Trans without homes

A room of their own

Transsexual and transgender homeless say they’re being turned away from sex-specific shelters


October 14, 2010

ROOF ACCESS DENIED: ASTT(e)Q’s Jackson Ezra and Bianca Aponte

Changes in health funding last February have made it easier to get sex reassignment surgery in Quebec, but transsexuals and transgender activists say trans people in the province con­tinue to face discrimination that can make it difficult to hold down housing and employment. Even homeless shelters are not always a refuge, as their gender-segregated dorms don’t always know where to put trans people, say frontline workers at the Action Santé Travesti(e)s et Transsexuel(le)s du Québec (ASTT(e)Q, pronounced “aztec”). The group, run by and for trans people, is currently raising cash for an emergency housing fund that helps provide for trannies with nowhere to go.

“A disproportionate amount of trans people need shelters, but the real problem is that a disproportionate amount of trans people that need shelters can’t access them. They can’t get in, they’re turned away, they’re put back out on the street,” says ASTT(e)Q’s Jackson Ezra.
That’s particularly problematic for a community that finds itself kicked around a lot. “Trans people get kicked out of their homes and turned away from their families and loved ones and communities. They’re often unable to find employment, they’re criminalized as sex workers, they’re targeted by police and they’re overrepresented in prisons,” says ASTT(e)Q’s Jackson Ezra.
In places like Toronto, Ezra says, city-wide standards ensure that shelters accept people based on how they identify themselves. Not so in Montreal, so those who find themselves on the streets here have to rely on the goodwill of shelter staff to know what to do with them. Too often, the easiest way is to kick them out.
“They’re living their life as a woman, but their ID has a male name, so they’re turned away. Or they’re turned away because they don’t have any identification at all, or they don’t have status here or because the staff at the shelters are just confused by the person’s appearance,” he says.
ASTT(e)Q’s emergency fund provides enough to put someone up in a hotel for a couple of nights or find them short-term shelter. Ezra sees this as part of a holistic program of support that’s not just about handing out condoms and lube, but about being there for people going through difficult times. That can mean accompanying someone to an appointment with an endocrinologist or helping file a police brutality complaint or showing people how to navigate the healthcare and social services bureaucracies.
Meanwhile, ASTT(e)Q is also working to change the attitudes of people who provide social services, with a series of workshops they give to doctors and frontline workers at community organizations.
“We try to make people see the barriers to access that trans people face every day,” says Ezra. “Once we make the barriers visible, people start to come to a realization that trans people need access also. Like, you go to the doctor, trying to access hormones, you get turned away. Then what do you do? You go buy hormones from the street.”
The group is throwing a fundraiser for the Emergency Housing Fund this Saturday. We Live Here! takes place October 16 at 9 p.m. at Café Cléopatra (1230 St-Laurent, 2nd floor) and features trans performances all night from poetry readings to movie screenings to drag shows.. Tickets are $5-10. See for details.

Montreal Mirror October 14, 2011 (this is the unedited text)


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