Transgender Peer Support Group Updates – March 4, 2024

The Transmasc Peer Support Group has returned to its regular schedule — the 1st and 3rd Monday of the month from 7-9pm!

The full schedule of Trans Peer Support Groups is:

-Transgender Peer Support Group – 1st and 3rd Thursday and 2nd and 4th Monday

-Transmasc Peer Support Group – 1st and 3rd Monday

-Beyond the Binary – 4th Tuesday of the month

-Cambridge Trans Peer Support Group – biweekly on Thursdays

Be sure to check the Rainbow Community Calendar for the most up to date details on all of Spectrum’s programs and other 2SLGBTQIA+ events across the region!

A special thanks to the volunteers who make these groups possible!

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Transgender Peer Support Group Updates

UPDATE! The Trans Peer Support Groups will return to the second and fourth Mondays of the month starting October 9th!

We’ve had some questions about recent changes to our transgender peer support group schedule and wanted to provide an update.

Our general trans peer support group is currently meeting on the first and third Thursdays of the month. We don’t currently have enough volunteer co-facilitators to run the meetings that we used to have on the second and fourth Mondays of the month, but we hope to bring them back in the near future.

Our Beyond the Binary group meets once per month on the fourth Tuesday of the month.

Our transmasc group is currently on hold as we look for volunteer co-facilitators. Ideally, we would also like to have a transfemme group, but again we’d need the volunteers to make it happen.

Our Cambridge transgender peer support group continues to meet bi-weekly on Thursdays.

For transparency’s sake, we schedule two volunteer co-facilitators to run every group. Our volunteers are required to take training in accessibility, health and safety, racism, and our own Rainbow Diversity Training. They’re also required to have a police check for the vulnerable sector, be familiar with our policies and procedures, and participate in additional training as we identify other important opportunities. Not everyone who applies to be a volunteer is well-suited to facilitation of a peer support group. We interview people and check references to make sure that our volunteers will be able to commit to running the groups at specific times and have strong facilitation skills.

We currently have four volunteers on our trans peer support team, and three of them are relatively new. Special thanks to our volunteers for making these groups possible! If you are interested in volunteering with us you can complete the application here.

We will provide more updates as the program evolves. We know how important these groups are to participants and we will provide as many of them as we safely can within our resources.

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Re-Launch of TransNAV GPS Directory

March 31st is the International Day of Transgender Visibility. International Transgender Day of Visibility is an annual event occurring on March 31 dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide, as well as a celebration of their contributions to society. This year, we are excited to announce the re-launch of our TransNAV GPS Directory!

Originally launched in the summer of 2021, TransNAV GPS is an online directory designed to help local trans folks find service providers in a variety of areas, such as: medical, mental health, employment, legal, housing, social organizations and personal care.

Funding from the LGBTQ2+ Community Capacity Fund extension allowed us to contract with Melissa Paige Kennedy, the originator of the project, to revisit the directory and make it more user friendly. The re-launched directory currently includes more than 160 listings in various categories. It is now possible for organizations to create an account for the directory where they can create and manage their own listing.

If you represent an organization that serves transgender people in Waterloo Region we encourage you to visit the “Dashboard” tab on TransNAV GPS to create your account!

Spectrum is grateful for the support of Women And Gender Equality Canada (WAGE) who administered the LGBTQ2+ Community Capacity Fund extension.

Visit TransNAV GPS

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Guest post

Guest Post: Shedding the Cocoon of Shame, A Pandemic Self-Discovery

This guest post was written by A. Wray.

Pre-pandemic, I worked in a toxic work environment. Every day I left overwhelmed by the weight of the feelings of the people around me and ready to crawl into bed. I don’t recall where or how I learned to be responsible for other people’s feelings, but at some point it became embedded in me just like the idea that girls should be feminine. It’s the way I’ve been conditioned. 

Once I rebelliously wore my Blundstones to work (it was rebellious not because Blundstones aren’t professional but because they aren’t feminine). Wearing them to work felt bold until a coworker commented that her husband had the same pair. I became consumed by shame for not being more feminine, like her, my muscles constricting and shoulders creeping towards my ears. When I had worn make-up or dresses my coworkers gushed over how nice I looked, congratulating me for fitting the part prescribed by society. Now, they looked at me, puzzled.

