With every seat in the room filled up, Ann Travers spoke at UNBC about transgender youth and how people can make a more welcoming environment for anyone that’s vulnerable. (Natalia Balcerzak/Photo)

Professor advocates for change in conversation for transgender youth

Ann Travers wrote a book based on five years of interviews with trans kids and their parents

Ann Travers, author of The Trans Generation and associate professor of sociology at Simon Fraser University (SFU), visited Terrace on Feb. 20 and 21 to hold three presentations to open up discussions surrounding transgender children.

Speaking at UNBC and at the Terrace Women’s Resource Centre, Ann Travers was brought in as part of SFU’s travelling scholars program that funds professors to visit places in northern B.C. and the Yukon to converse about gender sexuality and women’s studies.

“I volunteered to go anywhere to talk about trans-kids and Terrace picked me up,” says Travers. “I feel like it’s really important work, it’s not just something I do research on… change is hard to achieve and it happens through interacting with people and encouraging them to think a little bit differently.”

Travers says that in their book, which is based on five years of interviews with trans-kids and their parents throughout Canada and the U.S., they emphasize a lot of first-account stories to humanize the topic.

Taking from their own personal experiences, they say that their aim is to influence communities to have more “safe people”, somebody that can be available for conversation with vulnerable children of any kind.

“Youth is a tough thing, I had some good teachers that kept me going… If one of these people [here] ends up becoming a safe person, it’s worth it.”

READ MORE: U.S. transgender bathroom ban may end, but transcript irks teen

Terrace resident Pam Bibby and her husband say they came to the presentation to learn more about the topic — especially since their daughter recently told them she identifies as non-binary.

“She did the whole thing herself, she’s 30 now and she came out a few years ago,” says Bibby. “It was not an issue for us when she was a child because we had no idea.”

Bibby says that she was surprised when their daughter came out, but she’s happy they’ve been able to talk openly about it.

“The one thing she said to us was, ‘Mom, I’m the same person that I was yesterday.’ She didn’t change, the way we understand her probably changed, but she’s exactly the same as she’s always been.”

For their family, she says although their daughter no longer lives in Terrace, the biggest challenge has been explaining it to people who knew her before. Sometimes they struggle with how to approach it.

This presentation is the first of its kind that Bibby’s attended, and says it’s time for everyone to have this conversation to make it more acceptable.

“It’s such a huge issue of acceptance for anybody that’s at least a bit different than what we want them to be or what we’re comfortable with, whether it’s trans, race, religion or whatever,” says Bibby. “I think they need to have [this discussion] and that’s everywhere.”

READ MORE: Second annual Women’s Memorial March held in Terrace

Elena Kusaka, program coordinator for Terrace Women’s Resource Centre Society, says they were keen on bringing Travers in to converse on gender sexuality as it isn’t as common here as larger cities and towns.

“I’m very happy to see the room packed with people that are interested in how to help and support trans kids in Terrace,” says Kusaka.

The Wednesday evening presentation was by invitation only to create a safe space for all those that attended.

“We’d love to hear from some of the youth, some of the queer community in Terrace about what people actually want to see,” she says. “At the women’s centre, we always strive to be an inclusive place and we always want to improve, to be self-critical and see where some of our blind spots are.”


 


natalia@terracestandard.com

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