National Indigenous Transgender Project: Sharing Our Wisdom

By Arthur Dave Miller

This project is in its second year. We have managed to address many issues that Indigenous Transgender Peoples face on a daily basis. CAAN has been successful in engaging the Indigenous Transgender Community in many national and international events and is continuing to work together to develop policies that will strengthen every day practices to make sure Indigenous Transgender Peoples are not left behind and their voices are heard loud and clear. We are looking forward to our Transgender National Gathering at the AGM in Calgary Alberta.

Historically in Indigenous societies, gender fluidity was not only accepted within their culture but also provided impetus for those people to play special roles in the community in terms of teachings, rites of passage, songs, spiritual prayers & deities. They often were the intermediaries between the genders as well as between the spirit world and the physical world.

A series of sharing circles were held to discuss Indigenous Transgender Peoples’ experiences with HIV/HCV or co-infection and Trans-phobia in Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver. A series of questions guided the Sharing Circles. The Sharing Circles were recorded, transcribed and analyzed. The Circles were supported with an Elder present and cultural activities before the discussion.

As part of Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week, December 2 2016 was designated as Transgender Day. There were 3 Transgender Events in total, in Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

Through the project in the first year some Health Care Professional were reached through various conferences such as, CAAN AGM, AAAW, CAHR Conference, OHTN Conference. The project has included Indigenous Trans Community member in meetings with the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Additional work has been completed in the development of the Steering Committee, communication through a closed facebook group, and an Indigenous Transgender Literature Review. Based on the literature review, it is clear that there is a need for strengths-based research and data collection for and with Indigenous gender diverse people.

The Program Coordinator has advocated for trans group to be present at major meetings including the CAAN AGM, PHAC meeting, and the National STBBI Planning Meeting. Since this project is for and led by the trans community, it makes gender-diverse people feel included in decision making in CAAN’s work, and prioritized, rather than seen as a small subset of overall Indigenous or gender diverse population.

The Transgender Committee as part of this project supports CAAN’s capacity to advocate on behalf of gender-diverse people, because CAAN can now consult the committee and seek guidance on transgender issues. This is important for CAAN to be accountable to transgender people, and ensuring that there is a trans voice present in programs and decision making tables.

This program has resulted in more trans people accessing and taking part in CAAN programming. The program coordinator has been advocating for and educating CAAN staff on trans inclusion. CAAN has never had this many transgender people involved in CAAN events.

This project is important in that it acknowledges the role of trans people in the work that CAAN does, looks to them as leaders, and values their input. It is vital for this project to continue to meet people where they are at, and work with communities to lift stigma around trans Indigenous people.

Filed Under: Summer 2017 Newsletter

About the Author: Brought to you by the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN).

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