Canada Research Chair on Transgender Children and Their Families

Research Chair

Over the years, research on transgender children has been inquiring the individual and family causes of gender nonconformity, the development of gender identity, and the best ways to “cure” these young people.

Annie Pullen Sansfaçon
Annie Pullen Sansfaçon
Research Chair Director

Today, we know that a more systemic vision of their experience is essential to develop interventions that will not aim to change them, but will allow them to question their identity, to support them in their developmental process as well as promote the emergence of more inclusive environments. Indeed, although trans children are at greater risk for suicide, depression, abuse and violence than cisgender (non-trans*) youth, research keeps showing that many external factors around the child, such as strong parental support, or respect of the youth’s gender identity in the settings they frequent, act as important protective factors. Being a committed researcher, the Chair holder is offering a research program that will help develop a more comprehensive understanding of the experience of transgender children while taking into account all the family, social and structural issues experienced by these youth.

The work of the Chair, anchored in a gender affirmative perspective, is carried out in constant collaboration with the people concerned, their communities, and their service providers. It is currently directed by Annie Pullen Sansfaçon, professor at the School of Social Work at the Université de Montréal, and researcher at the Center for Public Health Research and the Institut universitaire Jeunes en difficulté. The Research Chair is funded by the Canada Research Chair Programme – Social Sciences and Humantity Research Council (2018-2023).

Primary Ongoing Projects

Trans Indigenous Youth Social Action Research Sharing Circle:

Researchers: Annie Pullen Sansfacon, Edward Lee and Diane Labelle in collaboration with P10, funded by SSHRC

This sharing circle will meet in person, to discuss what issues are facing trans Indigenous youth in Montréal, why those issues exist, how to address them, through a collective forum. The goals of this project are to use empowerment based Social Action Research and Indigenous methodologies to investigate the specific issues facing trans Indigenous youth, how those issues affect their well-being,and the ways in which trans Indigenous youth are resilient. This project is created and led by a team composed of mostly all Indigenous people, and will be facilitated by 2-Spirit Indigenous youth.

Growing up Trans:
An international longitudinal qualitative investigation of trans youth and family well-being.

Researchers: Annie Pullen Sansfacon, Denise Medico, Shuvo Ghosh, Nicholas Chadi, Lyne Chiniara, Sabra Katz-Wise, Damien Riggs, Anna Carlile, Vincent Barras, Frank Suerik Gullick F. in collaboration with l’Organisme Gender Creative Kids; Mermaids; Transcend; SAYFTEE; Fondation Agnodice, Funded by CIHR – Development of Chidren and Young peole (Bridge Grant) Human Development, Child and Youth Health/Subvention Projet –

This project aims to produce longitudinal, prospective and contextualized knowledge about the experiences of transgender and gender-diverse youth (TGDY) and changes in their gender identity, development, affirmation and medical needs, paying particular attention to their relationships with family and social dynamics. Though a few quantitative retrospective and cohort studies have examined some of these aspects, there is a lack of in-depth prospective and qualitative data on the changes trans youth undergo as they access gender affirming medical care and the social dynamics at play, which is critical to determine optimal response and care. The proposed qualitative study will follow 50 TGDY wishing to access MGA care, from the onset of puberty into adolescence. The study objectives are: 1) to produce a nuanced and contextualized portrait of the experiences and evolving gender identity of TGDY during the crucial period of puberty and early medical transition; 2) to track how family, social dynamics and experiences with MGA care affect the youth’s gender identity and ability to assert it; and 3) to understand how their wellbeing evolves as a result. To achieve these objectives, an international, multi-disciplinary team of academics, clinicians, and
knowledge users and mentees from the fields of psychology, education, social work, medicine and epidemiology will follow 50 youth and their families (10 per country), allowing for attrition with time, in Canada, England, Switzerland, Australia and the United States. Each youth and family will be interviewed once a year for four years.

From practices to discourses on “de-transitioning”:
for a trans-affirmative understanding of the phenomena of discontinued transitions in trans and non-binary youth.

Researchers: Annie Pullen Sansfaçon, Denise Medico, Alexandre Baril, Mélanie Millette, Olivier Turbide in partnership with the organization Gender Creative Kids; funded by the SSHRC.

Over the past ten years or so, we have been hearing more and more about youth who self-assert to be trans (whose gender does not match the one they were assigned at birth). In order to live in accordance with their gender identity, some youth make a legal, social or medical transition. If most youth seem to pursue/sustain/follow up with these transitions, a small number say they want to “de-transition’’ or discontinue the transitions they initiated. This phenomenon, although very little documented in the scientific literature, is widely reported on social media, blogs, and in print media. The challenges related to youth’s physical and mental health, the effects of hormone treatments, and potential regrets that may arise from transitioning generate heated debates and discourage access to different forms of transitions in adolescents. Faced with a notion that is still little documented but that has a significant impact on access to transition pathways, our project will be guided by the following question: what is understood to be de-transition / desistance / discontinuation?

This exploratory project aims to understand the discourse regarding de-transition among youth in order to better define this notion. The objective is to draw a picture of the situation from a multitude of perspectives, that is to say of the youth themselves, the professionals working in the trans health sector, and that conveyed in the media

Anchored in a trans affirmative, fluid and intersectional approach, the study will offer a new examination of the notion of desistance by taking into account the dynamic and fluid aspect of the gender affirmation process as well as the multiple factors of oppression that may overlap and interact with the experience of trans youth.

In addition, the Research Chair participates in several Quebec, Canadian and international projects, such as:

Preserving Fertility among Trans Youth in Quebec: Gathering the Voices of Youth and Parents to Better Support Families, led by Kevin Lavoie, Laval University and SSHRC Funded

Life course for trans and non-binary young people homeless in Quebec, led by Philippe-Benoit Côté, UQAM, financed by the CRSH

Fier+/+Proud: development of a mobile app for young people from the LGBTQ community, led by Robert Paul Juster and funded by the Innovative Technology Support Program

Trans youth placed in youth protection services in Quebec: hearing the voices of young people to understand and improve practices, led by Marie Joelle Robichaud and funded by CRSH

Transgender young people and their families: A qualitative investigation of experiences of clinical care (Australie), led by Dr Damien Riggs (Principal Investigator), Claire Bartholomeus (Flinder University), and Jo Hirst (Organisation: Parents of Gender Diverse Children, Australia)

The Canadian Trans Youth Health 2018, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Foundation Grant Improving health equity for LGBTQ youth in Canada and globally: addressing the role of families and culture (F16-04473), led by Principal Researcher Elizabeth Saewyc (UBC) in collaboration with many other researchers, Canadian and international.

Trans Youth CAN! funded by CIHR, led by professors Greta Bauer and Margaret Lawson.

The Emergence of the Transgender Child : Parents Politics and Social Change, funded by the SSHRC, and led by professor Jennifer Dyer at Memorial University of Newfoundland.