Archive for February, 2013

New Volunteers on the Front Desk!


Intern Émilie and volunteer ZaZa reorganize our zine library. Check it out next time you’re in!

We are so excited to welcome six awesome new front desk volunteers to Head & Hands! This group completed a thirty-hour training in February, where they learned about our approach and protocols through workshops and roleplays, and got to know most members of the H&H team. Huge thanks to intern Émilie, whose (often hilarious) contributions to the coordination and facilitation of this training were invaluable.

Volunteers will take on regular shifts each month, during which they’ll help keep our pamphlets stocked, our resources up-to-date, and our offices comfortable and welcoming for clients, while providing information, referrals, and support to those who call or walk through our doors. Their volunteer shifts also provide time off the front desk for our Info & Referral Coordinators, so they can carry out collective duties like committee work and peer-to-peer supervision, and create space for program visioning and coordination. This is the second year we’ve offered this volunteer opportunity, and we’re so excited to see what unfolds with this group over the next year!

Ask Anything: Seal


How to break seal of a girl??

This is a question that we often get in classroom workshops, and it’s great that we got this as a web question because there are a lot of myths circulating about this topic.

I’m assuming that by “seal,” you’re referring to the hymen, which is a membrane surrounding the vaginal opening. This membrane tends to wear out as one gets older, through day-to-day activities like walking, playing sports, horseback riding, or masturbation, all of which can reduce the size or consistency of the hymen. To make sure that you have a good visual, in a vast majority of cases, hymens are not like a glass window that has to be broken, but more like a donut or a large spider web.

So, by the time somebody with a vagina decides to have (vaginal) penetrative sex for the first time there are often already openings in their hymen. We often attribute the bleeding during first vaginal penetration to the “breakage” of the hymen, and that’s often what we mean when we say someone has “lost their virginity”. However, the hymen is not the seal of virginity. More often than not, the cause of bleeding during the first penetration(s) is less the hymen itself and more other factors like stress and/or not knowing yet what works for your body. This combination will probably make your body tense and your vagina less lubricated, which can make penetration harder or more painful, and could cause some bleeding. Some ways to counter this would be by letting yourself take your time and figure out what feels right for you, communicating openly with your partner(s) about the process, and having plenty of lube on hand to use…and even after your first few times, lube can be one of your best partners whenever you’re having sex. You can always get safer sex supplies, including lube, for free at Head & Hands!

Welcome, Victoria!

Sarah and Victoria wave goodbye and hello!

Sarah and Victoria wave goodbye and hello!

Ch-ch-changes! Meet Victoria, our new Funding and Partnerships Coordinator!

After three years at the helm as Fundraising and Events Coordinator, the lovely Sarah Odell has decided to move on. Although we are gonna miss her, we are so excited to welcome Victoria Pilger to our team as our new Funding and Partnerships coordinator. (Yes, you read that right: new title!) Victoria comes to us with enthusiasm for youth work, social justice, as well as experience with fundraising and event coordination—just what the doctor ordered! If you’re in the ‘hood, stop by and introduce yourself, because we know Victoria would love to meet you!

Transsexual and transgender women denied access to shelters as temperatures drop in Montréal


Reposted from ASST(e)Q, in solidarity and in support of their work and advocacy.

ASTT(e)Q urges Québec shelters to change discriminatory practices

25 January, 2013 – As temperatures drop to extreme lows, transsexual and transgender women in Montréal continue to be turned away from many homeless women’s shelters. Over the past week of bitter cold, ASTT(e)Q, a local trans health project of CACTUS Montréal, has witnessed several of our members be denied shelter on the grounds of being trans. While such refusals are frequently justified by administrative regulations, members of ASTT(e)Q believe that these exclusive practices are rooted in discriminatory attitudes towards trans people.

A majority of women’s shelters throughout Québec require trans people to have undergone sex reassignment surgery, and/or to have changed their legal sex. “Such requirements are unattainable for most homeless trans people, due to prohibitive costs, and extensive administrative requirements,” says Mirha-Soleil Ross, staff of ASTT(e)Q. “Trans women are left with no alternatives, as men’s shelters are clearly not an option. With no place to turn, homeless trans women find themselves on the streets, which in -30 below temperatures is nothing short of deadly.”

“Just this week, a trans woman who had her surgery months ago was refused access to a woman’s shelter because she didn’t have an ‘F’ on her identity documents! While we believe trans people should have access to shelter and housing regardless of surgical status, this is a clear case of discrimination disguised as administrative regulations,” continues Ross.

“We are currently seeing many important legal and social advances for trans people, including in neighbouring Ontario where one can change their legal sex regardless of surgical status,” says Nora Butler Burke, coordinator of ASTT(e)Q. “In Québec, trans people have been relentlessly educating intervention workers and calling for shelters to address the exclusion of homeless trans people for decades. Yet shelters continue to refuse trans people based on the outdated policies of the Québec Department of Civil Status.”

In the context of life threatening temperatures, ASTT(e)Q urges all shelters to immediately remove barriers to admission for trans people based on the legal documentation in their possession and/or their surgical status. More broadly, we advocate for access to shelters, as well as other gender specific services, to be available according to one’s social identity rather than according to their legal or surgical status. We encourage organizations across Québec to work in collaboration with trans community groups to ensure that trans people are no longer denied access.

About ASTT(e)Q (Action Santé Travesti(e)s et Transsexuel(le)s du Québec)

ASTT(e)Q aims to promote the health and well-being of trans people through peer support and advocacy, education and outreach, and community empowerment and mobilization. We understand the health of trans people and our communities to be interrelated to economic and social inequalities, which have resulted in trans people experiencing disproportionate rates of poverty, un(der)employment, precarious housing, criminalization and violence. We believe in the right to self-determine our gender identity and gender expression free from coercion, violence and discrimination. We advocate for access to health care that will meet the many needs of our diverse communities, while working collectively to build supportive, healthy and resilient communities.

For interviews: Nora Butler Burke at 514-347-9462
For terms, definitions and additional information about trans people:

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