie shared with his Facebook friends that he was female at birth. After seeing his post I asked if he would allow me to interview him, so he could share his story of resilience through his transition from female to male. Stevie is such a genuine, compassionate, and understanding person who reminds us once again that no matter what you’re going through, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

There are so many supports to help you on this journey. Here are just a few:

The Calgary Sexual Health Center has an AMAZING wealth of resources!

Under “SEXUAL HEALTH INFO” they offer comprehensive information on

  • Sexuality and your body
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender Identity
  • Parent Information

https://www.calgarysexualhealth.ca/

PFLAG (United States)

If you are a family member, an ally, or LGBTQ, support is just a click away, whether it’s resources from PFLAG National or peer-to-peer support from our nationwide chapter network. https://www.pflag.org/

PFLAG Canada is a national charitable organization, founded by parents who wished to help themselves and their family members understand and accept their non-heterosexual children. http://pflagcanada.ca

Trans Lifeline is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to the well being of transgender people. We run a hotline staffed by transgender people for transgender people. Trans Lifeline volunteers are ready to respond to whatever support needs members of our community might have.

U.S. 877-565-8860             Canada 877-330-6366         http://www.translifeline.org/

It Gets Better – A campaign of videos from celebrities as well as every day youth and adults sharing their story on how life gets better, and not to give up hope during difficult times arise in dealing with your sexual orientation.

It Gets Better Canada. http://ok2bme.ca/videos/802

Reach out to school guidance councellors, therapists, and support groups in your area to find local support. YOU ARE NOT ALONE

Just for today, I will be grateful

I can’t commit to being happy all the time, but I can commit to being grateful, one day at a time. In fact, it is my daily commitment to gratitude that keeps me going…

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To read this entire blog post, CLICK HERE

You’ll be lovingly re-directed to Lunaholistic, which is an amazing online resource, and Calgary’s Reiki Centre in my hometown of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I’ve always had a commitment to gratitude in my life but I really became committed to gratitude in a deeper way when I met Geneva Robins, my meditation teacher and Reiki Master. I wouldn’t be where and who I am now if it hadn’t crossed paths with Geneva’s non-stop enthusiasm and gently powerful presence.

ConnecTeen 24 hour support for TEENS in Calgary, Alberta

My mission is tomainconnecteencallout connect teens and those who care about them with the resources they need to THRIVE! I recently connected with an amazing, FREE resource here in my home town of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. ConnecTeen offers FREE, confidential 24 hour support through online chat, phone, text, and e-mail to Calgary and the surrounding area. Teens offer peer support between 5pm – 10pm on weekdays and from 12 – 10pm on Saturday and Sunday. Outside of those hours, adult volunteers respond to calls so there is always someone to talk to, 24 hours every day. CLICK HERE to access ConnecTeen

I asked some of the teen volunteers at ConnecTeen to answer some of my questions about this AMAZING resource. Here’s what you’ll learn in this article:

  • Why it’s ok to call ConnecTeen even when we think “It’s not that bad”
  • Why teen-to-teen support is so important
  • What to expect when you call ConnecTeen
  • What is AWESOME about being a teen today

Deanne : What would you like to tell a teen who hesitates calling ConnecTeen because they think “it’s not that bad”

When we talk to teens about our service, we like to emphasize that it’s better to talk about something that’s “not that bad” than to wait or hold it in until it becomes “that bad”. Stress, anger or worry can become a huge burden if we don’t try to cope with it right away. We also encourage youth to open up about their problems no matter how big or small it may be. We will never minimize how someone is feeling because all problems are worth talking about. Our volunteers are eager to help and support everyone that contacts us, no matter the size of their problem. At ConnecTeen, it’s about supporting someone who may feel alone in their problem or if they need to just vent.

Volunteer: Venting whatever you might at feel, whether it is “not that bad” or not, does help! Having someone else to listen to you, anonymously through a chat or not, lets you to sort out how you really feel about what you are going through, and helps you to not only feel better, but organize your thoughts as well.

Volunteer: No problem is ever too small to call. We are here to listen, no matter what the problem is. Sometimes, it’s good to have a 3rd person assess the situation since one cannot see the forest when he/she is inside it. Even if you are feeling down, don’t hesitate to call us.

Deanne : Why do you have teens answering the ConnecTeen line?

