How do I pick who to go to?

Most of the information courtesy of Transcend - "TransForming Community".

Sometimes we have choices about who to seek services from, and sometimes we don't. The degree of choice we have often depends on what we can afford, what language the services are offered in, how easy it is to get from where we live or work to the location of the service, how confident we are that a service will be respectful of our cultural heritage, and other issues relating to accessibility. Our choices are also affected by the bureaucratic restrictions of different systems of health and social care.

When you have a choice about who to go to, there are many things you can to do try and find someone who fits what you are looking for.

Before choosing a service provider, consider:

  • What qualities am I looking for in a service provider? One way to think about this is to think about experiences you've had that have been positive as well as those that have been negative. What did the service provider do or say that made it so positive/negative?

  • What are my expectations? Consider whether you're looking for something immediate, short-term, or long-term. It is also helpful to consider whether you're looking for a service just for your own needs, or also to satisfy a bureaucratic requirement (e.g., psychiatric assessment to get approval for hormones or surgery).

  • What can I afford? Do you have any kind of medical coverage — MSP, extended health benefits through work, or private insurance — that could help pay for some or all of a service?

  • What have other people’s experiences been? If you know other trans people or family members, ask them if there is anyone they would recommend or if there is anyone they had negative experiences with.

  • Do I want another perspective? Sometimes it is difficult to make decisions when you are in a crisis. It can be helpful to ask friends, family, peers, or other professionals to help you sort out what your options are and determine what would help you to make a decision.

Finding a Service Provider That is Right for You: Asking Questions

Even among service providers who charge fees, many people will provide a free initial interview or consultation by phone or in person. This gives you a chance to ask the service provider questions about their experience, expertise, and attitudes relating to trans issues, as well as find out more about the practical logistics such as fees and waitlist for services.

The types of questions you ask depend on your personal preferences and needs. When we asked participants in our community focus groups what they would need to know about a service provider to feel confident and comfortable about going to them, responses included:

Logistics & Policies

  • What kinds of resources, services, or programs do you offer?

  • Are you open to everyone, or are there limits on who is eligible for your services?

  • Do I need to get a referral from another service provider to see you? Do you have an intake process?

  • How long is your waiting list?

  • What are your fees? Do you have a sliding scale? Are any of your fees covered by government health plans or insurance?

  • Are there stairs into your office? Is the bathroom wheelchair accessible?

  • What are the limits of your services and powers? What can/can’t you do? Are you in a position where your assessment of me will determine my access to other services?

  • How much privacy do I have in accessing your services? If people see me walk into your office, will they know I’s ___ (HIV+, gay/lesbian, a person with a mental illness, etc.), or do you see people for all sorts of reasons?

  • Who are you accountable to? What level of responsibility will your agency take for an individual staff/volunteer’s actions?

  • What are your policies or standards around working with trans people and their family members?

Training & Experience

  • What is your background and training? What kinds of education and experience do you have?

  • Have you ever worked with trans people or their family members? Have you worked specifically with ___ (Two Spirit people, trans people of colour, MTFs, FTMs, intersex people, transsexuals, crossdressers, etc.)?

  • Have you had any training or participated in professional development sessions? Is there a specific person at your agency who has experience with trans issues?

  • Are you familiar with the language used to talk about gender issues and sexual orientation?

  • What kinds of expertise do you have that you think I might find useful?

  • Do you know how to find other resources?

Attitudes & Sensitivity

  • What approach do you take to health care? Are you open to complementary therapies?

  • What is your approach to gender and to gender diversity? Do you perceive transgenderism as a mental illness?

  • What is your approach to physiological diversity? Do you perceive intersexuality or disabilities as physical abnormalities?

  • How do you think gender oppression and other types of social justice/equity issues play a role in affecting people’s health and well-being?

  • Do you act as an advocate for your clients if they are having difficulty with other service providers?

  • How would you deal with examining a gendered body part (e.g., breasts)?

  • How comfortable are you with talking explicitly about gender issues? How comfortable are you being around trans people or dealing with our bodies?

  • How do you show that you value diversity and honour the client’s perspective?

  • How do you deal with it when clients bring up concerns? How do you deal with conflict that occurs in working with a client?

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Inclusion on this website is NOT an endorsement of any particular service provider by The Trans Alliance Society.
Trans-specific Resources in Vancouver, BC, Canada

The Transgender Health Program was launched by Vancouver Coastal Health in June 2003 to bring together transgender people and loved ones, health care providers, health planners, and researchers to work on improving transgender health services in BC.

