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 long-time T-Blogger, Laura Ann, who writes about a group she visits regularly, the River City Gems.
The River City Gems is a 501(c) non-profit group organized to provide social services and support to the MTF transgender and cross-dressing community in Sacramento, California. Organized eight years ago, it has become so widely known outside Sacramento that we have members attending our events from as far away as Redding, the San Francisco Bay Area, Stanislaus County, and Reno, Nevada. I've heard that someone has even come from Los Angeles, 400 miles away, to one of our events.
Those are the dry facts that anyone can glean from our website, but what are the Gems really? From my point of view, the Gems are simply my home place. My place where I can be completely authentic, happy, and accepted exactly as I am, and as who I am. Frankly, sometimes I'm not too sure about "who I am", at least in the context of my gender identity, but that's okay. Everyone that I have met and interacted with in the Gems seems to understand that what is important about a person is their character, not their appearance. In other words, to borrow a metaphor (slightly modified) from Forrest Gump, it's the content of the chocolates that matters, not the box they're contained in.
What are the River City Gems about, and what do they actually do? The most visible facet of the Gems is our social calendar, consisting of two to three events per month. These range from "casual" like the once-a-month Drab Gab lunch and Femme Friday evening gatherings, to formal dinner parties like the annual Anniversary Party in March, and "Sparkle", our big Gala banquet in October. In between, there are summer picnics - the July "Luau" - and holiday themed gatherings around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Some of these happen at member's homes, others at local restaurants or hotels, and some at other venues, like Luau, which is at a local church.
This writer has only been a member of the Gems for a couple of months, and has only personally attended a few events, but the important fact is this: from the first moment that I stepped through the door at my first River City Gems event, a complete stranger, I was made to feel welcome, indeed loved, by this group of people, and like I am family member. For the River City Gems is a family in every sense of the word that matters. Families take care of and nurture each other, and that's certainly what the Gems are about. To emphasize how amazing this is, that first event that I attended, the Gems' Holiday Hangover party, was actually the very first time that I ever was "out", meaning dressed enfemme in public. The Gems at that party were so welcoming, I felt not even a single moment of awkwardness, and I have never been a very "social" person.
The Gems are also about freedom to simply be who you are, without many restrictions being placed on how you are expected to travel your path through life, or what destination you should be arriving at. Other than the overall mission statement of the Gems being focused on serving the MTF Transgender community, I haven't heard about or encountered any other rules or restrictions. About 30% of the members are at some point of a process leading to full transition, meaning they have either had or are planning to undergo MTF gender re-assignment surgery and hormone replacement therapy. The other 70% of the members are cross-dressers who may or may not ever transition to full-time female mode. And of course, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that third, and completely vital category, of our membership: the "GG's" (genetic girls) as they are nicknamed. These are the wives, girlfriends, and significant others who are more or less fully involved and supportive of their Gems and this organization. At least two of these ladies are members of the Board of Directors of the River City Gems, including the President and the Activities Director, and I suspect that the organization would simply collapse and fade away without them.
Let me close with this last thought: Having been widowed in 2013, I was facing severe depression, and the prospect of struggling on, alone, with only sadness and regrets for however much time I have left. Finding the River City Gems has placed a new path before me that leads to a future of hope and joy, instead of sorrow and despair, and the possibility of having at least a few days every month to be happy, and socialize with friends who really care about each other.
Laura Ann is not a blogger but, from the way she writes, she should be!
I want to add that I've been a member of this group, that numbers into the hundreds, for 8 years now.....the 17th to join, as I recall. I'm so, so fortunate to live near such an active and loving group of like-minded people. The group, in addition to the many events it holds, also has a very active Yahoo Group, which allows our members from afar to stay in touch.
You really must visit the Gems' fabulous website and, when you do, be sure to take a look at the testimonial pages. Here's a sample of what you'll see: