Updated: Aug 5, 2019
I got my nails done the other day. I was getting ready for some important events and I wanted to look my best.
As often happens when you go to a salon, you end-up getting in a chat. At first, we talked about the usual topics – what style I wanted, the weather, traffic... But after a few minutes of this type of innocuous chit-chat she asked me a more about the events I was attending.
One was a panel discussion around supporting trans people in the workplace, another was an educational event and the third was a workshop I was conducting at a large conference called “Building a Better Support Group for Trans People.” Her response was “a support group…you seem to have it pretty together, why do you feel the need to go to support group meetings?
A Work In Progress
I do like to think that I have it pretty together – at least as much as the next person – but the truth is that was not always the case. I may have done a good job of acting like I had it together, but for much of my life from preadolescence through middle-age that is exactly what I was doing. I was acting. Acting the part of the “Dude.”
For many trans people – trans women in particular – we try to compensate for feeling out of the norm by playing the role of the gender we were assigned at birth. Many people feel that this is a reason why the incidence of trans people in the military is higher than it is in the general population. It is also why many trans women go in for sports. In my case, I became a hyper-aggressive business person. I acted the part of everything that I was not.
Paying It Forward
So how does this all relate to being a leader of a support group? Well the truth is really very simple. The monthly Transgender Meet Up was the first place I could go where there were others who shared this common experience. It was where there were people who could fully relate to the struggle of having to “put on the dude-suit” each day knowing that is was a fake. It was also the place where I found people who had successfully navigated the path away from that reality. People who could share their knowledge, experience, and wisdom. Now, I would like to do the same – to pay it forward.
But our support group is about more than a “meeting.” Renaissance support meetings serve anywhere from 20-40 people on any given evening, but our website serves hundreds more people each month. These are people who may not have the resources or desire to attend a meeting but who still need access to information that can help them as they navigate coming to terms with being transgender.
Another key part of our mission at Renaissance is educating the broader public. We do this through events, speaking engagements, panel talks and even through answering people’s questions via email. We feel strongly that by working this part of our mission the trans community will continue to gain allies who will stand-up to be counted when we need them.
Thriving In Community
Getting back to my stylist’s question though, beyond “paying it forward”, why do I go to a monthly support meeting? The answer is simple. For me, it is about the companionship and friendship of others. People who share a common bond and who care about each other. That makes me happy.
By the way, the manicurist did a killer job! That made me happy too!
Learn More About the Lehigh Valley Transgender Community
Would you like to write for our transgender blog or learn more about our support group for transgender people in the Lehigh Valley and eastern Pennsylvania? If so, please contact Lehigh Valley Renaissance or better yet join us at one of our monthly meeting!
Corinne Goodwin is one of the leaders of Lehigh Valley Renaissance. She regularly speaks to local community groups about transgender issues.
Note: The views expressed in this post are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by Lehigh Valley Renaissance.