Taylor Linloff spoke at the Town of Port Hawkesbury’s Pride Flag raising ceremony last June to mark Pride Month.

ANTIGONISH: A local non-binary individual says transgender affirming health care saves lives.

Taylor Linloff, a 28-year-old from Pot Hawkesbury, who will soon be enrolled at the Nova Scotia Community College for social services, explained they became aware they identified as transgender, non-binary around 2014.

“But I didn’t come out officially until 2021, on a bigger scale. It took me a long time to figure out exactly where in the non-binary, transgender umbrella I was, and I figured out I was genderless, non-binary specifically around 2016,” Linloff told The Reporter. “I lived slightly under the radar, only going by they/them pronouns online and I changed my gender marker in about 2020.”

Linloff recalls always experiencing some kind of dysphoria growing up when being separated in classes between boys and girls.

“I didn’t have the language to self-describe until 2014,” Linloff said. “Especially in a rural area.”

Stemming from that rural experience, Laura Hughes McKay, a fourth year nursing student from Truro, has launched a survey to explore the experiences of Trans and Queer young adults with primary care in northeastern rural Nova Scotia.

“One of my favourite things about nursing is having the privilege of hearing people’s stories,” StFX student Hughes McKay said in a media release. “That’s what my research project is about, finding out Trans and Queer individuals’ experiences with primary care.”

To conduct the research, she received a Scotia Scholar Undergraduate Research Award from Research Nova Scotia.

“I’m very fortunate to have a family doctor, but a lot of people don’t,” they said. “But my biggest barrier to heath care before I found out I was non-binary, was honestly mental health care. I’m not ashamed to say that I am on the autism spectrum and I also live with bipolar disorder.”

Often times, Linloff explained people who are transgender or non-binary live with mental health issues often because of discrimination.

“After I came out as non-binary, the most glaring thing to me, when you go to the hospital, you get those wristbands, to identify you and for some reason they still require to list you as male or female,” they said. “Even though my gender marker on my legal identification is X, so I look down at this gender marker and think that’s not right.”

There’s not an option for individuals to list a pronoun to be identified by so that medical professionals in the health care system can identify patients correctly, said Linloff.

“A lot of it is just ignorance,” they said. “Because it’s so ingrained in our culture to be polite with ma’am, mister, and miss.”

When asked on how the province is doing on access to primary health care services for the LGBTQ2+ community, Linloff said the majority of services are centralized in Halifax.

“Such as the Halifax Sexual Health Centre, which does a lot of work with Trans and non-binary individuals,” they said. “For those who need to medically transition, such as top surgery, they have to be flown to Montréal, so there’s still a long way to go; unfortunately we don’t have a lot of access, especially as a rural individual.”

If Linloff wanted to further reproductive care, it would will take at least a year to be seen by a medical professional because it is a voluntary program.

“Even though it’s for gender affirming care,” they said. “The fact that it’s viewed as voluntary care, or aesthetic care, is disheartening because Trans-affirming health care saves lives.”

Thankfully, for Linloff, the surgery they are seeking is available in Nova Scotia.

A study of this magnitude looking at the experiences of Trans and Queer young adults accessing primary health care, means everything to Linloff.

“We’re very often under-represented in studies in the health care system, so a lot of people don’t understand what we face, how to better serve us as clients and patients in the health care system,” they said. “People just aren’t familiar, or are unsure of what Trans-existence really is. They see our pride flags, they see our stories in the news about coming out, but they don’t know the bare bones situation of our medical existence.”

It’s an important topic to highlight, Linloff said, because transgender existence should be understood on multiple levels, because they’re multi-faceted human beings, just like everyone else.

“Transition is not only an aesthetic change,” they said. “Transition is about learning to love ourselves; it’s becoming who we were meant to be, it’s integral to our experience and to our happiness.”

As for the level of health care services the LGBTQ2+ community can obtain locally, Linloff wishes there was more access.

“I understand especially with the doctor shortage crisis, that everyone is struggling to get the care they need and not just Trans and non-binary individuals,” they said. “There’s a statement in the LGTBQ2+ community that says ‘None of us are free, until we are all free,’” so until all of us have the correct and sufficient health care, none of us do.”

While there is a long way to go, Linloff hopes this study will advance access to primary care.

“People who work with client and patients, please do not assume gender based on expression, many of us may be closeted, and may not be comfortable presenting outwardly, but will come to the hospital or come to a doctor’s office or clinic,” they suggested as a recommendation to the study. “Respect people, they know themselves more than you do.”

And for people who are just figuring out who they truly are, Linloff said that is a journey.

“You are more than what other people think of you; your experiences are valid, your identity, who you are is so important and don’t let fear of the medical system, or the fear of stigma, impact what your potential is,” they added. “Just be patient, and enjoy the ride.”

Previous articleForest zones set aside in Antigonish, Guysborough counties
Next articleTown wants to meet with RCMP Staff Sergeant
Drake Lowthers has been a community journalist for The Reporter since July, 2018. His coverage of the suspicious death of Cassidy Bernard garnered him a 2018 Atlantic Journalism Award and a 2019 Better Newspaper Competition Award; while his extensive coverage of the Lionel Desmond Fatality Inquiry received a second place finish nationally in the 2020 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards for Best Feature Series. A Nova Scotia native, who has called Antigonish home for the past decade, Lowthers has a strong passion in telling people’s stories in a creative, yet thought-provoking way. He graduated from the journalism program at Holland College in 2016, where he played varsity football with the Hurricanes. His simple pleasures in life include his two children, photography, live music and the local sports scene.