I have found that there are many, many out there who have simply never met, in person, someone else who shares their sense of being transgender. Keeping it inside of you without any way to talk about it can be a lonely and even unhealthy existence.
T-Central will be featuring a series of Friday guest posts about local transgender groups. Today's guest post is from Leslie Ann, who writes about a group she visits regularly, the TransKentucky. Long time bloggers may remember Leslie's Out Of My Mind blog, which has been on hiatus from public view for several years. Well, guess what? She's back!!!
We'd like to have more guest posts like these. If you belong to a local group, please tell us about it. Email me: calietg at yahoo.
In the fall and winter of my 43rd year, I finally hit the wall.
I had wanted to be female since I really understood the difference, but my coping strategies were no longer sufficient. The realization that occasional crossdressing might not be enough to feed the beast anymore scared the bejeezus out of me. I felt like a zombie (pre)tending to my routine, but even outwardly I carried a sad, blank countenance. I tried to discuss the issue with my wife, but received little compassion. I had to figure this out on my own.
I eventually came up with three bandages. I made an appointment with a therapist that had a good reputation in the transgender community. I felt compelled to write about my experience, and decided to start a blog. And I stepped way out of my comfort zone and joined a local transgender support group that popped up on Google.
It took everything in me to fight my chronic social anxiety and just show up at a meeting of TransKentucky, and this was in boy mode. They met in a small office space near the university. I nearly left without entering, but finally realized that I had to take a few risks if I was going to climb out of my hole. I was greeted by the director, and we went back outside and talked privately for a few minutes in the cold. She calmed me enough to stay.
Inside, after a very dry meeting, brainstorming about possible future events for the group, we ended the event with some time for socializing. I felt so out of my element, small talk being a terrible weakness for me, but a couple of ladies bailed me out and did the heavy conversational lifting. I remain grateful to them, as that is when I concluded that I could fit in here.
The next meeting, a month later, was the real test. For this one, I would dress as my preferred self. I had only ever dressed fully, hair to heels with makeup, two or three times across a lifetime. Plus, I had to transform on site, as I could not come and go from home in girl mode. I am so happy that there is no photographic record of my efforts, but after turning the doorknob of the restroom and entering the meeting, I felt right for the first time.
Amazingly, the lifelong wallflower became a comparitive social butterfly. Turns out there were three of us there who were dressing in front of others for the first time. I actually sought them out and engaged them, something I would never have done in my male life. Being able to speak without self-conscious editing, not worried that clues to my secrets might be spilled, was beyond liberating. I could be open with my terrible truth, and my world would not collapse. Just nods of comprehension, and words of understanding and recognition.
I was home.
TransKentucky is pretty simple. We have an email message board and a monthly meeting. Sometimes we bring in guests, like therapists or police officers or electrologists, or maybe a makeup demo. We do a couple of potluck dinners each year, including our Transgiving celebration. Nearly every meeting includes a newcomer or two, and I do my best to replicate what was done for me at my first meetings. I want to make sure they have a positive, welcoming experience, because this condition we share can be so very isolating.
I have served as a moderator for the group for six years now. I mostly look over the online requests for membership, and approve folks that seem to be a good fit. No creepers or admirers, as we are not here to be a meat market. Our first priority is to provide a safe place for transfolk to be themselves, without judgment.
Even now, I only get to be Leslie one day a month at my support group meeting. TransKentucky gave me a way to keep the dysphoria beast appeased, and I continue to try to give back to my community. I don't want to be one of those that gets raised to a better place, then pulls up the ladder after them. I am holding the ladder for my comrades, so they might go over the wall rather than hitting it.