Trans and HIV / Passing / 519

Trans Canada

by Nora Underwood

While researching for information on Gender Variant people in Canada I came across this article by Nora Underwood. The article touches on a story of a woman called Christine who gets diagnosed with HIV. In her mid 30’s Christine lives in a mans body as a gay man. She easily passed as a woman outside of the gay community. One day she was told she was in the wrong restroom and that was the moment she decided she couldnt do it anymore.

Underwood goes on to tackle the prevlance of HIV among the trans community and states that ‘…the trans community also appears to be more vulnerable to HIV than the general population (Trans Canada, Underwood).’

Anan Travers made a very important point when she depicted that MTF who come out of straight relationships and are in to women are depicted as lesbians but have no experience of that world or community.

‘“If you have lived in a straight world and you transition and you’re still into women, in some ways you’re going to be perceived as lesbian, but you have no experience of that community and you may not fit into that (Trans Canada).”


Its especially important to pass in the transitioning stage. If you do not pass it can be extremely hard to get a job, pay for the bills and even find housing. When all options have been exhausted a lot of Trans people turn to using their bodies to pay the bills.

“For many reasons, a substantial number of trans women turn to sex work. For some, it’s a way to make money to live or to put toward surgery. For others, it’s a way of getting off the street at night. Still others choose sex work because they find it empowering. “It’s incredibly powerful when you’ve been called a freak your whole life to then find yourself being desired,” explains Rebecca Hammond, a researcher currently working on Trans PULSE, a large community-based project examining the challenges trans people face in accessing health and social services. (Trans Canada).”

Because sex for money is ilegal most of the time decisions based on logic are not made. Questions are not asked about sexually transmitted diseases. HIV is deemed to be high and possibly for these reasons.

“Finding a doctor can be a real challenge. According to Hammond, many trans people in Ontario travel to Toronto just to get healthcare; in Ottawa, there is only one doctor who sees trans patients — and he’s 70 years old (Trans Canada).”

HIV is not a priority right now for Trans health care and the bottom of the list is almost inevitable. There is also little information for how HIV medication can affect trans people. The 519 is however a very good option for Trans people.

519 is a community centre in Toronto which welcomes Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, two spirit and queer communities and their allies. 519 offers many programs that were talked about in this article and many that were not, ranging from an Anti-Violence Program to Queer immigrants and Refugees advising. I have inserted links below. From skimming through this website this seems like one of the best options for LGBTQ people all throughout Canada. With all of the problems, obstacles and restrictions put on members of the LGBTQ- organizations offering opportunities should not be overlooked.

 AIDS Memorial
Anti-Violence Program (AVP)
Anti-Poverty and Homelessness
Family and Children
Counselling and Advice
Older LGBT
Queer Immigrants and Refugees




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