September 14, 2018 9:03 pm

Unique Alberta transgender clinic is saving lives but says funding help is critical

WATCH ABOVE: A not-for-profit organization focused on helping transgender youth has just opened up their office in Calgary. But to remain sustainable, they need financial support. Jill Croteau has more on the Skipping Stone Foundation.

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Skipping Stone Foundation is a not-for-profit that was born out of experience and a very desperate need.

The system for transgender youth and their families is a difficult one to navigate and until the creation of the organization, there were few resources to help.

Seventeen-year-old Syd Kwan identified as transgender early and was on an excruciatingly long waiting list for care. The Metta Clinic operates out of the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary. Many people wait months, if not years, to be seen.

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“I was extremely uncomfortable having a monthly reminder that I have ovaries and a uterus and you’re stuck with this,” Kwan said. “It was the plague I couldn’t get rid of and it could be life or death for me.”

The support and resources he accessed at Skipping Stone changed his life.

“It’s important I got the help to be able to live a more truthful life.”

Syd’s mom, Angie Bateman, said support for their entire family was critical.

“When you’re stuck like Syd was, it’s difficult to watch — that’s heartbreaking to watch — so when his voice changed, it’s empowering,” Bateman said. “Skipping Stone offered me the chance to grow as a parent and the support they give to Syd and me is unparalleled and just life-changing for both of us.”

READ MORE: Activist says Nova Scotia should cover transgender breast implants in human rights complaint

Last year, Skipping Stone supported 40 kids. This year it’s over 200 and the need is growing. Its co-founder, Lindsay Peace, said it’s been the most rewarding work.

Skipping Stone co-founder Lindsay Peace

Jill Croteau

“It’s hard to put into words when a mom and her kiddo reach out and kid’s been hospitalized for this seventh suicide attempt,” Peace said. “That’s hard, but the hardest is how little it takes on our part to make it OK for him.

“These people aren’t asking for a lot.”

Peace has experience navigating the challenging system after feeling lost with her transgender son, Ace.

“I was watching my body go through changes I knew weren’t reversible,” said Ace, who is 18. “If I had the support, that wouldn’t have happened. I will forever live with those changes and know they could have been stopped if there was a better system.”

Syd Kwan with Ace Peace

Jill Croteau

Ace is now a mentor youth for Skipping Stone. Amelia Newbert is also a co-founder. She started the foundation from her own lived experience as transgender.

Skipping Stone co-founder, Amelia Newbert

Nate Luit

“When I transitioned six years ago, the world was different,” Newbert said. “It was full of heartbreak, anxiety and despair and working everyday is a journey to make sure these trans youth and the next generation have an experience that’s better than mine.”

Skipping Stone also has a physician on staff to help families through the system. Dr. Ted Jablonski hopes they can secure provincial funding to continue their work helping youth with hormone therapy or guide clients on the waiting list for gender-affirming surgery.

“Surgeons would love to do the work but have no funding, so that’s a tragedy when everyone agrees it’s the right thing, but you can’t pull it off,” Jablonski said. “I hope my involvement as a medical director will allow better access to funding from AHS.

“It’s critical and we need to get on it.”

Skipping Stone Foundation has launched a fundraising page hoping for more support.

“I don’t know how you don’t do it when you know you can and folks need it,” Peace said.

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