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Trans health and rights: Three questions for PhD student Sly Sarkisova 

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November 14-18 is Trans Awareness Week, which aims to increase awareness, visibility and knowledge of trans people and the issues faced by members of trans communities. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the lives of trans and nonbinary people and the contributions they have made and continue to make. In honour of this week, we asked three FIFSW PhD students whose research focuses on trans health and rights to share insight on their work.

Sly Sarkisova, MSW, RSW, PhD student, University of Toronto, FIFSW

Tell us about yourself. 

I have been an activist for nonbinary trans identification and healthcare rights since the early 2000s and have had a 20+ year career in creating trauma informed mental health. I’ve specialized in providing direct psychotherapy, training and consultation to increase knowledge around critically compassionate and structurally integrated approaches to trauma, particularly around addictions and complex post-traumatic stress responses. As an intergenerational queer and nonbinary trans person, and a trauma survivor myself I have unique leadership expertise in supporting 2SLGBTQ mental health, and trans and/or nonbinary identities. 

How are your PhD studies connected to the topic of trans rights? 

I’ve spent many years creating tools, resources, and knowledge to situate the intersections of structural violence and oppression on the lived experiences and realities of queer and trans people and our resilience, survival and thriving. It’s changed the way I think of, and help others to think of, what it means to have mental health impacts and to recover. I am bringing my body of clinical practice knowledge and innovations into the academy to elevate my work and increase our understanding of the nuances of mental health impacts of transphobic erasure, genocide, homophobic, racist, colonial, sexist systems and societies. We have many ways to reclaim ourselves, support each other, create resiliency and thrive and we need broader society to recognize this as a collective goal and project. 

What inspired this focus? 

We are at a critical moment in society where increasing hatred and fear are being projected onto marginalized, racialized, queer, disabled, and trans communities just as we are crucially liberating ourselves from these structures. I think it is imperative to help illuminate some of the invisible structures of violence which categorically deny our existence and seek to erase segments of our society. 2SLGBTQ people in general are a gift to this world, and our ways of being and knowing contribute to the health and global welfare of all individuals in a pluralistic society.


Three questions for logoRead more Q&As with PhD students whose research and work focuses on trans health and rights:



Trans Awareness Week 2022

Visit U of T’s Sexual & Gender Diversity Office (SGDO) website to explore events and workshops taking place across all three campuses.