Photo by © RODNAE Productions

When COVID-19 restrictions made their way to Toronto, the lives of many were put at a standstill. As the pandemic began to challenge access to essential needs and services, we observed a mosaic of disparities. For LGBTQI2S communities, the impact on quality of life is significantly higher than the national average. Egale Canada’s COVID-19 Impact Report states, 47 percent of members of LGBTQI2S communities have identified experiencing negative impacts on their mental health compared to 27 percent at the national average.

LGBTQI2S communities have been affected by the pandemic in unique ways, specifically transgender youth. Peer support and community are essential to trans youth; the consequences of the pandemic blocked access to networks, services, and support that are vital to their well-being. Research shows that transgender youth are often alienated from their family of origin, relying on local services including affirming organizations and peers for survival. During a time when our safety mandates that individuals stay home, trans youth experiencing homeless were in an unwarranted position.

‘A Way Home Canada’ illustrates that 40 percent of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQI2S and trans youth are classified as the most vulnerable adolescent population. The unique challenges faced by trans youth means that although their needs intersect, they also differ from other members of the LGBTQI2S community. Trans youth face institutional erasure, homophobic and transphobic violence, and discrimination, placing their identities at the fringe of society. Trans youth also experience housing and health-care discrimination, resulting from a lack of legal protection, difficulties with legal identification documents, and lack of healthcare coverage.

Friends of Ruby’s Executive Director, Carol Osler states, “we know there is an urgent need to support trans youth within our communities. The needs of trans youth are more diverse, layered, and nuanced—each experience is unique to the individual. There is no one size fits all. As an organization dedicated to the well being of LGBTQI2S youth, we want to be a part of the solution.”

Friends of Ruby believes that every youth deserves a safe space, uninterrupted living, and access to sustainable mental health and social services. Our services and programs are led and facilitated by highly skilled LGBTQI2S individuals who reflect the diversity of the youth. They are informed by LGBTQI2S youth across the spectrum, grounded in evidence, and supported by research. Trans-focused support includes resources about gender identity and gender affirming care, transition-related goals, and referrals to trans-inclusive doctors and clinics. We also provide a trans ID clinic, supporting the process of applications and legal documents. Overall, connecting trans youth to community, support, and advocacy.

The services Friends of Ruby offer only scratch the surface of the needs that exist. To protect the future of trans youth, action is needed toward challenging systemic violence, to empower trans youth to feel seen, heard, and valued. We can collectively work toward a reality where all LGBTQI2S youth are validated, involved, and empowered to lead their lives, where they feel welcomed, and are given an opportunity to succeed.

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Friends of Ruby supports LGBTQI2S youth (aged 16-29) through mental health services, practical supports and housing. Our approach is comprehensive, involving mind, body and community – supporting young people wherever they are on their personal journey.

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