The Crossdresser's Shopping Guide to Vancouver has tips for buying clothes, breast forms, bras, lingerie/underwear, makeup, wigs, jewelry, hosiery, and eyewear to fit male bodies. Information about trans-friendly stores in Vancouver as well as general tips. Produced by the Cornbury Society.

The Cornbury website also includes a searchable database of trans-friendly services in the Lower Mainland, Rossland, and Victoria - everything from restaurants to bookstores. Membership Required.

Cameron Bowman MD, FRCS(C) provides SRS - Sex Reassignment Surgery for MTF (Male to Female) top & bottom surgery and FTM (Female to Male) top and bottom surgeries. He is located here in Vancouver, BC. Follow this link to read his article on Guidelines to Surgery.

General Resources in British Columbia

PovNet is an online resource for advocates, people on welfare, and community groups and individuals involved in anti-poverty work. It provides up-to-date information about resources in British Columbia and Canada. PovNet links to current anti-poverty issues and also provides links to other anti-poverty organizations and resources in Canada and internationally

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Counsellors & Therapist Associations & Directories
  • The BC Association of Clinical Counsellors was incorporated in 1988 with the principal goal of regulating the professional practice of clinical counsellors in the province of British Columbia. Every member listed in the Private Practice Directory has met rigorous registration requirements at the Master's level of training.

  • BC Association of Specialized Victim Assistance and Counselling Programs The BCASVACP coordinates initiatives for and supports programs across British Columbia: Community-Based Victim Assistance, Stopping the Violence Counselling Programs and Sexual Assault Centres providing a voice for community based service providers and for those who have been victimized by violence.

  • BC Psychological Association has a map to find a psychologists by locations throughout British Columbia.

  • The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) is the professional association for the field of marriage and family therapy. They represent the professional interests of more than 24,000 marriage and family therapists throughout the United States, Canada and abroad.

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The Distress Line - Crisis and Information Lines in BC provides confidential, non-judgmental, free emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including feelings which may lead to suicide. We are here for you if you're worried about something, feel upset or confused, or you just want to talk to someone. You don't have to be suicidal to call us.

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Kaiser Foundation Directory of Addiction Services believe that understanding the harmful effects of substance use, including alcohol, tobacco, prescription medications and illicit drugs, is vital to reducing the cost to our health care system and to increasing the wellness and productivity of our citizens

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Physicians Accepting New Patients in BC, organized by city/town. Listing indicates gender of practitioner, year they graduated from medical school, and fluency in languages other than English. This service is provided by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia.

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Pro Bono Law of BC (PBLBC) is an independent, non-profit society established in 2002 by the Law Society of BC and the BC Branch of the Canadian Bar Association to coordinate, promote and facilitate the delivery of pro bono legal services throughout the province. They are funded by the Law Society of BC and the Law Foundation of BC. Established a diverse and stable funding base in order to maintain the present standard of operation past March 31, 2009.

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The Source is a guide to programs and services for people with disabilities living in BC. Includes advocacy, communication, education, employment, health, housing, income, legal, recreation, and transportation services.

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The Guide to Community Services in the North Okanagan has a searchable database of addiction, cultural, education, employment, financial, housing, legal, and health services.

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Interior Health was created by the Province of British Columbia in December 2001, from the amalgamation of three health regions as well as several local health areas. Interior Health serves a large geographical area, covering 200-thousand square kilometres, from Williams Lake in the north, east to the Alberta border and south to the US border. Interior Health provides the following services; Acute Care, Mental Health Public Health, Alcohol & Drug Services, Home Support & Community Care, Residential & Supportive Living Facilities and Laboratory & Diagnostic Services.

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The Youth Portal strives to Provide Youth an Outlet to Access; Career Information and Relevant Articles, Community Development Engagement Opportunities and Local Culture & Entertainment. It was built through the Community Access Program Youth Initiative 2004, run by the Vancouver Community Network. It was later rejuvenated by representatives of the Community Access Program Youth Initiative 2006 in September 2006. The Vancouver Community Network also hosts the webspace, email address, and the content manager that is used to build and maintain this site.

