The Impacts of Hetero-normativity & Cis-normativity on Youth Mental Health

This week our youth partners presented at the CYMHSU Collaborative Learning Session in Vancouver.

Their presentation was titled The Impacts of Hetero-normativity & Cis-normativity on Youth Mental Health.

First question:

Q: What’s Cis?

A: Identifying as the gender you were assigned at birth.

The youth were speaking from experience. About the impacts of prejudice and discrimination on the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth.


Hetero-normativity & Cis-normativity: What’s the problem?

Here’s what the youth told the doctors, clinicians, practitioners and parents in their workshop:

LGBTQ+ identity doesn’t cause mental health problems, yet LGBTQ+ youth have extraordinarily high rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicide and substance use.


This video helps to answer that question:

The youth explained that LGBTQ+ youth face increased vulnerability due to:

  • Loss of supports: rejection by family, friends and community;
  • Burden of keeping their a secret identity;
  • Bullying and violence;
  • Discrimination/hetero-normatavity/genderism;
  • The coming out process;
  • Internalized homophobia;
  • Being confused/not knowing how they identify/feeling uncomfortable in their gender; &
  • Pathologization by the medical/psychiatric community.

They shared fresh (2015) statistics from the Canada-wide Transgender Youth Health Survey:

  • Almost half of trans youth reported feeling stressed to the point that they could not do their work or deal with things during the last 30 days;
  • More than half of trans youth reported they had hurt themselves on purpose in the last year; &
  • 65% of trans youth had seriously considered suicide, more than a third had attempted suicide at least once, and nearly 1 in 10 had attempted suicide 4 or more times.

They asked us: Does it make sense that they, as LGBTQ+ youth, face approximately 14 times the risk of suicide and substance abuse than their heterosexual and cisgender peers, when mental health problems, substance use and suicide are not side-effects of having a minority sexual identity or gender orientation?

They are side-effects of prejudice and discrimination.

What’s the Solution?

Our youth partners are saying that it would be really helpful if we could start by making space for who they are.

Sounds like a reasonable request!

They offered an initial strategy:

Start with Language

Youth who have a non-binary gender identity may prefer different pronouns than he or she, but most of us are unfamiliar with gender-neutral pronouns and feel awkward using them.

The youth recommended that we embrace the awkwardness and practice: “because you know what? It’s way more awkward to have people ignore your gender identity. It’s so awkward it causes self-harm and suicide. So really, embracing a little awkwardness while you get used to using some new words is worth it!

They shared some of the pronouns that transgender people may prefer including: They/them; Xe/xir; Ze/Mer; Ve; Ney and Yo.

If that list is overwhelming, they said that most transgender people are fine with ‘they/them’ as gender-neutral pronouns. The key is to ask: “Is there a gender pronoun you prefer?“.

Just ask!

They also offered two tips for pronoun usage:

  1. Never make assumptions about a person’s gender identity; &
  2. If you slip up and use the wrong pronoun, just correct yourself & move on.

Our Bad

Job Posting: Youth Engagement Coordinator

Deadline Extension~!

Youth Constellation 2

Child & Youth Health Network of the Capital Region

A Collective Impact Initiative~

We acknowledge that we live, work and play on the traditional territories of the Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples~.


Communities supporting healthy kids growing into healthy adults raising healthy kids.


We align to ensure children and youth in the Capital Region thrive.

As the Child & Youth Health Network (C&YHN) Youth Engagement Coordinator you will:

  • Work closely with the C&YHN Coordinator to ensure that all youth engagement activities are aligned and support the work of the network.
  • Work with all active C&YHN constellations to develop youth engagement strategies to ensure the youth voice is present and integrated, leading to powerful results.
  • Participate in the C&YHN Stewardship Committee.
  • Coordinate the C&YHN Youth Constellation and support the leadership capacity of youth partners in that constellation.
  • Map the existing “Youth Engagement Landscape” within the CRD, including the work of the C&YHN, Municipalities, CRD, Youth Program Quality Initiative, YSPN, HYPE, and Youth Councils.
  • Based on the mapping exercise, make recommendations for ways that these partners can align and engage in mutually reinforcing activities and support this alignment.
  • Develop a Youth Engagement Communication Strategy within the C&YHN that includes succinct messages for various stakeholder groups.
  • Look to develop the broader Youth Engagement Community, including funders, businesses, government, youth and parents, etc.
  • Establish a CRD Youth Engagement Advisory Council with key stakeholders, including youth.
  • Build strong partnerships with other initiatives supporting the youth development sector (e.g., YSPN, HYPE, Youth Councils, ISICUN @ UVIC, etc.) to align resources and networks. Make recommendations about how the C&YHN can align its efforts with these existing networks.
  • Draft an application for continued funding for the C&YHN Youth Engagement Coordinator position from a major local charitable foundation.


$25 per hour


  • Flexible daytime availability for an average of 17 hours a week over a 25 week period (possibility of ongoing employment, subject to funding);
  • Commitment to Collective Impact and the values and aims of the Child & Youth Health Network;
  • Commitment to excellence in youth programming;
  • Experience working in youth programs;
  • Knowledgeable about, and deeply involved in, the youth-serving community in Greater Victoria;
  • Strong communication skills (oral and written).


Please send a resume, cover letter and three references to Petra Chambers-Sinclair: and cc to our youth partners at

References will only be contacted after interviews are complete~.

Closing: September 14th at 4:30pm. Shortlisted candidates will be contacted by September 17th.

Interviews: September 21st in the afternoon

Starting: Week of September 28th

Youth Constellation

Constellation guidelines for partners

The Constellation Model

The Child & Youth Health Network (C&YHN) uses the constellation model.

The following are our guidelines for C&YHN constellations:


  • Establish a champion & coordinator
  • Attend monthly meetings: commit to 6-12 months of membership
  • Engage in research and outreach between meetings as needed
  • Review materials and come to meetings prepared for engaged discussion & respectful dialogue
  • Welcome alternative worldviews. Allow conflict to deepen understanding & relationships
  • Involve youth in in a meaningful way

Shared Measurement & Mutually Reinforcing Activities

  • Review research on effective strategies & develop criteria to determine what is already working well
  • Align actions inside & outside of the constellation with the Common Agenda of the Child & Youth Health Network
  • Provide frequent progress updates to the collective & respond to communications from partners
  • Track shared indicators & share data through Continuous Communication systems


  • Champion the Child & Youth Health Network Collective Impact initiative in the community