Transformers Provide Support to Trans Men
Before the meeting starts, Grey passes around the cupcakes he brought. One of the guys gets complimented on how well his new goatee is growing in. The cupcakes make their way around the roomful of Richmond Transformers as they catch up a little bit on what’s going on in life. Some of them have already made the transition from female to male. Others are still in the process. All are here for support.
“If you have an issue with it, it’s your problem, not mine,” Grey says.
For Grey, he’s finally at a point where he’s more comfortable being out about his transition. Tonight is friends and family night. Introductions begin. One of the guys says he is here because this is a place where he can just be.
According to facilitator Ted Heck, when Fan Free Clinic started their transgendered clinic in 2004, they expected a majority of male to female patients. When female to males showed up, they started looking for support services, which led to the birth of the Richmond Transformers. FFC approached Heck and Grey about organizing the group soon after.
While FFC initiated the group, they currently provide meeting space. The rest was organic. The group started out solely as a support group twice a month but has transformed into more.
“After a couple years, we decided what everybody really wanted,” Heck says. “We didn’t need a support group twice a month, but rather once a month, and also a social activity once per month.”
Heck gets down to business. Tonight, they discuss the status of a website that’s in the works for the group, their treasury and upcoming events. Julian Carr, a transgendered-law advocate, has traveled from Hampton Roads to speak about legal issues surrounding the community. Julian, also transgendered, provides resources to the group and explains the process of changing gender identity and names on government documentation.
According to Heck, transgendered people cannot be defined as a single community because of differences along gender, racial, and socio-economic lines.
“I don’t think that we even know who each other are. We have such diverse interests and needs,” he says.
One of the aims of the Transformers is to provide a platform for understanding one another. Heck says that oftentimes, it’s difficult for different types of people in the trans community to understand each other’s issues. He says it’s not a matter of prejudice, but rather not being familiar with the issues faced within each group.
“We have a lot in common with the discrimination we face in some ways, but because of racial, social-economic and age people have had very different experiences.”
He explains that the Tidewater area has two separate Male to Female support groups – one that is predominately African American and another that is mostly white. He attributes this to the groups feeling more comfortable sharing experiences with those of the same background. With the Transformers, he hopes to bridge these differences and bring together as much diversity as possible.
“[Right now] there aren’t as many trans people of color that know about our group, or if they do know, they might feel that we don’t really understand their needs.”
He says sharing different backgrounds and experiences and relating them to being transgendered will help break down these walls.
“It’s hard to get the conversation started because people just don’t know how to talk about it,” Heck says.
The Transformers share their experiences and provide support to one another the second Tuesday of each month at Fan Free Clinic with every other meeting open to family, friends, and supporters.
With recent members, Heck anticipates the group will have a more visible profile.
“There seems to be a lot of energy in becoming more of a presence in the community, so that’s really exciting,” he says.
The Richmond Transformers mission is to be a peer facilitated social and support group in the Richmond, VA area for anyone on the trans-masculine spectrum. They are persons born or assigned female at birth who feel this is an inaccurate or incomplete description of who they are today.
For more information, contact Ted Heck by e-mail at Ted.Heck@vdh.virginia.gov or by phone at (804) 864-8012.
While we are all different, there are parts of our identities, our shared experiences, that make us all the same.September 21, 2016
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