“When I was younger, it was really hard, like this was not something that was talked about and it was a very negative thing before,” said Zoey Carey, Peer Support worker with CMHA.
Born male, 34-year-old Carey says she now feels comfortable in her own skin after transitioning to a woman three years ago.
“I found, you know after I got married, had kids, had the house sort of thing, it was like there was always something missing and I always knew that I was different on the inside,” said Carey.
Carey felt very depressed and credits Gender Journeys for saving her, a program for transgender and gender diverse individuals at the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge.
“When I started searching around I found (out) about Gender Journeys and I went, I talked to people, I met new people and it opened my eyes to this possibility of actually being happy in my body, or happy in my skin,” said Carey.
On Monday, the provincial government, through the Ontario Trillium Foundation, presented a $648,700 Grow Grant for the local CMHA Gender Journeys program.
“Almost all of the money will be spent on staffing, so we hire in the Gender Journeys program people with lived experience who are transgender, or gender diverse, or non-binary individuals and family members, people who are in families of transgender or gender diverse children,” said Gordon Langill, director of programs and services at CMHA.
The program provides education and support services for transgender, two-spirit and gender diverse individuals, and anyone questioning their gender identity.
“So isolated transgender individuals who are thinking about maybe transitioning or seeking information and support groups, also education for employers, and for training workers,” said Langill.
With this grant, organizers hope to bring a sense of belonging for everyone in the community.
“If I can help one more person a day even not go down that dark road, then I feel like I’ve made a huge difference in my life,” said Carey.