Supporting Hamilton’s Youth Around the Gender Experience

When Ty Laframboise was first coming out, he sought out support in Hamilton, and found that there was a serious gap in the programs and services available here. “After moving away from my hometown” says the Hamilton resident of the past seven years, “a weight had been lifted and I was finally able to be me. When I came out as trans, I began searching for services and resources but was quite disappointed”. His past personal challenges finding support inspired Ty to act. Says Laframboise “My transition was not easy, but that experience increased my awareness in regards to the work that still needs to be done”.

Ty Laframboise, S.A.G.E. facilitator and trans youth mentor

Two years ago, Ty began facilitating the Trans Youth Group, in hopes of ensuring that young people facing the same challenges that he had would have better supports than were available for him. “S.A.G.E.” (Support Around the Gender Experience), as it is now known, is Hamilton’s only peer-led support group for youth who are trans, two spirit, gender fluid, non-binary and otherwise identifying outside the gender binary. The decision to change the groups name was made by the group participants, says Laframboise, “Young people wanted to change the name to S.A.G.E. to be more inclusive by recognizing all experiences of gender”.

The group is a collaboration between the Youth Wellness Centre and NGen Youth Centre, the latter of which has historically been Hamilton’s primary support for newcomer youth and more recently has been supporting LGBTQ2SI+ youth programming. NGen hosts the monthly support group and according to Laframboise, was an ideal match for S.A.G.E. and have been excellent partners in this project. “The staff at NGen love to be involved and support the group any way they can” he says, noting also that NGen has also proven extremely responsive to the groups needs, asking how they could make the space more accessible to S.A.G.E. and happily making adjustments that that they have asked for. “As a group” says Laframboise, “we decided that washrooms needed to be all gender. NGen switched the signage instantly”, noting also that NGen used the change as an opportunity to educate, posting both ‘all gender’ signs as well as a detailed explanation as to why they had made the change, for any youth who may have had questions.
S.A.G.E. has grown from its humble beginnings, starting with just a few attendees, and over the last few years growing t
o the point that it fills the meeting space. One of the goals of S.A.G.E. is to foster youth leadership and involvement, Laframboise explains, “The group is youth-led, I take on the role of actively listening and working with them to make their ideas come alive” S.A.G.E. has hosted incredible events that have supported young people who identify outside of the gender binary, this includes clothing swaps, binder giveaways, make-up tutorials, haircuts and more. Overall the group provides a space for young people to connect with peers, receive support and have fun. As the group grows, new opportunities for community involvement arise. Says Laframboise, “If you are an individual that identifies outside of the gender binary and want to become involved, there are volunteer opportunities” noting that the group is especially interested in workshops or activities facilitated by community members.

The group is also fundraising to ensure its capacity can continue to grow in order to meet the clear need in the Hamilton
community, noting that it’s participants want to meet more frequently than once a month. On May 23rd, the group is hosting a fabulous-looking fundraiser show at the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre, featuring the musical talent of T Thomason and CAMERON. “We are currently funded by a local donor” says Laframboise, ‘the funds raised from this awesome, fun night will go towards increasing the frequency of group meetings”. In addition to great music, There will be food and a large silent auction due to the generous support of local businesses and organizations. “We are overwhelmed with the support that we have received from local business” says Laframboise, thanking for their support The Hearty Hooligan, Cedars Campground, Citizen Kid, Detour Coffee Roasters, Hawk & Sparrow, Moksha Yoga, Dr. Disc, The Hamilton Store, Cake & Loaf, Grim City, Big B Comics, De La Sol Yoga, Group of 7 Billion, David’s Tea, The Flying Squirrel, Hamilton Family Health Team, Twisted Knots and Wicked Folds, and CAN-AM Cryoservices.

For the time being, S.A.G.E. meets on the 4th Wednesday of every month from 6:30-8:30. Ty also works as a Trans Youth Mentor through the Youth Wellness Centre and offers individual support for youth who are trans or identify outside of the gender binary. “I am open about my trans identity, and it is often helpful for young people to connect with a mentor from their community. For me, it was essential to connect with other trans people for support throughout my transition and still is” says Laframboise.

If you or someone you know needs support, or if you are interested in supporting S.A.G.E., he can be reached by his email: transyouthgrouphamilton@gmail.com.

To get your advanced tickets to T Thomason // CAMERON in support of S.A.G.E. click here

James Dee

James Dee is an editor at Bent Q Media, a queer community organizer and sexual health educator in Hamilton, Ontario.

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