Helping patients to become their true selves

A journey to self-discovery and GraceMed Mississauga's long-running support within the trans community

This content was created by Xtra’s branded content team alongside GraceMed, separate from Xtra’s editorial staff.

Torin Ong said their experience accessing gender-affirming care at Gracemed Mississauga was like being supported by another member of the transgender community

When Torin Ong tried to come out as transgender at 16 years old, it didn’t go well. Torin cut their hair short, bound their chest and started wearing their brother’s clothes.

“I faced a lot of rejection and backlash from some of my peers and teachers. The hardest part was with my family,” said Torin, who grew up in Scarborough and is currently a student at McMaster University in Hamilton. “The take home message was, ‘If you are going to choose to present this way, you are going to make your life so much harder.’ They didn’t understand they were the ones making my life harder.”

If you had asked them at the time to draw a self-portrait, Torin would have only included their head. Their body felt numb to them, and they were fixated on how their chest was not right. It didn’t reflect who they were.

Fast forward a decade later to the COVID-19 pandemic. While some people felt their world around them get smaller, and they were restricted to limited social bubbles, Torin found the isolation liberating.

“I didn’t need to go out in the world anymore and be perceived as a woman. The time in COVID lockdown allowed me to go back to dressing masculine,” they said. “I was communicating with people primarily online, so I changed my name online as well. I didn’t think of it as a trans thing. It was only after the pandemic, when isolation eased and we started going back out in society, that I thought, ‘Oh, I’ve got to come out, I am actually trans.”

Credit: GraceMed/Torin Ong

“My mental health got so bad that if I didn’t begin my transition, I didn’t think I was going to have any future where I was happy. There was nothing there for me, I really couldn’t imagine it.”

Torin’s family doctor referred them to GraceMed Mississauga for top surgery. Located near Burnhamthorpe and Hurontario, the medical clinic has a long-standing reputation within the transgender community for its expertise and excellence in providing comprehensive surgical and non-surgical gender-affirming care to 2SLGBTQI+ patients.

“As soon as I started my social transition the second time around, I knew it was also going to be a medical transition,” said Torin, who is now 29 years old and identifies as non-binary and trans masculine. “I had heard a lot about GraceMed Mississauga, and the really positive experiences from friends. I just had an ease of mind, I almost felt like I knew GraceMed Mississauga. It felt like they were part of the trans community.”

Originally founded in the late 1980s as the McLean Clinic, Dr. Hugh McLean pioneered top surgery for transgender patients in Canada. Today, as a full-service provider of all aesthetic gender-affirming services, GraceMed Mississauga’s medical staff also provide a range of non-surgical procedures, including liposuction contouring for masculinizing and feminizing, laser hair removal, acne treatments, scar therapies and facial masculinization and feminization using Botox and facial fillers.

“Our team prides itself on its expertise in providing gender-affirming care within an environment of respect, support and understanding,” said Dr. Kathleen Armstrong, an award-winning plastic reconstructive and aesthetic surgeon who practices medicine at both GraceMed Mississauga and Women’s College Hospital. “Our continuing mission is to provide the best holistic care for the trans patient at all stages of their journey to achieve their best self.”

Credit: GraceMed

For its policies, training efforts and commitment to serving the transgender community, the clinic recently achieved Rainbow Accreditation from Canada’s 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce. It means the clinic is recognized as an affirming business that has met a stringent set of standards to ensure its patients feel safe, welcomed and accepted.

Torin is very complimentary about the care they continue to receive at GraceMed Mississauga. “The medical and support staff are very good to me,” said Torin, who had a double mastectomy in April 2023. “When I went in the day of the surgery the nurses were great, even when I got nervous when they put the IV in my arm. They were gentle about it, and they explained every step they were taking really well. That gave me peace of mind.”

Peace of mind and better sense of self. “It is hard to put into words,” Torin said. “Having top surgery really helped me with my mind-body connection. For me there was always this block. I described it as being able to draw my head without my body. And now, I know my body well, I have a better relationship with my body. I can look at myself and be happy.”

“I was able to like my chest a lot more,” adds Torin.

Dr. Armstrong said getting to see the smiles on the faces of patients after their surgical or non-surgical procedures is rewarding for the staff at the clinic.

“It’s wonderful to be part of that journey for people and have people be very happy with the care that they receive,” Dr. Armstrong said. “I think that is why a lot of us go into this type of work. There is that component of instant gratification for us where we can see what a beautiful difference we have made for other people.”

Despite being happy with their chest, on occasion Torin was still being misgendered. Being half-Asian and half-white, they didn’t think facial hair was in the cards, even with their testosterone treatments. Instead, they contacted GraceMed again to learn about what could be done to masculinize their face.

After listening to Torin, and understanding their goal, the clinic staff were able to offer some options, explaining facial shapes and the different procedures that could be done to make their face more masculine. Torin decided on dermal fillers to strengthen their jawline, and they are now undergoing a series of treatments every two or three months to gradually fill it out.

“When I went in for the first round of dermal filler, I wasn’t nervous at all. I knew this is what they were going to be doing because they explained it so well to me. There was no apprehension at all. They made me so comfortable,” said Torin.

Credit: GraceMed/Torin Ong

“For many years I really struggled with my mental health, and I was really angry before my transition. Not having my body numb to me anymore, I am more able to feel my emotions and process my emotions better.”

Transitioning has also allowed Torin to rebuild some of the relationships in their life. They connected with their family again. It was a long process, but after years of being distant they started to mend relationships. Torin is even living back at home with their family in Scarborough.

“So much of that was because I was able to transition,” Torin said. “Without doing so, I don’t think I would have these relationships that I have now, and for them to be so authentic and genuine. How could I feel loved by people before, when I was putting on this façade that I am a girl? That wasn’t me, and I wanted people to know me. Transitioning allowed me to do that.”

To learn more about the gender-affirming care offered by GraceMed Mississauga, or to book a consultation, visit