As a parent of a transgender son, I am a huge supporter of the LGBT Center and especially the Transgender Initiative. When my son came to us 13 years ago with news of his transition, there were few resources for trans individuals or families in this area. Some offering online support and information were out there, but almost nothing local, especially for families. It was a very challenging time. The presence of the Transgender Initiative has been a tremendous step forward for me and for the entire Triangle area. TI welcomes transgender individuals with well publicized, regularly scheduled activities and support as well as special events like observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance and TransGiving.
Additionally, for families like ours, the SOFFA group is a unique and confidential resource where loved ones of transgender individuals can receive their own support as they travel the path with their trans friend or family member. I love this small group and wish it had been there even earlier in our journey. But its here now and that’s what’s important!
As we progress, we gradually become more open and fulfilled in ourselves and our family lives. And as a part of that, we know we are so blessed to be able to grow through the resources and relationships nurtured by the Transgender Initiative and the LGBT Center of Raleigh.
I am somewhat of an introvert. One of the challenges I have faced as a transwoman was trying to meet people while trying to be myself. It took me some time to build up the courage to go to the Trans* support group but once I was there I started to make friends and helped me learn how to move forward with my transition now that I had a support network.
The biggest challenge that I face is trying to find time with all of my new friends, to make them feel like they are important to me, but there is not enough time in the day. I have made several friends through the LGBT Center and the Trans Initiative, and if they were not there, I would have had a much more difficult time with my transition, because I would have felt that much more alone to deal with the issues I was left to face on my own.
I have always felt that I was born in the wrong body and should have been born a girl. My childhood was less than pleasant, as I was bullied, shunned by peers, and never quite found the “right” group for me. As a teenager, my awkwardness turned to suicidal thoughts, until I found the aftermath of a suicide myself. Just after I made a commitment to myself and thought I had the strength to transition, I was raped and beaten. Life back home was not easy.
Even after I moved to the Raleigh-Durham area, it was not easy for me to come out and transition. While I found sympathy in new friendships, finding other people like myself was a challenge. I worked for some major companies with internal LGBT employee groups, but few, if any out transgender people participated. I found a small support group in the local area, but so few people participated, it was hard to get the support that I was looking for. In part, it wasn’t much better than being back home and communicating with people online.
I believe that since the inception of the Transgender Initiative in fall 2011, it has been an overwhelming success. The transgender, intersex, and gender variant population of the Triangle has a safe place to meet where we can both socialize and support each other. I have made lifelong friends through the programs at the Center, both inside and outside the Initiative. I’ve also seen things like the Transgender Day of Remembrance in Raleigh grow from a dozen or so people meeting at a church fellowship hall to this year’s event that brought out 150+ people to the state capital building. All this in a short two years, largely in part due to the dedication of the Center and the volunteers there.
Though we now have a vibrant and visible transgender community in the Triangle, much work still remains. Our community still faces threats of violence, unemployment and underemployment, and access to housing and medical attention on a near daily basis. In order to solve these problems and make the world better for everyone, we need a solid foundation – and I believe the Transgender Initiative at the Center is that foundation. We can be a beacon of hope to the transgender community both locally and nationally.