Drawing a map for queer and transgender kids

By Melissa Nilan, Marketing and Communications

Douglas College Psychology student Tanysha Klassen has a dream to help build a support system for queer and transgender kids struggling with their sexuality or gender identity. So, Tanysha is going to become something few of us have heard of: a gender therapist.

To achieve this goal, Tanysha is completing a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology at Douglas College, with plans to get a master’s degree, PhD and certification as a registered psychologist.

Tanysha – who prefers the pronoun “they” – wants to see more free resources and support for LGBTQ2S+ youth, a coordinated alliance between health care practitioners and expertise on the challenges of gender and sexuality that comes from a place of experience, not just textbooks. They say that while there are counsellors who help LGBTQ2S+ people, few have any real personal experience with the challenges LGTBQ2S+ people face. And while there are many LGBTQ2S+ advocates and supporters, few are able to advocate or ensure continuity of care within the medical field.

It’s an issue Tanysha can relate with; they helped their partner with their gender transition.

“It was an overwhelming, stressful and complicated situation. We had to do our own coordination between doctors and psychiatrists and specialists,” says Tanysha.

They also have their own counsellor, who they’ve been seeing for years.

“It’s been a very positive experience for me. Without that good experience, I doubt I would be as optimistic about my career choice. But I have seen firsthand the benefits of this kind of support for someone facing these unique challenges, and so I’m determined to create this role for myself,” says Tanysha.

In Canada, people who identify as LGBTQ2S+ have higher rates of depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive and phobic disorders, suicidality, self-harm and substance use; within this group, youth and transgender people are at even greater risk. The support of friends, family, coworkers and health care providers is crucial to reducing these risks.

That’s where Tanysha wants to come in.

“Queer and transgender kids don’t have an easy road ahead. I want to help them draw a map. I want to help make their journey easier. I envision my role as encompassing that of counsellor, consultant and coordinator.”

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