Tuesday, May 21, 2019

'I'm trans because that's who I am'

By Louise Kinross

Logan Wong is known for his stylish bow ties. But in this photo, he's
wearing a shirt with the colours of the transgender flag: blue and pink, the traditional colours for boys and girls, and white, representing people who are intersex, transitioning or a neutral or undefined gender. Logan is a transgender man who has cerebral palsy and grew up receiving services here. He's also the co-chair of Holland Bloorview’s youth advisory, and works as a host to inpatients in our teen lounge. He’s going into his fourth year of social work at Ryerson University. We talked about his experiences and how Holland Bloorview can better support young adults like him.

BLOOM: What does it mean to be transgender?

Logan Wong:
It’s when the gender you’re assigned at birth doesn’t match with what you believe to be your gender. Trans is an umbrella. It can mean you’re a guy, you’re a woman, or you’re both. There are new labels coming up every day.

BLOOM: How did you recognize you were transgender?

Logan Wong:
I came out publicly last September. But I’ve known I was trans since I was seven. When I was that age I presented as a male, and I was really self-conscious about my body. I don’t think anyone—including me—recognized it as being trans at the time. I thought I liked boy stuff, and I wouldn’t leave the house in a dress.

I have two older brothers. We have a home video of my birthday party when my parents gave me a Barbie. I threw it on the floor and started playing with my brothers’ hot wheels.

My parents recognized how terrible I felt about myself, and how much of a struggle it was for me. And my mom got better at buying gender neutral clothes and clothes that weren’t pink.

BLOOM: What’s been the greatest challenge?

Logan Wong:
Definitely finding accessible and trans-friendly health-care, and my name change stuff and government forms. Changing everything from my name on my insurance to my name at school are examples.

I’m lucky to have finally found a doctor that is really educated in both transgender stuff and disability—which is really rare. I go to Parkdale Community Health Centre, and I had to transfer my whole primary care over there to be able to access testosterone. Before that, when I saw my regular family doctor, they were going to refer me to a hormone specialist. But there was a year wait list.

BLOOM: What’s been the greatest joy?

Logan Wong:
How much pride I have, and how much I can use my experience, both as trans and having a disability, as representation for both communities at the same time. I really appreciate that opportunity.

BLOOM: What advice would you give parents whose disabled child is questioning their gender?

Logan Wong:
I would say listen to what they have to say about themselves. Don’t make assumptions about what they’re thinking. Let them express themselves the way they want to.

BLOOM: Did having a disability make it easier or harder to accept your transgender identity?

Logan Wong:
In some aspects it made it easier. I’m in a wheelchair and no one expects me to stand up and pee. So I don’t have to worry about facing harassment in the bathroom. I usually use a single stall bathroom.

Growing up, my life didn’t revolve around the fact that I had a disability. My parents believed that my life shouldn’t just be about therapy. That made me willing to explore other parts of my life and identity, so it made it easier for me to recognize who I am.

BLOOM: Is there anything about having a disability that made being transgender harder?

Logan Wong:
Making people realize that I’m not trans because I have a disability, or because of other things that happened in my life. I’m not trans because I’m oppressed by other things, or because I’m attention-seeking. I’m trans because that’s who I am.

BLOOM: How does the disability community view transgender people?

Logan Wong:
I definitely find more community within the trans and queer community. I do associate with the disabled community, but I’ve found able-bodied friends who are trans and queer are way more accepting of my identity. I think it goes back to some people thinking that I’m trans because I want attention.

I do feel I’m more welcomed in the trans and queer community. They don’t see my disability as a thing. It’s part of my identity, of course, but they don’t emphasize it as much as it’s focused on in the disability community.

Do I necessarily tell new people with disabilities that I meet that I’m trans? Not necessarily.

BLOOM: What would you like our staff to know about how they can best work with youth who are transgender?

Logan Wong:
Ask them what their name is, and what pronouns they use. It’s very simple. Recognize that the documents you get might not have the name that they prefer on it. Don’t take the paper as the most important thing. Value what they say.

BLOOM: Have you ever received health care that wasn’t respectful or affirming of who you are?

Logan Wong:
I’ve only had one experience, and it was recent. My cerebral palsy specialist at an adult hospital was blatantly transphobic.

BLOOM: In what way?

Logan Wong:
He refused to refer to me with my now legal name, because he knew me before. I’ve chosen to not go to that person since. I called and explained that I was transferring to another specialist, because I don’t want this happening to another person.

BLOOM: What could we do at Holland Bloorview to better support youth who are gay, transgender or bisexual?

Logan Wong:
I like the steps the equity, diversity and inclusion committee is taking.

BLOOM: Are you on that committee?

Logan Wong:
Yes. They’ve encouraged staff to put their pronouns in their e-mail signature, which is really important, and created gender-neutral bathrooms. Instead of using mom and dad, just say parents. We have to think about it, not only in terms of children and youth, but the parents who are potentially trans.

BLOOM: What about creating some kind of peer support here for clients who are transgender?

Logan Wong:
I think support groups, with the right intention, can always be a good opportunity to express the values of Holland Bloorview.

BLOOM: Why did you decide to be a youth leader?

Logan Wong:
I decided to become a youth leader before I publicly transitioned. I wanted a platform to advocate for people with disabilities, and specifically youth voices. I feel we don’t hear enough from youth about their opinions on what’s happening in the disability community, or politics, or the world.

BLOOM: What are your hopes for the future?

Logan Wong:
I’m hoping to be a social worker. I haven’t confirmed it yet, but I’m hoping my placement will be at the Ronald McDonald House. I’ve gained a lot of clinical experience in my work here, and I’d like to continue that in another space.

After I graduate I’m thinking about master’s programs, both social work and women and gender studies.

In Toronto, there are lots of trans-specific supports at The 519.