16 November 2020
As stated in the LGBTIQ+ Inclusive Practice Guide for Homelessness and Housing Sectors in Australia, “frameworks for understanding homelessness have been largely informed by white, Western, heteronormative worldviews that are not necessarily inclusive of the diverse and complex experiences of highly marginalised groups, leading to major gaps in knowledge and service provision.”
There are also additional barriers in accessing assistance for many LGBTQIA* people due to feelings of fear, shame, or guilt around their gender and/or sexual orientation. Sadly, this can be exacerbated by perceptions within some services, for example with some women’s refuges not accepting trans women as clients.
Although this shift in paradigm requires significant changes in methodology and delivery within an already stretched sector, many of us are working to ensure more inclusive, client-centric practices, focused on ensuring all vulnerable people can access housing support.
At YWCA Canberra, we recently had the joy of working with Nicole* who was at risk of homelessness. This Trans Awareness Week, we wanted to give her the opportunity to tell her story.
Only a few months ago, I was in a pretty bad place. I had been living with my ex, sharing a single room even though we were separated, because I just couldn’t afford to live anywhere else.
Unfortunately, the very reason we separated was that he wasn’t comfortable with me expressing myself as the woman I am. He was very anti-trans and wouldn’t even be seen with me if I was wearing lipstick. I had found myself changing away from my identity to make him happy.
The relationship had really hurt my self-esteem and put me into a place where I didn’t feel I could be myself. I was scared to live authentically.
I had been on a waiting list with Housing ACT, but that was a joint application with my ex, so I would have had to start again.
I was scared to go in to begin with. Scared to present as the woman I am. That all changed when I went into the YWCA Canberra offices.
Although it has only been a few months, so much has happened since that day. I now have my own place and I’ve received incredible support from my case manager. This has included her helping me officially change my name! My ID is now all in my name, not my dead name, and it has been life-changing.
Having my own place has given me an opportunity to feel safe being myself. To express myself in the way I want without judgement.
My YWCA Canberra case manager has been there with me every step of the way. She has linked to other services like A Gender Agenda and went above and beyond to help me recover my ability to present as myself. We even went out together to get our hair done. Being able to be feminine for an entire day was so special! It was the first time I had felt able to do that.
I would honestly say my life has changed from hell to one where I feel like I can cope. Where I can feel comfortable with myself and know I will be accepted. Of course, it’s still difficult at times. I know it will be for a long time yet. But I can go out as my true self now.
I’m even about to start the YWCA Canberra Educate, Inspire, Excel (EIE) program, getting qualifications while I work in a school age care service. I’m so excited about helping educate children. It has been a dream job of mine for as long as I can remember.
I couldn’t have imagined six months ago that I would be where I am now.
*Name changed to protect client’s privacy