Open Letter to the Hope Mission from Shades of Colour

Originally published on the Shades of Colour Instagram account. Republished with permission. 

To Hope Mission management;

We are Shades of Colour, a collective that strives to support and advocate for queer and trans Indigenous, Black, and racialized people. We are therapists, youth workers, frontline community organizers, and advocates.

It has been brought to our attention on multiple occasions that the Hope Mission assigns genders to people accessing your organization for shelter, based on government issued ID, and then enforces gender segregation.

This is extremely concerning for a variety of reasons. Many trans people are kicked out of their homes based on their trans identities, and are forced to access shelters. Queerphobia and transphobia still run rampant in our society and despite the best efforts of LGBTQ2S+ activists and organizers, approximately 50 percent of houseless youth in Edmonton identify as LGBTQ2S+.

When a trans racialized child tries to access your shelter in the middle of winter, their security and safety should not be conditional, based on their ability to set aside their identity. Not allowing trans people to access the side of your shelter that best fits their gender demonstrates that you prioritize transphobic and bioessentialist beliefs over peoples' literal safety. We are in the middle of an opioid crisis, an ongoing housing crisis, a global pandemic, and it is winter--there is snow on the ground, and people are freezing.

Oftentimes, people are accessing the Hope Mission because they are seeking safety. Yet, your staff have insisted that to be able to access shelter at all, trans people need to succumb to the gender you assign to them, and if they are unable to do that, you kick them out into a snow storm.

In our work, the process of supporting young people in obtaining a government issued ID is incredibly gruelling. First, they must apply for a health care card. Obviously for individuals who do not have constant access to the internet, they would need to schedule a time with a worker to fill out an application. Two weeks later, assuming there are no complications, the health card arrives. Then, they must schedule a time with the worker to go to a registry and get their birth certificate. This costs money, that many people facing houselessness do not have.

Several weeks later, again assuming there are no complications (and it is important to note that there are many many complications that happen all the time) the birth certificate arrives. Since COVID-19 cases are increasing, mailing times are slow. Eventually, several weeks later and paying some more money at the registry, people can apply for an Alberta ID. Again, many complications can arise if people are born out of province, if people have never had an ID before, if people don't know their parents' maiden names, etc. The list goes on.

Eventually, the Alberta ID may arrive. To change your name and gender marker in Alberta, you need to get fingerprints done at a police station in the west end, and also a background check. This process is a lot harder for individuals who have a criminal record, for individuals who do not have a fixed address, and also for individuals who cannot afford to pay all the fees required to go through this process. Assuming all goes smoothly, the next step is to bring both the record check and the fingerprints to the registry after waiting several weeks for them to arrive in the mail. Then, there is a very long form that one must fill out to obtain a "change of name certificate" which costs hundreds of dollars.

We are not entirely sure how the Hope Mission staff expect trans teenagers to go through that incredibly difficult and inaccessible process just to feel safe sleeping the night in a shelter and not freezing outside in the streets.

We do not believe that trans people, especially trans people facing many barriers in accessing stable housing, should have to pay hundreds of dollars for your staff to see them as valid and worthy of shelter.

Having worked with LGBTQ2S+ communities for over a decade, it has become evident to us that the shelters in this city need to prioritize the wellbeing and security of the most marginalized. Not doing so not only puts thousands of people in danger, but it upholds a transphobic and violent system that has proven to kill hundreds of trans people every single year.

We feel as though it is essential that we meet and discuss this further in person, so that we can discuss ways for shelters and other NGOS to best support LGBTQ2S+ communities.

We can make most evenings work. Please let us know your availability.

Our email is [email protected]