A youth led initiative has been started in Kingston with an aim at reducing barriers faced by the trans, non-binary and gender diverse communities when it comes to accessing products and support services.
The Gender Affirming Assistance Program (GAAP) was initially started in 2019 by Queen's students Jane Mao and Sam Connolly, and is now being spearheaded by Mao and Jenna Huys in coordination with other community groups.
Mao, who studied psychology at Queen's, says her education has given her an idea of just how much having, or lacking, access to these products and supports can impact a person's mental health.
"Typically these products and services provide gender euphoria," Mao said. "What we see in a lot of trans and gender diverse people is if they don't have the products and services that they want and they need, is that they experience gender dysphoria."
"Trans people have been and are currently being discriminated against, and there's so much stigma, systemic oppression, and social oppression against trans people that they experience the stigma plus every other barrier associated with being trans," she added.
Recently the initiative has paired up with Kingston Addictions and Mental Health Services (AMHS) and HIV/AIDS Regional Services (HARS) to expand its outreach in this area.
The program will look to provide gender-affirming apparel that can often be financially out of reach for those seeking them out, such as binders, trans tape, breast forms, tucking underwear, and transfeminine clothing.
For example, just one binder can cost upwards of fifty dollars, whereas a name change can cost $150.
Along with AMHS and HARS, GAAP has received funding and support from groups such as the Levana Gender Advocacy Center, Queen's Coalition Against Ethnic and Racial Discrimination, and The Education on Queer Issues Project.
This project, though geared toward the entire community of Kingston, is very much student and youth driven.
Mao notes that it's important for young people to get involved in creating change, and that they can do so in a unique way older generations may not be able to.
"Youth haven't been constricted by the cruzes of capitalism the way adults have, because we haven't experienced capitalism the way adults have, typically," she said.
"And so I think that also allows for project innovation and creativity in ways that capitalism wouldn't necessarily dream of. I think this mutual aid, on the ground, grassroots organization is something that requires a lot of creativity and a lot of passion."
Mao adds that in the infancy of this program, it is clear that not only will it become useful to the community, but that it already is.
"It's being utilized, it's not even a projection. I think the first day we had ten requests, which is pretty wonderful."
Those who wish to donate to GAAP can direct gender-affirming apparel to HARS (844 Princess Street), and provide e-transfer donations to [email protected]
Story by Owen Fullerton, YGK News for the Local Journalism Initiative