"When you meet someone, the language they use is the first indication you have of how they're going to treat you. If they're using language that excludes you or doesn't make space for your identity – even if it's unintentional or implicit – then you may feel they're not going to take all your needs into account. This becomes especially important in a health care setting," says Dr. Hélène Frohard-Dourlent, a gender diversity consultant whose post-doctoral research focused on access to gender-affirming health services.
Hélène recently worked with PHSA's Trans Care BC and Francophone Services, part of the Provincial Language Service (PLS), on the creation of new French versions of some of the educational resources on the Trans Care BC website.
This collaboration began over a year ago, when PLS started working with Trans Care BC to ensure the language used in their interpreting booking processes was inclusive of gender diversity.
This work got both teams thinking about the importance of having Trans Care BC's educational materials available in languages other than English. These documents are aimed at members of the transgender community, their families, health care providers and the broader public. They cover key topics like accessing mental health care and gender-affirming surgery, supporting gender diverse children and youth, and using gender inclusive language.
The PLS and Trans Care BC teams decided French was a natural place to start, both because of Francophone Services' mission of providing health care resources in French to the people of B.C., and because there are unique challenges to using gender inclusive language in French, as it is language with grammatical gender. This means nouns in French are classified as either masculine, feminine or neutral. The gender of nouns in French affects the form of other parts of speech including adjectives, pronouns and articles.
"At PLS, we believe in building stronger connections and being involved in the delivery of language services to improve equitable access to care," says Angela Chirinian, executive director, Employee Records and Benefits, Payroll, Business Applications and Provincial Language Service. Angela has also worked with Trans Care BC on updating PHSA's hiring and employee record systems to be more inclusive of transgender and gender diverse applicants and employees.
As a francophone, Angela has a personal understanding of the importance of having health care resources available in French.
"If you don't have access to information, you're at a disadvantage," she says. "Through conversations about gender diversity and the terminology that represents it, francophone parents can help their children better understand and appreciate the socially and culturally constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and identities of girls, women, boys, men, and trans people. Access to information in French is a right in Canada, and also a matter of fairness."
PLS arranged for the initial translation of the materials, with members of the francophone, trans health, and trans and gender diverse communities, reviewing the materials and making additional contributions to ensure they were gender-inclusive and French-centric. Hélène, who is francophone and identifies as gender-queer, was instrumental in this process, drawing both on their own perspectives and work done by others to develop more gender inclusive ways of speaking in French.
"Health navigators on the Trans Care BC Care Coordination Team are contacted routinely by individuals who benefit from the help of PLS medical interpreters and learning about resources accessible in their language," says Gwen Haworth, project manager, Education, Trans Care BC.
"When communities seeking care experience additional barriers, there's both a decrease in people having their current care needs addressed, as well as a reduction in their long-term engagement with care services. We know language barriers are no different. Trans Care BC is grateful to be working with PLS services and community members on translation, and we aim to make more client resources available in French and other languages that reflect the gender diverse populations in B.C."
You can find all the resources on the education section of the Trans Care BC website:
"We know people in the trans and gender diverse community face barriers to accessing health care, and for people who are francophone, language differences can compound these obstacles," say Kiran Malli, director, PLS. "We were very pleased to be able to work with Trans Care BC to make these resources more accessible. Projects like these are an important step towards inclusion; they are significant for the people who are now able to access this information in their preferred language."
"Something I really love about work at PLS is using language as a way to make the health care system more inclusive," Amanda Makosso, Francophone Services coordinator. "The French language has a masculine and feminine duality that can make it harder to use gender inclusive language, but we are in a time where society is evolving and languages are evolving as well."
All the many people who had a hand in the creation of these resources agree they are living documents and will continue to be updated based on community feedback and as linguistic practices change. If you have any questions, comments or feedback about these resources you can contact at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com if you wish to provide feedback in French.