CT: ConnecTeen, originally named “Teen Line” was initiated as a peer support line; the first of its kind in Canada in 1983. We believe that no one understands teens better than their peers. As adults, we tend to forget what it’s like to have such little control over your life when you’re a teenager. We also tend to forget how many important milestones and “firsts” occur during this time too. Our youth volunteers have either lived through similar experiences or can truly empathize with our service users because of their age. We also find that teens are more likely to open to someone who is closer to their age. At ConnecTeen, our volunteers don’t have any authority or judgement over our users and I think that creates a safe space to open up and be vulnerable.

Volunteer: I think its because as teenagers ourselves, we can relate better with the feelings that other teenagers might feel at certain times. It is because we are all at such a close range in terms of our age group, we are capable of talking through what we’ve been through in relating with other teenagers.

Volunteer: Teens now face different problems than the teens of the past generations. Although many issues that have existed in the past such as drugs for example still exist today, the rise of social media and the internet has changed the lives of teens completely. Teens are now exposed to different ideas such as ones regarding their sexuality, body images, etc. Other teens, who were actually born and raised with such social media tend to have a better understanding and can relate better to teens going through such issues and struggles.

 

Deanne : What does ConnecTeen offer when teens do make the call?

When teens decide to contact us, we offer non-judgmental support. Our volunteers will never lecture you or make you feel bad for the decisions you’ve made or for what you’ve experienced. We want to connect you to the people in your life that could help or to free resources in the city. Our support is confidential and anonymous so you can share whatever you feel comfortable sharing which gives you a lot of the freedom to decide what you want to talk to about. Our volunteers are highly trained in crisis intervention, so whatever issue you are dealing with, they are prepared to support you and help you through it. Sometimes, you just need someone to listen to you without offering advice or trying to solve your problems. A lot of what we do is listening and giving you some of the tools you may need to work through it.

Volunteer: We mainly offer emotional support, and a place where they can tell us what they feel without pressure. We let the conversation flow according to the pace in which the callers want to pace themselves at, and we validate and normalize with how they are feeling. We also offer resources like counseling, a place to stay, or financial support if it is desired by the callers.

Volunteer: We offer emotional support, validation and empathy for those in crisis. We also offer resources for  those who need professional help / information / advice.

Deanne : What have you learned about teens since working/volunteering at ConnecTeen

I’ve learned that youth face a variety of different issues- many of which I never thought about as an adult. For example, we get a lot of contacts regarding financial issues, abuse in the home or in relationships, wanting to move out on their own and dealing with the fundamental “firsts” (i.e. first break up, first fight with your best friend, first time failing a class etc). I really enjoy working at ConnecTeen because I get to learn many different perspectives from both the volunteers and the users who contact our lines. I’m constantly reminded of how strong and resilient the youth of Calgary are because they are so courageous to reach out for help.

Volunteer: I’ve learned a great deal about communicating with other people, in general. Learning about diverse social issues that our society and our youth have opened my eyes and provided me with a perspective that broke me away from the stigma. I became more unbiased, informed, social and approachable to others, and I also think I became a better person, overall.

Volunteer: A lot of teens at my age are going through really tough times. Teens tend to be shy reaching out at first, but I feel like this service is really helpful for teens in terms of finding them the right resources and providing the emotional support they need. The internet is like a double-edged sword: teens have access to unlimited amounts of information, but they don’t know what services are right and appropriate for them. Also, I feel like a lot of teens are unable to talk about their feelings and situation to other people, especially to those around them because they feel embarrassed or scared. Thus, ConnecTeen provides the anonymous help they need so that they can feel safe while still receiving the support and help they need.

Deanne : What is the best part of being a teen today?

I think the best part of being a teen today is the availability of information and resources teens can access. When I was growing up, I had no idea what was out there for support. Now, everything is available with the click of a button or a short phone call. I love that ConnecTeen offers text and online chat too, I think it really helps youth connect to us in a way that makes them feel comfortable.

Volunteer: We have vast amount of resources that we can access whenever we want to, wherever we want to (like connecteen). Also, the best part of being a teenager is that we have a great deal of potential in how we can still shape ourselves. We are still learning and growing, faster than ever before. To have that opportunity, I believe is the best part of being a teenager in our world.

Volunteer: We have so many opportunities to build our future. From academics, sports, volunteering, jobs.. there are limitless opportunities that given the effort, we can achieve our dreams.

Deep appreciation goes to Vanessa DeSouza and her team for taking the time to respond to my questions. ConnecTeen also offers FREE resources for schools, so please connect with ConnecTeen!

Online calgaryconnecteen.com

Twitter at twitter.com/YYCConnecTeen

Facebook at www.facebook.com/calgaryconnecteen

Instagram at www.instagram.com/yycconnecteen/

YouTube at www.youtube.com/user/DistressCentreYYC?feature=watch