Trans Vitality building resilience for trans adults in NSW

Posted 23rd May 2023 in Sector news

ACON is one of New South Wales' largest organisations supporting the health and voices of LGBTIQA+ people and communities, with its roots in responding to HIV for people of diverse sexualities and genders.

ACON offers a range of trans-affirming resources, programs and services delivered by caring people who genuinely understand the health issues affecting trans people.

Trans Vitality is ACON's resilience-building program for all trans adults and focuses on trans people supporting trans people and centres self-determination, autonomy and agency while uplifting voices.

Everymind spoke with Yeşim Karasu and Taz Clay of ACON to learn more about the Trans Vitality program.


Can you tell us a bit more about Trans Vitality? What is included in the program?


Trans Vitality is ACON's resilience-building program for all trans and gender-diverse adults in NSW. Trans Vitality focuses on trans people supporting trans people and centres self-determination, autonomy and agency while uplifting trans voices.

Trans Vitality has been a project delivered to the community since 2021, funded gratefully by NSW Health. The team spent six months creating and co-designing content and ideas with the community about what Trans Vitality should look like.

This latest series of workshops has a particular focus on cultural inclusion. We have trained and recruited seven peer facilitators with different gender identities from various cultural backgrounds, including First Nations and people of colour.

Over March and April 2023, we ran in-person workshops for the first time in Greater Western Sydney with meaningful participation and interest. The sessions really cultivated a strong sense of cultural and gender-affirming pride.

We also produced an online toolkit that lives on TransHub that is designed to complement the workshops and has a selection of resources and links that provide support, care and strengthen resilience.

One of the most enjoyable workshop sections of Trans Vitality has been the beginning, where we included Australian and NSW trans history to ensure that participants would understand that there have been trans people in all societies for a very long time. We have also included stories and information for all mob who have paved the way for trans-mob liberation and rights.

All participants received a workbook which was sent out to those who were confirmed for each series. In the workbook, there are activities that we guide participants through to create a resource. This workbook acts as a guide to remember that participants are strong and resilient and part of an amazing community.

We have found that the most valued outcome of the workshops has been that participants are happy to have made friends and to connect with the community so that they don't feel so isolated or alone in their experiences.


How was the Trans Vitality Toolkit created?


This Trans Vitality Toolkit is one part of the program and was created by a peer-led team through research, consultation and collaboration practices. The toolkit includes information, activities and resources to help build resilience, community connection, understanding of our history, and a powerful imagining of our futures.

Trans Vitality also includes evaluated peer workshops, online training to help community members recognise and respond if someone in their life is having suicidal thoughts or feelings, and a trans-affirming practice eLearning for service providers.


What is your favourite part of delivering peer-led workshops?


Taz: My favourite part was helping facilitate the workshops and then the sense of community connection; sometimes, this was for the first time! It's been rewarding to create it with the team Liz Duck- Chong, Sophie Keefe, Leo Tsao, Teddy Cook and me.

Yeşim: As a facilitator, I love hearing everyone's stories and perspectives and watching people form connections. We talk candidly about loneliness, our support systems and the things we want to build more of in our lives. As trans people, we are not often taught to take pride in our communities' history or even truly understand our own personal journey and what we value about our experiences. So the workshop content strongly focuses on how we relate to one another and how we can care for and support each other as trans people moving through the world. You can literally watch people's confidence and sense of self grow throughout the workshops. It is a beautiful workshop to deliver, and I am grateful to be a part of it; and grateful to the team who came before me. You can see their love, passion and artistry embedded in Trans Vitality everywhere you look.


Why is the Trans Vitality program (especially the toolkit + peer education and capacity-building workshops) so important in trans suicide prevention?


Taz: I think it's important because it creates that sense of community firstly, and secondly, the conversations/ activities that participants were able to have and do were to help them thrive as trans adults. ACON was also able to gather much-needed information on what more support was needed for trans people in NSW.

Yeşim: I think the most important thing about Trans Vitality was that it was created by an amazing team with a strong vision for trans happiness and wellbeing. So much of what drives trans suicidality, outside of structural violence, is this idea that there is no space or community in which you can truly express yourself and be valued. While folks who attend our workshops may not be actively suicidal, we are creating an environment of connection, as Taz said, and sharing practical resources and services to assist with some very real barriers trans people may face (i.e., unemployment, discrimination, domestic and family violence). Although trans people face hardships, we are also exceptionally strong when it comes to caring for each other and advocating for equal opportunity and greater agency. Through sharing stories and resources, Trans Vitality provides a narrative of what it looks like for trans people in NSW to be happy, healthy and in touch with our own agency and desires. And, to me, that is extremely beneficial for reducing factors associated with suicidality in our community.

Trans Vitality is for all trans adults in NSW – binary and non-binary.

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