Their ideas and goals may not be new, but they sure are: created this year, the Chilliwack Gender Care Committee (CGCC) is ready to help members and allies of the city’s LGBTQ2S+ community.
With diversity being the name of the game, the seven people aboard the Committee come from all walks of life.
“It’s mostly composed of trans adults, parents of LGBQT, (psychologists), mental health workers, and health service providers,” explained committee member Melanie Oliveira.
The CGCC, according to Oliveira, has three main goals: “Developing pathways of care and providing that care; developing support services; and raising public education and awareness around trans health, inclusion, and acceptance of people of all trans identities.”
When children are born, they’re assigned a gender based upon their sex at birth, however, those who identify as transgender are such because their gender identity doesn’t match their genitalia.
“The Chilliwack Gender Care Committee will be providing counselling services for transgender and nonbinary youth, and adults as well,” said Oliveira.
“We know the suicide rate among vulnerable youth is quite high, so we want to spread as much knowledge throughout the community about how we can support them (and their friends, families, and allies).”
Growing up in Alaska and relocating to the Fraser Valley in 2012 with her three children, Cathy Campbell* says although her family’s unique make-up has created some challenges, she hopes the CGCC’s initiatives will begin to pave the way for acceptance regardless of one’s appearance or gender preference.
“There’s been a lot of negative attention in Chilliwack, especially geared towards parents of trans kids, or trans people in general,” said Campbell, who’s also a member of the CGCC.
Identifying as queer, Campbell, who’s now in her 40s, said she came out as bisexual to her parents, who were very accepting, when she was quite young. And now that she’s a parent herself of gender non-conforming children, Campbell is doubly sure it’s important for children “feel connected to others and supported.”
Seven years ago, Campbell gave birth to a set of fraternal twin girls, but when the eldest of the two was three, she told her mother the shadow inside of her was a boy, which was the start of Campbell’s journey to help one of her children discover their authentic self.
“But support is only part of it, he needs to be able to access resources outside of the family,” explained Campbell. “And for his siblings, too. They need to feel like they have a place, like they’re connected to others going through similar journeys.
“We’re just regular human beings trying to support their families in any way we can because we just want our kids to be happy.”
With that in mind, Campbell says she eagerly signed up to be a member of the CGCC once she learned of its existence because “if you’re not visible, you can’t advocate for this being a normal journey for people.”
“We’re working on building a space and supportive environment for people of all ages and backgrounds to be themselves fully and openly,” said Oliveira. “We don’t want them to fear rejection or judgment, but to celebrate themselves for who they are.
“Trans-phobia is really real in our society and it goes against their human rights,” Olivier continued.
“That’s why it’s so important to work towards the emotional and physical safety and well-being of these individuals, and that’s why it’s so important to develop these services in Chilliwack, where there’s a great need.”
“Sometimes I forget how challenging this journey is for Michael,*” added Campbell. “He’s going to need help to process these things, especially as he gets older, and there’s a lot left that we still need to go through.
“A year ago, I hated Chilliwack,” she continued. “I was feeling really hopeless … but then all these amazing people started crawling out of the woodwork and I realized lots of people in this town are like me, or are allies.
“I feel a lot differently (about Chilliwack now),” said Campbell. “And a lot more hopeful. Chilliwack can be a place where (families like mine) can feel safe and happy and where (trans) children can grow up and feel supported.”
“We’re not here to create any conflicts,” added Oliveira. “It’s just really about spreading well-researched information.”
To do that, the Committee has created the Gender Support Network, which meets every second Tuesday, between 6:30 and 8 p.m., at the Sto:lo Service Agency.
For more information on the Committee or the Network, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Names have been changed to protect identities.