Flourishing: Supporting 2SLGBTQAI+ Youth

Jaden’s Journey

There is insidious disinformation out there that problematizes and pathologizes trans folks. What is armchair philosophy to some folks ends up resulting in harm for trans folks, here and around the world.

Jaden* is a trans youth who came to Covenant House Vancouver (CHV) during the pandemic.

At age eight, Jaden ran away from home. Being a trans youth in South Asia was extremely challenging. Jaden was caught and brought back to the family home, where they were hidden from society. Moving to Canada did not change things. Jaden was not allowed to have many friends, and when they wished to express themselves through art, supplies were purchased and brought to the family home. The family thought that they were protecting Jaden, but they were doing the opposite.

Over time, Jaden came to the realization that they identified as male and female. Now, Jaden looks at their gender as an expression of how they feel that day. Jaden has now moved to the female-identified floor of Rights of Passage. Even early on in their stay at CHV, Jaden stated that “CHV was the best thing that ever happened to me!”

Jaden takes pamphlets that pertain to the trans community, when they meet with family, to try and help them understand. Jaden has learned to have conversations around the pamphlets via text messages, because if the messages are upsetting, Jaden can simply delete them.

A regular occurrence at CHV is teatime, hosted by Kadee, Lead Spiritual Care Practitioner at CHV. It’s a time for youth to gather with Kadee, have tea and chat in a very casual setting. Kadee has noticed that Jaden had begun to practise self-care. Kadee said, “It’s wonderful to see that in a non-dictating space that we provide, Jaden is exploring who they really are. For some, being trans is a linear process where the internal self and the external self align, but I can see that having both a male and a female presence, is very true to who Jaden is. It’s a privilege to see someone trust their own voice and trust their own sense of what they need and who they are.”

In 2022, Jaden was able to celebrate Pride for the first time. Their Pride artwork was made into posters and pins. Jaden’s artwork has gone from black and white to a flourish of colour and celebration. Jaden, who is quite shy, is now reaching out to other 2SLGBTQAI+ groups to meet other young people. Jaden wants to take their experiences and work with, and support, other youth.

Jaden’s mental health is stable. It’s been two years since they’ve had an episode of psychosis. Jaden has used their artistic talents to create a comic book in order to help parents understand what it’s like to live as a transgender person. Feeling liberated enough to express themselves has been a huge success for Jaden.

In 2023, Jaden met with family and told us that their family called them Jaden for the first time! That was the first expression of acceptance that Jaden has received from their family.

*Name and identifying details have been changed for privacy reasons.

Why supporting 2SLGBTQAI+ Youth Is Important

Many trans youth experience barriers that may not even occur to non-trans folks. For instance, imagine trying to use a public washroom as a trans person when only binary “men’s” and “women’s” options are available. Trans youth can face transphobia when looking for housing and mistrust can accompany that phobia, so trans youth may lose out to cisgender applicants.

Receiving an income assistance cheque, filling out a job application, and getting a driver’s license all require your legal name, so trans youth are constantly being reminded about the person and the life that they no longer identify with. The cost of legally changing your name and identity is often out of reach for many trans youth.

Studies have shown that:

  • 25–40% of homeless youth are 2SLGBTQAI+
  • Family rejection is the most common cause of 2SLGBTQAI+ youth homelessness
  • 2SLGBTQAI+ youth are much more likely to struggle with mental health concerns 

At CHV, we have seen the difference it makes to have a hospitable place for trans, non-binary, and other youth across the gender spectrum. If you want young people to flourish, then supporting all youth across society is important. For youth to have the experience of “I am loved, I am welcomed, I am respected, not in spite of who I am, but knowing exactly who I am,” is something that they take from here, that serves them for the rest of their lives. And then, the youth will advocate to make that true for others.

Your support of Covenant House Vancouver helps youth, like Jaden, find the self-love and self-care that they need to flourish.