THE STORY OF SAGA
The origin of a new Belleville-based non-profit began back in 2014 when Stacey Love-Jolicoeur met with a single offender.
Love-Jolicoeur, an educator and support worker for the LGBTQ2S community, was working with a mental health organization in Peterborough at the time. One day, her supervisor asked if she’d be willing to go to the jail to see an LGBTQ-identified inmate who was asking for mental health support.
After a few visits, she realized the depth of need for these specific supports. She submitted a proposal to establish an LGBTQ2S & Friends group, which would offer peer support counselling in order to reach more folx within Corrections.
For the next three months, Love-Jolicoeur waited for the project’s approval. Tragically, that offender took his life before it came to fruition. By the next month, her program was approved.
“We had 25-30 people coming to group sessions before COVID,” shares Love-Jolicoeur. “It opened my eyes that we need a reintegration program for LGBTQ2S people to allow them the opportunity to be successful members of society.”
To date, 22 offenders have gone through this program. In the last five years, 20 have not reoffended, a remarkable accomplishment and testimony to Love-Jolicoeur’s passion for supporting the LGBTQ2S+ community, addressing their specific and diverse needs.
Sexual and gender acceptance are an integral part of her personal and professional story. As a two-spirit, Métis trans woman, her experiences and identity inform her work intimately. Locally, she has been a facilitator of the TRANSforum group in Belleville for eight years and actively involved with Bay of Quinte Pride for the last seven.
After her work in Corrections was abruptly halted at the beginning of the pandemic, Love-Jolicoeur immediately began thinking about ways to continue her work for LGBTQ2S+ folx locally and across the country. Towards the end of 2020, she incorporated a new non-profit, SAGA-LGBTQ Education and Support Services of Canada, based in Belleville.
This community-driven organization provides peer support counselling, post-operative recovery support and assistance, transitional services for anyone wishing to transition and support for LGBTQ2S+ folx experiencing homelessness or poverty to build self-sufficiency. She also provides additional education in the form of seminars and workshops for allied individuals and organizations who want to deepen their cultural competency.
Love-Jolicoeur speaks with particular passion for the organization’s post-operative recovery and support, a program that assists people after their gender affirmation surgery.
“We provide shopping, house cleaning, personal care assistance, whatever they need help with. The surgery is very invasive, it puts you in bed for about three weeks at the beginning. These people need to be cared for, need [their] laundry, meals cooked, prescriptions picked up, maybe an emergency trip to the doctor if there are complications. We provide them the chance to recover in the best way possible,” says Love-Jolicoeur.
While her own path of transitioning eventually led to family acceptance, decades of feeling alienated and excluded made it especially painful and lonely. It’s unsurprising then that education and conversations about acceptance and support with family are an essential part of SAGA’s post-op recovery program.
SAGA has already helped three local trans girls through their gender affirmation surgeries, supporting them with transportation to the hospital, getting set up at home and daily visits for the first three weeks following the surgery.
As SAGA is a non-profit organization, Love-Jolicoeur hopes to one day extend these much-needed services across the country. For now, SAGA’s work continues locally under her direction, supporting the LGBTQ2S+ community and championing diversity, inclusion and acceptance.