Truthfully, I will never be feminine like my coworker, and I question if I ever really wanted to be. I was following the script I was given. But despite reviewing my lines frequently, I couldn’t get them right. I have been described as ‘fake’ on several occasions, but admittedly I was fake; I was faking being a woman. It was convincing enough to fool even myself. Inside I felt ugly, stuck behind a mask of femininity used for protection from threats, exclusion, and from myself. I had wrapped myself in a cocoon of shame named internalized transphobia. 

Working from home offered a break from the performance of gender with less pressure to be nice, calm, and collected. I exhaled deeper. I collected the energy I saved from not having to brace for the next rant debating the existence of trans folks. I re-invested that energy towards connecting with my nervous system, shining a light on the cocoon’s presence. Instead of being immobilized by its heaviness, I was able to shift ever so slightly. I began to release the toxic energy I had absorbed and increased my capacity to fight for my existence. 

Over time, the cocoon became less constricting. I shed a particularly stubborn layer while delivering a presentation on how to support trans folks. It was my chance to speak up, not only for others, but for myself. As I shared, I felt a warm tingly sensation spread throughout my body that lingered long after – the feeling of allowing myself to accept that I could be non-binary. An opening in the cocoon emerged and escape from the shame of not fitting into the gender binary seemed possible. I could set myself free. 

All along I thought it was my co-workers and the toxic work environment that prevented me from discovering the real me. Instead it was the part of me that was weighed down by internalized transphobia that I needed to escape. Like with most gender discoveries, I changed my hair, my pronouns, but most importantly, how I carried myself. I replaced shame with self-appreciation; toxicity with healing. I swapped out the inauthentic performance of femininity for the real, non-binary me. 

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Year-end giving: donations needed for Chrysalis Fund

The end of the year is approaching, and with it the last chance for year-end charitable giving. SPECTRUM is in need of donations to support our Chrysalis Fund for Mental Health, which helps to provide no cost and subsidized counselling to members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, with a focus on transgender and non-binary people. 

This service is badly needed in our community; stigma, violence, and discrimination mean that 2SLGBTQ+ people are at elevated risk for serious mental illness, addiction, and suicide:

Transgender and non-binary people experience even higher levels of risk because of lack of community support and rejection by friends, family, and loved ones:

  • Per the Outlook Study, less than half (43%) of trans people in Waterloo Region have come out to people outside of their immediate family. Nearly a third of those who have (31%) say that the people they came out to are unsupportive.
  • In one Waterloo Region study, 42% of trans respondents reported having to move away from family or friends because of their gender identity. 
  • Of the 40,000 homeless youth in Canada, between 25% and 40% identify as 2SLGBTQ+. Family conflict relating to sexual orientation or gender identity is the main reason 2SLGBTQ+ youth become homeless.

In addition to there being a lack of mental health professionals qualified to provide trans and non-binary inclusive care, many trans and non-binary people who experience employment discrimination or economic marginalization are unable to afford counselling services, which are expensive and not always covered by benefits. 

Of especial concern is that trans and non-binary people have disproportionately suffered negative economic impacts of COVID 19 while also experiencing much higher rates of depression and mental illness:

  • According to Statistics Canada, almost 70% of gender-diverse participants reported fair/poor mental health, compared with 25.5% of female participants and 21.2% of male participants. Gender-diverse people were 2 times more likely than women to report symptoms of anxiety, and 3 times more likely than men. 
  • Gender-diverse respondents were 1.6 times more likely to report that COVID-19 had a “moderate”or “major” impact on their ability to meet their financial obligations or essential needs, such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities, and groceries. 
  • According to a 2018 survey, the age and gender distribution of the 2SLGBTQ+ population in Canada was also associated with higher risk for experiencing loss of employment.
  • 2SLGBTQ+ Canadians are also significantly over-represented among low-income earners.

Your donations are needed to continue providing access to this vital service for those most in need. We urge you to give directly to the Chrysalis Fund for mental health as part of your year-end giving. Monies from the Chrysalis Fund will be used to provide counselling services through the OK2BME program at KW Counselling Services. $130 will cover the full cost of a counselling session for someone in need. We thank you for prioritizing 2SLGBTQ+ mental health in your year-end giving!

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Events, SPECTRUM News

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2021

Every year on November 20th, we observe the Transgender Day of Remembrance to remember the transgender people we have lost to violence in the past year.

This year, the Glow Centre and SPECTRUM are partnering with ACCKWA and SHORE Centre on a virtual vigil event for the Transgender Day of Remembrance on Saturday November 20, 2021 at 3pm. From 3-4pm we will hear from speakers, and from 4-5pm there will be a facilitated healing circle.

