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6 Support Groups for Transgender Youth in Toronto and the GTA

Posted by Dr. Hugh McLean on 18 December 2020
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 Young people at Pride event

Discovering one’s gender identity and deciding to boldly transition and authentically express themselves can be an emotionally-charged process for young people. In a world that believes and imposes gender stereotypes, the process of “coming out” can make the individual extremely vulnerable to internalized oppression, isolation and alienation, exposing them to the risk of loss of family support as well as bullying in school.

These critical contributing factors dramatically impact mental health and overall well-being. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, LGBTQ+ youth face approximately 14 times the risk of suicide and substance abuse. Because of these challenges, trans youth can benefit immensely from having positive and nurturing relationships with family and friends, through attending therapy, and participating in peer support groups centred on gender diversity.

In this blog, we give you a rundown of some of the best Toronto and GTA trans support groups for LGBTQ+ youth, their caregivers, and their parents. Keep on reading to learn more!

1. Supporting Our Youth

Supporting Our Youth (SOY) is one of the many trans support groups in Toronto. Led by Sherbourne Health, it provides holistic support for all queer and trans spectrum youth ages 29 years old and under. They offer free mental health and primary care services, nutrition and housing support, and individual or group mentorship programs to help them thrive while transitioning.

As an innovative community development program, this trans support group prioritizes the most marginalized sectors in the community and those who need it the most, such as:

  • Racialized/BIPOC youth
  • Someone experiencing homelessness
  • Youth from another country or small town
  • Someone who has been in the child welfare system

Some of the most notable SOY groups and drop-ins worth mentioning are:

  • Black Queer Youth – For Black, Caribbean, African, or multi-racial queer and trans spectrum youth aged 29 or under who are currently residing in Toronto, specifically in the Jane-Finch/Black Creek or Malvern/Scarborough communities.
  • Express – For LGBT2SQ youth, 29 years old or under, who are a newcomer, refugee, refugee claimant, or non-status person living in Canada.

All of their specific trans support group meetings provide a snack or meal and public transit tokens for participants who need them. The sessions always take place in a wheelchair-accessible venue, with some groups having sign language interpretation available.

Contact Details:

Supporting Our Youth (SOY)

333 Sherbourne Street, 2nd Floor

Toronto, ON M5A 2S5

416-324-5077 (phone)

416-324-4262 (fax)

soy@sherbourne.on.ca

Transgender youth during a pride parade

2. The 519

The 519 is a City of Toronto agency that offers a comprehensive range of services and programs for the continually changing needs of the LGBTQ2S communities. They provide free counselling services and queer parenting resources to coming out groups, trans programming, and senior’s support.

One of their many remarkable initiatives is the Trans Youth Mentorship Program, a unique trans support group geared towards trans, two-spirit, non-binary, and gender diverse youth ages 16 to 29. In addition to creating a safe space for trans youth to socialize, they also provide meaningful and empowering skills and training to increase their employment opportunities. 

Contact Details:

Trans Youth Mentorship Program

Danielle Araya

Coordinator, Programs and Community Services

DAraya@The519.org

3. Gender Independent Groups (GIG)

Gender Independent Groups (GIG) is a trans support group that aims to provide a safe, supportive, and affirming space for children who identify as gender independent, trans, or still exploring their gender identity.  

Led by professional psychotherapists, social workers, and peer support facilitators, the organization holds free playgroups and drop-in groups along with psycho-educational backing for young people, parents, and caregivers. Their children’s playgroup and youth drop-in group are divided into two subcategories: GIG for kindergarten to Grade 5 and GIG2 for Grade 6 to 9.

In this environment, they are given a chance to express themselves without fear of judgement or being ostracized while meeting other kids of the same age. At the same time, parents and guardians are also allowed to discuss and share their experiences in navigating gender independence for their kids.

