MOSAIC has launched one of the first peer support groups in British Columbia specifically for trans, non-binary, and gender-diverse newcomers to Canada.
Beyond Borders and Binaries is a unique, peer-led support group that is open to all trans and non-binary newcomers, regardless of immigration status. Group participants find community through sharing stories, information, and resources about starting a new life in Canada.
It was initiated as a result of focus groups from participants in MOSAIC’s ‘I Belong’ program, which aims to support LGBTQIA2+ newcomers, who indicated that there needed to be a space specifically for trans, non-binary, and gender-diverse immigrants and refugees.
“The idea really came about from the community identifying their needs to us, and we just took their lead,” said Kiana Reyes, facilitator of the ‘I Belong’ program at MOSAIC.
The next step was to find the right person to plan and lead group discussions and activities – and Norma Lize, Sponsorship Coordinator at Rainbow Refugee, was the perfect candidate. Lize came to Canada from Lebanon two years ago, and joined the ‘I Belong’ program at MOSAIC in early 2019 after finding information about the program online.
“I knew how much ‘I Belong’ helped me as a newcomer, so I wanted to be involved in a trans and non-binary version of the program.”
The group meets virtually on the third Monday of every month, and so far there have been anywhere from six to nine participants in each session.
Although there are two counsellors present to support the group from Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture (VAST), Lize is clear that these are not therapy sessions – participants do not have to open up and share anything that they feel uncomfortable with.
“We work hard to make the space safe for everyone. Safety is something we can build together.”
The need for trans-led spaces is incredibly important to Lize, who hopes the group can provide an opportunity for trans, non-binary, and gender diverse newcomers to be themselves and find a community as they face the multitude of barriers that can come with starting a new life in Canada.
“A lot of spaces are led by cisgender heterosexual or homosexual people, and in a lot of spaces we don’t feel that we can share and open up and be who we are…yes, we want to work for our community, but I also believe in ‘nothing for us without us.’ So if we can lead and be on the front line, then why not?” said Lize.
Both Reyes and Lize hope that anyone considering joining the group know that it is a welcoming, inclusive environment.
“Group meetings can be intimidating at first, so if there are any folks who are unsure about joining, they can reach out to me and I’d be more than happy to have a conversation with them before joining,” said Reyes. To find out more information about the Beyond Borders and Binaries group, please click here and look under the Support Groups area, or reach out to Reyes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
November 20 is Trans Day of Remembrance, an annual observance that honors the memory of transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. To find out more information, click here.