Click here to register for the event.

(A small number of students will be able to attend in-person on the U Waterloo campus, other community members will be able to attend virtually)

The event will be hosted by Sam Faulkner. Our speakers will be Dewe’igan Bearfoot, Cait Glasson, TK Pritchard, and Teneile Warren. The healing circle will be facilitated by Mandi Cowan and Washington Silk.

Dewe’igan Bearfoot (she/they)

Dewe’igan Bearfoot is a two-spirit transfemme Anishnaabe woman hailing from Spry Lake Ontario. They came out as Bisexual at the age of 16 and then came out as Trans between the ages of 19 and 20. Since then they’ve become an advocate for Mental Health Awareness, 2S and LGBTQA+ Rights and Land Back.

Sam Faulkner (they/them) 

Sam is a design student interested in advocacy work and community event planning as well as user experience research and hearing health. They have participated on numerous committees that focus on improving transition related health care and LGBTQ+ sports inclusion including co-founding Ottawa-based trans youth group, SAEFTY. In their free time, they enjoy crocheting and writing articles for their university’s student government.  

Cait Glasson (she/her) 

Cait is a lesbian who came out as such 29 years ago, and at 55 is a mother, grandmother, activist, educator, and, incidentally, trans. Cait is the former President of the Board of Directors of SPECTRUM, Waterloo Region’s Rainbow Community Space. 

TK Pritchard (they/he) 

TK is the Executive Director for SHORE Centre, a reproductive rights and sexual health non-profit. TK has previously worked as the Public Education Manager for the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region, a Sexual Health Educator,  and as a facilitator for OK2BME running social support groups for queer youth. 

Teneile Warren (they/them) 

Teneile Warren is a Black, Nonbinary, and Queer identifying Racial Equity and Anti-Oppression Educator based in Kitchener, Ontario. Through their professional practice, they consult with public and private institutions on addressing racial equity, gender equity, creating anti-oppressive spaces, and guiding organizational equity change initiatives.  They are the co-founder of insideWaterloo and the Equity and Inclusion Officer at the Waterloo Region District School Board. 

Washington Silk (they/them) 

Washington Silk is a Registered Social Worker. They hold a BA in Anthropology from the University of Lethbridge (2010) and a Master of Social Work from Wilfrid Laurier University (2013). Wash is a passionate transgender and queer social worker with over 10 years of clinical and community experience. They are a white settler from Alberta. They have lived experience of ADHD, learning disabilities and mental health struggles and recovery. 

Mandi Cowan (they/she) 

Mandi Cowan is the co-owner of Cultivate Counselling. They graduated with a Master of Social Work from Carleton University in 2014 and have worked in the KW area ever since. As an experienced therapist, and also someone who has accessed mental health services, Mandi believes in the importance of finding a counselling space that values you as a unique and complex person or couple, and can adapt to meet your needs and goals. 

Below are local resources for transgender people, and those looking to learn more about trans and gender-diverse people here in Waterloo Region.

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SPECTRUM Trans and Gender Diverse Mental Health, Wellness and Suicide Prevention Toolkit

Thanks to a generous grant from the Canadian Women’s Foundation, SPECTRUM was able to partner with Wisdom2Action to develop a Trans and Gender Diverse Mental Health, Wellness and Suicide Prevention Toolkit.

In our grant application we noted that, based on the Trans PULSE Study and the local OutLook Study, as well as anecdotal information from our drop-in groups, there was evidence that pre-COVID a large portion of transgender identifying folks in Waterloo Region had not come out of the closet or found that many people in their life were un-supportive or worse, abusive. This in turn subjected these folks to high levels of mental health stress. We recognized that this situation was being aggravated by the isolation due to the COVID-19 public health emergency and the resulting close contact of individuals in un-supportive or abusive environments where they had become a captive audience.

This was the genesis for our project application for which we had two primary objectives:

First, we wanted to develop, publish, and analyse an anonymous community survey asking, among many other things, how COVID-19 isolation was affecting local transgender and non-binary people’s mental and physical health. From this group of respondents, we also wanted to interview a select few to do a deeper dive on mental health challenges. In addition, the Wisdom2Action team conducted an in-depth literature review. The information collected was used to shape the toolkit.

The second part of this project was to develop a toolkit focused on mental health promotion and suicide prevention to be used by transgender identifying folks (people in crisis), and mental health and medical health professionals and transgender allies (people who support those in crisis). We felt such information organized into a toolkit would be very useful to the community during and after the public health emergency.