Contact Details:

Gender Independent Groups 

Contact Person: Ilana David

Phone: 416-898-0895

Fax: 416-393-9668

Email: ilana.david@tdsb.on.ca

Website: http://www.tdsb.on.ca/gbvp

Queer youth with rainbow-colored hair

4. Toronto Pflag

Two dedicated mothers to gay children, June Tattle Goss and Anne Rutledge, originally started this trans support group in the early 1970s, appropriately naming it Parents of Gays (POG). Over the years, it has evolved into something bigger and has become more inclusive of other gender identities. In 2014, the organization officially changed its name from “Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays” to, simply, Pflag

From their humble beginnings as a trans support group for parents of LGBTQ+ youth meeting at the 519 Church, there are now multiple Pflag chapters across Ontario and Canada, 400 chapters in the United States, and Pflag organizations in 18 countries around the world. They conduct regular monthly support meetings in three locations across Toronto and operate support phone lines, among others.

Contact Details:

Toronto Pflag

200 Wolverleigh Boulevard

Toronto, ON M4C 1S2

Email: office@torontopflag.org

Support Line: 416-406-6378

5. The Studio by Skylark

Skylark is a leading charity organization based in Toronto that’s focused on helping children, young people, and their families struggling with complex mental health and developmental needs. One of their many admirable initiatives is The Studio, an LGBTQ+ positive drop-in created by young people ages 12 to 21. 

This trans support group creates a fun and free environment to come to hang out, play video games, watch movies, or attend workshops on a variety of subjects, including art, music, dance, gender expression, drag performance, or sexual health. The Studio staff also provides one-on-one support about housing, physical and mental health, education, employment, and legal matters. 

Skylark also runs another trans support group for LGBTQ+ youth between ages 12 to 16 called The Tweeny STARS (STrong And ReSilient). Since its inception in 2017, they provide support to an average of 30 youth per day with LGBTQ+ specific referrals on gender-affirming surgery, medical and social transitioning, mental and physical health services, educational resources, and parent and guardian support. 

Contact Details:

Skylark

255-40 Orchard View Blvd.,

Toronto, ON, M4R 1B9

info@skylarkyouth.org

416 482 0081

6. LGBT Youthline

LGBT Youthline is a trans support group in Toronto that offers a toll-free phone, text, and live online chat peer support hotline for young members of the queer community under 29 years of age. In May 1993, pioneering members of a national lesbian and gay rights organization noted that while trans support hotlines were available in larger cities, there was a lack of access for those living in rural communities. 

The trans group believed that a peer-based phone support line would alleviate the loneliness felt by queer youth, would help to prevent them from making self-destructive choices because of their overwhelming isolation, and would affirm their sexual identity.

Presently, LGBT Youthline operates text, email, and chat hotlines through the help of dedicated volunteers who are trained peer supporters coming from a diversity of 2SLGBTQ+ identities and lived experiences. While LGBT Youthline volunteers are not professional counsellors, they can personally relate and are trained to actively listen and share relevant knowledge regarding crucial topics encountered by trans youth, such as anti-oppression, anti-racism, sex and consent, STIs, HIV, and self-care.

Serving Toronto and the rest of Ontario, they encourage trans youth to reach out when they have questions regarding coming out, social isolation, are seeking referrals to resources or support online/in their local community, or simply need someone to talk to. All conversations are guaranteed to be confidential and anonymous.

Contact details:

LGBT Youthline 

Text 647.694.4275

Email askus@youthline.ca

For online chat support, click the chatbox on the bottom of their website.

Their volunteers are available from 4:00 to 9:30 PM EST Sunday-Friday.

Support for Transgender Youth at McLean Clinic

Dr. Hugh McLean is a board-certified plastic surgeon with decades of experience in aesthetic medical treatments with his private practice located in Mississauga, Ontario. He is a great choice for non-binary patients considering gender-affirming surgery in Toronto because of his genuine respect for the queer community and commitment to deliver high-quality care.

For more information about gender-affirming surgery, Dr. Hugh McLean understands the psychological and emotional impacts involved in making this decision and will provide his assistance to ensure this decision is met with thorough consideration.
Contact McLean Clinic if you have any questions, we will be more than happy to help.

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