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The NEED Crisis and Information Line serves Greater Victoria, Port Renfrew, and Toll free from the Southern Gulf Islands (1-866-386-6323) on the west coast of British Columbia. The 24 Hour Line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Youth Line is staffed by youth, for youth, and is available from 4pm - 10pm, 7 days a week. NEED provides emotional support, crisis intervention services and community resource information. They are a telephone-only support and information service that is staffed by volunteers, professionally trained to offer emotional support. Their philosophy is to listen, without judgement or giving unwanted advice.

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Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) provides health care to approximately 716,000 people on Vancouver Island, on the islands of the Georgia Strait, and in the mainland communities north of Powell River and south of Rivers Inlet.

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Red Book Online is the most complete online guide to community, social and government agencies and services across the Lower Mainland. Includes counselling, cultural, educational, employment, financial, health, housing, legal, political, recreational, social, and transportation services. The 2005-2006 Red Book: Directory of Services for the Lower Mainland is now available!

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Vancouver Coastal Health Authority database has a searchable guide to health and social services in the Lower Mainland, North Shore, Sea-to-Sky corridor, Sunshine Coast, and Central Coast (Bella Bella/Bella Coola).

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If you are unhappy with the quality of service provision you are receiving, you have a right to seek services elsewhere!!

What if I don't have a choice about who to go to?

We don’t always have choices about which service providers we would feel most comfortable with. If you need income assistance, you have to deal with the welfare system the way it is, whether it works for you or not. Government bureaucracies such as Vital Statistics all have rules and regulations that are relatively inflexible.

Although we often don’t have choices about who we get to see or how the service is provided, we still have human rights that must be respected in every interaction with an individual service provider, agency, or government system. Even when we are part of a system that doesn't meet our needs, there are things we can do to advocate for ourselves and for our loved ones, to encourage service providers to become more respectful of gender diversity and to deal with discrimination when it does occur. For more information see the advocacy section of this website.

*Distress Line Numbers*
7:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Vancouver & Lower Mainland
604 684-6869

Throughout British Columbia
1-800-566-1170 (Toll Free)
-BC Crisis Line-

Greater Vancouver

1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)

LGBT Resources in BC

The Gay and Lesbian Business Association Directory has listings for LGBT-friendly accommodations, businesses, community organizations, and health practitioners. Primarily Lower Mainland-focussed, with a few listings in other regions.

The Prideline is The Centre’s peer support/information/referral phone line, operating toll-free across BC. Operates 7 days per week from 7-10 PM. The Prideline is staffed by trained volunteers who can provide peer support as well as information on social and community events, referrals to social service agencies, support groups, and LGBT-friendly doctors or therapists.

To call the Prideline:

  • Vancouver/Lower Mainland: 604-684-6869
  • Rest of BC: 1-800-566-1170 (Toll Free)

The Vancouver Island Region Pink Pages has listings of LGBT-friendly community organizations, health and medical practitioners, and business services. Listings for Victoria and the surrounding area, Tofino, Nanaimo, Parksville, and the Gulf Islands.

Resources and SRS Surgeons Outside BC

Gender Reassignment Surgery in Montreal are services performed by Dr. Ménard & Dr. Brassard's. They do both M2F and F2M clients.

Dr. Michael L. Brownstein is a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, and a member of ASPS, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, specializing in plastic, reconstructive and gender related surgery. He has performed gender related surgery since the late 1970's when, with the advice and support of Paul Walker, co-founder and former President of the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association, now WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health), he received the first of his many referrals for bilateral breast reconstruction. Located in San Francisco.

Gianna Israel is a therapist who provides counseling services to the transgender community. She also publishes articles on transgender issues, including a regular column in Transgender Tapestry, and a series of Gender Articles which are published on Usenet and in CDS Publication's TG Forum. Located in the U.S.A..

Ingersoll Gender Center supports transgendered people towards growth and well being. They provide support, education, advocacy and information resources for people interested in gender identity issues, and for service providers, employers, families and friends in order to promote understanding, awareness and acceptance of gender diversity. Located in Seattle, Washington.

Southern California Transgender Counseling LA-based psychotherapy practice"dedicated to the needs of all individuals with any gender concerns". They provide a wide range of services following Gender Transitioning according to the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care. They also do Counseling in Spanish, French and Swedish. Reviews SRS Surgeons from around the world who are involved in a variety of surgeries for both MTFs and FTMs. They also provide the surgeons contact information.

Toby R. Meltzer, M.D. - Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Info on the range of SRS options available at Dr. Meltzer's clinic which is located in Scottsdale, Arizona.