On September 28, 2021, we held a community forum to share details about the information we gathered and the process of designing the toolkit. You can watch a recording of this session here.

The toolkit is now being printed and we will send physical copies to all local schools, hospitals, community counselling agencies, family health teams, and many social service agencies. A digital version of the toolkit is available to everyone for download here.

SPECTRUM would like to thank the Wisdom2Action team for their hard work in bringing this valuable toolkit to life in a very short space of time. We are also extremely grateful to the Canadian Women’s Foundation for recognizing the importance of this work and making it possible.

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A statement about Chick-fil-A’s opening in Kitchener

SPECTRUM is aware that a new Chick-fil-A franchise will be opening in Kitchener this weekend. As we expressed in the 2020 interview linked above, we have significant concerns with this company and its CEO who continues to donate to anti-2SLGBTQ+ organizations including the National Christian Charitable Foundation, a massive organization which is currently engaged in a campaign against a 2SLGBTQ+ equal rights bill in the United States and which has pushed anti-2SLGBTQ+ bills in over 30 states this year. 

These bills have had a direct impact on the lives and safety of transgender people, especially youth. They include efforts to ban transgender student athletes from sports, support for conversion “therapy”, provisions to block trans youth from receiving transition-related medical care, and even some bills that call for genital inspections of children to ensure compliance with these regulations.

Conversion “therapy” is torture. As an organization that serves and affirms 2SLGBTQ+ people and works to ensure their well-being and belonging in Waterloo Region, we cannot support organizations that advocate for the torture of queer people. Conversion “therapy” is still happening in Canada, and in our own community. Bill C-6, an act that would amend the criminal code to ban these practices, has yet to pass in the Senate.

We would respectfully ask that individuals and organizations who are considering relationships with Chick-fil-A do some research about the company and consider the impact that working with them or shopping with them might have on their 2SLGBTQ+ friends, family members, and co-workers.

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SPECTRUM News, Survey

Help Us Create a Trans Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Toolkit for Waterloo Region

SPECTRUM Waterloo’s 2SLGBTQ+ / Rainbow Community Space is working to develop a mental health promotion and suicide prevention toolkit for the transgender community in Waterloo Region. We need to hear from members of the trans community in the region, as well as from family members, carers, partners, friends and service providers, to learn more about their perspectives related to trans mental health promotion and suicide prevention.


The purpose of this project is to create a toolkit that reflects both research and community priorities to support trans people in Waterloo Region. In the initial phase of this project, we’re working to understand the perspectives of trans folks, families, carers, friends and service providers, in order to identify key areas of priority and key resources to be incorporated into the toolkit.

Who We Are

Opening their doors in 2012, SPECTRUM is Waterloo Region’s 2SLGBTQ+ / Rainbow community space. SPECTRUM provides a safe space for the region’s Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer community through programing, resources, events and more.

Wisdom2Action (W2A) is a 2SLGBTQ+ owned and operated social enterprise and consulting firm. Through W2A’s commitment to anti-oppression, community engagement, and evidence-based practice, we help civil society organizations and governments facilitate change and strengthen communities. Wisdom2Action is working with SPECTRUM to execute community engagement and support content creation of a toolkit around the mental health promotion and suicide prevention toolkit for the transgender community in Waterloo Region.

Get involved

If you would like to share your perspective on mental health promotion and suicide prevention for the trans community, and ultimately inform this toolkit, please complete the survey here:


If you would like to dive further into your perspectives with us, please consider expressing your interest to participate in a key informant interview here. Honorariums will be provided to all key informants for their time.

If you have any questions about this project, or would like more information, please contact Alyssa at Wisdom 2 Action.

Thank you for your interest and participation in this very important project.

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SPECTRUM Launches Survey To Help Inform Transgender Self Harm, Abuse, Suicide Reduction Tool Kit

SPECTRUM Launches Survey To Help Inform Transgender Self Harm, Abuse, Suicide Reduction Tool Kit

Thanks to a grant from the Canadian Women’s Foundation SPECTRUM Waterloo Region’s Rainbow Community Space in conjunction with Wisdom2Action (W2A) have launched a community survey to help inform the creation of a tool kit for the transgender community aimed at the reduction of gender based violence that lead to abuse, self harm and suicide. Please help us to make this a highly successful project that can greatly benefit our community by participating in our online survey. Please click here  for more details and to participate. Thank you for your support.

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