Trans Care BC was established in 2015 to coordinate, improve and enhance access to gender affirming care and services for trans, gender diverse and Two-Spirit people. Since its inception, provincial program director Lorraine Grieves and colleagues have worked to incorporate Indigenous understandings of gender diversity and improve access to culturally safe care and gender affirming care for Indigenous people.
Lorraine notes the inclusion of Two-Spirit people in the list of populations TCBC works alongside. “A decolonizing act has been noting that there’s examples of gender diversity that exist across Indigenous nations, both historically and currently. We’ve really tried to hold space and lean into making sure our work is relevant and accountable to Indigenous people.”
Two-Spirit is a term that reflects the complex Indigenous understandings of gender roles, spirituality, and the long histories of sexual and gender diversity in Indigenous cultures. You can learn more about the meaning of the term Two-Spirit, the history of Two-Spirit people, and how the roles of Two-Spirit people are being reclaimed in Indigenous communities on the TCBC website
In the two years after TCBC was established, Kāhui Tautoko Consulting was engaged to support Two-Spirit consultants and staff from the program to travel to meet with Indigenous communities all over B.C. Their goal was to introduce TCBC and its objectives and services to Indigenous communities while also learning from the communities about their knowledge of gender diversity and their needs for gender-affirming health care support.
“Over time, we realized we need to be less at the front of the room and instead gathering with communities in a more circular way,” Lorraine says. “We really just wanted to hear from people about their Two-Spirit stories and their understandings of Two-Spirit people. It became a very important process for us and provided us with equally important actions in terms of improving our programs.”
Among the actions that came out of this work is a video-based Two-Spirit training course that TCBC currently plans to launch in the fall.
“A key piece we found is that there’s lots to learn,” Lorraine says.
“Colonization has netted an erasure of Two-Spirit stories that are often documented through oral tradition. The course will profile the stories and perspectives of Two-Spirit people, with the aim of teaching health care providers how to lean in and get to know the unique story of each Two-Spirit person and what they might need.”
Lorraine is a Two-Spirit person, a registered Métis citizen with family ties to Nisga'a nation and an adoptee on a long personal journey of self and family discovery.
“Meeting my birth family has helped me come into my identity as a Two-Spirit person,” says Lorraine. “I’ve also been able to find historical and archival information about the roles Two-Spirit people played in at least one of the Indigenous communities my family comes from. “It’s been a journey of slowly piecing the story together over time.”
Lorraine and other members of the TCBC staff who identify as Two-Spirit have also held a circular teach-in to share their Two-Spirit stories with their TCBC colleagues.
“I’m really proud of the rich cultural knowledge exchange that happened as a learning experience on our team, and I know many team members found it very useful,” Lorraine says.
Lorraine notes that learning is an important first step for everyone who wants to undertake deeper anti-racism work.
“Take San’yas training
, get to know the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report,” Lorraine says. “Reach out to the Indigenous Health team and learn about what they have to offer.”
Lorraine also emphasizes that the journey towards addressing systemic racism is a long one that requires humility as there are inevitability mistakes and setbacks along the way.
“I would never want it to seem like our team has it all figured out,” Lorraine says. “There’s so much more we could do; this is about taking little steps that really count. We’re all on a long, imperfect path together but we try to make a difference with every small step we take and move in the right direction.”