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Transgender "Community"

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This is a topic I've been thinking about a lot, and have been wanting to write something about - so here goes!!! It's the concept of a transgender "community" - does it exist?  Should it exist? It came up during the support group that I facilitate on Saturdays, so I thought it might be time to look at the issue myself a little more deeply - and see what others think :-)

In 2 separate contexts I was told by people - who knew I was in the process of transitioning - that they knew trans people who would "disappear" after they transitioned. In one case it was with the LGBT tennis group I belonged to, that person wasn't talking about anyone with the tennis group, just a trans person they knew who basically left their entire social world behind as they transitioned. The other was a trans meetup group, where a member (who is a cross-dresser), commented that members who transition tend to disappear from the group. Well, in both cases I did exactly that. I joined a new tennis group this year, a non-LGBT group. I was going to maintain both memberships, but there isn't enough time to play matches with 2 groups. And I've pretty much stopped going to the meetup group. It should be noted that the person in the meetup group who made that comment also, on another occasion, half-seriously criticized me for dressing "boyish" (I wasn't, I just wasn't dressed up since I had been out doing things all day). Part of the reason for dropping that group, beyond the fact that it's essentially just a bar-hangout group, is that it mainly seems focused on people who really want to get totally dressed up. I'm not criticizing that, but it's not what I particularly want or need right now.

So aside from this website, I'm not really part of a transgender community - and I feel ok about that? (I also co-facilitate trans support groups, but as a facilitator I don't consider myself to be part of the "community" that might arise from membership). To me it makes sense that gay men and lesbians have their respective communities - beyond the need to support each other socially and politically, they want to date each other (pardon the binary language). While I could certainly see dating a transgender man, it isn't my only option.

On Saturday, after the group, I made another foray into the non-LGBT social world. I went to a bar where they show NC State football games - I'm happy that I went since I felt nervous about it, but disappointed as there didn't seem to be any other NC State people there :-(  (Worse still, the few people there seemed to be Syracuse people!!! I was not only alone as an NC State fan, I was in "enemy" territory).

I suppose all of this is really just me trying to reconcile my transgender identity. It's been a source of strength, since living it out has required some level of courage and persistence, but it's also a source of depression - I'd be lying if I said I didn't wish I had just been born a cisgender woman. There have been times that I've tried to pretend that I'm not (if you look through my blog entries there will no doubt be a gap of a few months, that's when it happened), but then I do the support group, and I'm pretty open about it at school and my internship and even socially - so clearly I'm not trying to run away from it anymore. But still, living with it hasn't gotten particularly easy yet.

So that was a bit of a ramble I suspect - but let me know what you think :-)

xoxo

Chrissy


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Posted

Dear Chrissy,

Interesting that you bring that up, as I am giving a talk about "community," at Fantasia Fair in two weeks.

As a cisgender Lesbian, I watched the Lesbian community become absorbed by the community at large (assimilated). Feel strongly this disempowered the Lesbian community, as evidenced by the disappearance of Lesbian bookstores.

Sadly, I have to seek community by attending transgender support groups and conferences. Am very grateful for the outreach of the transgender community.

In Florida, as well as in New York, I have observed some people who transitioned, leave the group. Feel the group's job is to empower people to go on to the next step in their lives. Hopefully they keep the friends they made in the group. Don't think it is healthy to remain in any kind of support group for a lifetime as this shows the person made little or no growth.

What concerns me is when there are no support groups when people need them the most. Feel that people need face to face support and that online support should be secondary to face to face support.

When I moved to trans and homophobic upstate New York, I am grateful to find a welcoming transgender support and conference group.

Why am I not in a Lesbian in a transgender support group? There is none convenient to where I live (I do not drive). I find support wherever I can find it!

Thank you, my dear friends in TGGuide and Fantasia Fair, for being there for me when I most needed it. Will always be grateful for your friendship!

Your friend,

Monica

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Posted

I too have been mulling over the concept of community more for the cross-dressing folks like me, but it could also apply to interested LGBT folks. My original idea was more like a retirement sorority house for us older CD's where we could live together and support one another. Then the idea of a commune came up where we would each have our own houses, but be in the same area. i don't know, it would just be nice to have our own little world where we could be ourselves and be with people who understand and we could just be friends and have fun together. Like an LGBT utopia. Nice to think about anyway. And yes, I think Monica is right about having more face-to-face contact with like minded people. Anyway, for now, I too am grateful for TGGuide and the friends I have met her e. Thanks Monica and Chrissy and EmmaSweet.

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Posted (edited)

This topic came up in a recent post on Joanna Santos’ blog, "Musings From My Everyday Life" as well. I think Chrissy explained it much better than Joanna or me. I feel the same way as her and I’ve also wondered about it. I love it here at TGGuide but otherwise I just want to get on with my life. My main friends are cisgender women, some gay, some straight. I seem to fit right in with women as friends and I love that.

All that said, tonight I’m going out to dinner with two cis women who have transgender daughters. After, we’re going to see Janet Mock give a talk! It’s getting more chilly in Seattle so I’m looking forward to wearing a new jacket I bought at Nordstrom Rack a couple of weeks ago. :P

Emma

P.S. I would also like to add how much I appreciate Chrissy, Monica, and Michelle, as well as all others here. It’s been three years for me at TGG and its helped me so much. BTW, My first name is Emma. I originally coined "Sweet" as an anonymous last name that also, I hoped, reflected my disposition. These days I'm often using my family name Gray. My full name is Emma Joy Gray!

Edited by EmmaSweet
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Posted

Emma,

Enjoy the talk!  I have to admit I wasn't thrilled by her new book, but I loved the first one and have loved her every time I've heard her speak (never in person, just on TV).

On the topic of community - I think for me it was important to (finally) realize that I could shift my social priorities away from the trans community without cutting myself off from the people and issues of the community. So I keep doing the support group, and I work with some trans identified clients at my internship and on a volunteer basis, etc.

xoxo

Chrissy

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