Crystal Schick/Yukon News Andrea Stratis, co-founder of Northern Gender Alliance, poses for a photo outside the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse on June 13. Stratis worked with the Yukon department of health and social services to organize a transgender health care conference with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health that took place June 13 to 15.

Whitehorse training conference highlighted trans health care needs

The conference, hosted by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, was June 13-15

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) held a training conference last week for health care professionals in the Yukon to provide them with education on “competent, compassionate and culturally sensitive” transgender health care.

The two-day conference began June 13 at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre.

The organization was invited to the Yukon by the territorial government. It’s only the second time that WPATH has held a conference in Canada.

“We want to provide ways in which spaces are safe and welcoming and affirming to trans and non-binary people,” said WPATH Global Education Initiative co-chair Gail Knudson.

“We’re going to talk about different areas within transgender health across the lifespan. We’re going to have speakers talking on gender diverse children, as well as adolescents. We’re going to talk about medical care and medical transition, with respect to hormones and surgery and where those are available. And we’re also talking about ethical challenges in terms of… what kind of ethical tensions are in the field right now.”

According to Knudson, participants will include not only health care providers such as nurses, physicians and doctors but also government officials, teachers, social workers and mental health counsellors.

Northern Gender Alliance co-founder Andrea Stratis worked with the Yukon Department of Health and Social Services as a consultant in organizing the conference. They’re proud to see this training come to the Yukon.

“(It) is a very big showing that the government is doing this,” they said. “They did a public consultation period not too long ago and got feedback from various communities within the LBGTQS+ community at-large saying, ‘This is what our needs are,’ and to put together something like this.”

According to Stratis, there’s a shortage of information made publicly available to gender non-conforming people in the North seeking health-care.

“Someone was telling me about a member of their social circle that is transitioning and is really unsure even where to start,” they said. “That first step of ‘What do I do? Who do I talk to? Where do I go?’ and getting that ball rolling is a very difficult thing.”

They also said that some northern doctors do not have adequate knowledge for providing health care to trans and non-binary individuals, although experiences can vary between different people.

“My doctor was very good but admittedly behind on his knowledge of how best to help and what he could do,” they said.

“A lot of the time the burden is on trans people to say, ‘This is the care that I need, this is medication I need, these are the things I want to access, this is all information about it.’ When the burden is on the patient and not the provider, that’s a very difficult thing. And that’s what we’ve been dealing with thus far.”

The conference also featured Yukon writer and LBGTQ+ advocate Ivan E. Coyote as a keynote speaker.

Contact Joshua Azizi at joshua.azizi@yukon-news.com

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