Addressing Gaps in Health Care to Build Equity – and a Safe Space

rainbow flagThe Langs Community Health Centre has always been welcoming but recently, they’ve made a lot of changes with strong support of their Board of Directors to ensure that everyone feels included and acknowledged for who they are.     

“Life can be very challenging when you, or your lifestyle are – essentially not accepted,” says a resident and participant of the Langs Gender Journey Group. “It’s not just the lack of acceptance, there is discrimination, isolation. People from our communities who are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans-identified (LGTBQ) are especially vulnerable and disproportionately impacted by the social determinants of health.”     

In 2009, 51% of trans people described experiencing trans discrimination, 20% were unemployed, and many experienced a lack of family support. 61.2%-66.4% had experienced depression, while 77% had considered suicide (TransPulse, 2009).    

To tackle these sobering statistics, Langs’ staff has worked hard to be more welcoming and inclusive.  Rainbow symbols are prominently displayed throughout the organization.Health pamphlets and posters depict same sex couples alongside more traditional images and gender neutral washrooms are available to provide safe spaces for everyone. In addition to these changes of acceptance, Langs has also developed a formal policy that prohibits any form of discrimination.   

“These are the universal signs that we are proud to provide non-judgmental, inclusive care for individuals from all walks of life,” explains Nancy DiPietro, director of clinical services at Langs Community Health Centre. “Initially, we hosted focus groups with each team, beginning with the Board of Directors  and Leadership Team to better understand the learning needs of the our staff. We also partnered with Rainbow Health Ontario (RHO) to provide training.     

“We approached a local service provider with expertise in the LGBTQ community to provide counselling services to our trans patients. A clear need for support was identified and we responded by offering a ‘Gender Journey’ group, the first of its kind in Waterloo Region.”    

Gender Journey is a support group for people age 18 and older whose gender identity or gender expression differs from the biological sex they were assigned at birth. The group supports people through their transition, coming out and covers many topics relevant to transgender identified people.   

“Gender Journey is a life-changing program,” explains a Gender Journey Group member. “It changes lives for the better. For some of our group it is the first time they have experienced a sense of belonging and community.”