How the Vancouver Park Board aims to make community centres more welcoming to transgender people.
It is the duty of public facilities to be safe and welcoming to the public; this is especially true when working with marginalized communities. The trans, gender diverse, and Two-Spirit (TGD2S) community is growing, and addressing their needs can benefit a range of people. As TGD2S communities encourage staff training, universal design, and accessible programming, the spaces that are created become safe and welcoming for all.
What does the community need?
For the Vancouver Park Board, TGD2S inclusion began with community consultation. When working with communities that may not traditionally engage in recreation, it is vital to connect – to ask people what they need.
To do this, in 2013 the Park Board established the Trans and Gender Variant Inclusion Working Group which worked to engage community and outline barriers that TGD2S individuals faced in accessing parks and recreation services. This work formed the foundation for all of the initiatives that have followed.
That spirit of community engagement continues into 2019 with ongoing community outreach, ensuring that this important work benefits the people we are trying to reach and serve.
A plan to move forward
With information from the community, the Trans and Gender Variant Inclusion Working Group put together “Building a Path to Parks and Recreation for All” – a report that included over 70 recommendations. This report is an important guide and illustrates for us where our baseline was for the work that has been done, and where we need to go moving forward. The report was unanimously received by Vancouver Park Board Commissioners in 2014 which solidified the foundation of our current programming and projects.
Laying the foundation
From 2015-2018 a number of steps were taken to make parks and recreation more accessible for TGD2S folk. This included establishing city- wide standardized gender diverse washroom signage, initiating the trans swim, and beginning staff training. In 2017 two Trans, Gender Diverse, and Two-Spirit Facilitators were hired to help with the implementation of the report recommendations, aid in staff training, and work to build community connections.
With the foundation laid, the TGD2S team is now moving forward to develop the Templeton Trans Swim, and the Britannia Trans Fitness Centre. These programs are unique in that they are TGD2S specific; they are only for trans, gender diverse, and Two-Spirit folks and their friends and families. Programs like this act as a landing pad for folks who wouldn’t otherwise access recreation spaces to swim or work out.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and participation in the programs continues to grow. Still, the end goal of this work is not exclusion (having separate recreation programs for TGD2S), so work is also being done to encourage TGD2S folks to come to public recreation times.
As outlined in our 25 year masterplan, the emphasis is on infrastructure, design, and staff training that supports all community members in feeling safe and well supported. Infrastructure design is probably the most challenging barrier to overcome when working with aging facilities. How do we balance the need for universal change spaces with the realities of mid-century architecture? As we look forward this is a challenge on our horizon.
All new Vancouver Park Board buildings will be built with universal design principles in mind, making spaces easier to access for all people. It is also vital when examining older infrastructure to think about what can be done to make spaces more accessible, not just for TGD2S folks, but for everyone.
Promoting education, understanding and compassion in staff members will directly benefit everyone accessing Park Board facilities. A new set of training materials to support frontline staff in connecting with TGD2S members of the public in a more informed way is on track for 2019.
Our training emphasizes upholding the BC Human Rights in all of our facilities – it has protections around gender identity, gender expression and sex. It is vital to help staff feel confident and supported in dealing with complex issues, especially if those issues impact a marginalized community.
With work on infrastructure, staff training and pilot recreation programs already underway, 2019 will also see the expansion of programs in TGD2S arts and culture programming in our community centres. Working with colleagues in the TGD2S arts community we will pilot a roster of workshops, look to exhibit TGD2S videos in our community centres and increase access for the work of TGD2S artists.
As we move forward, one of our greatest challenges and our greatest assets is the fluid nature of the TGD2S community itself. As the language and expectations evolve it is all the more important to be thoughtfully responsive, to look forward and to plan ahead. It is easier to be innovative at the outset than it is to play catch up! We continue to look to the TGD2S community to guide us on what the future holds for access and inclusion.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Marie Lopes, Coordinator Arts, Culture and Engagement, and, Dakota Shelby, Trans, Gender Diverse, and Two-Spirit Inclusion (TGD2S) Facilitator. Vancouver Park Board
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