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 What is a Transgender Life Support Group?

This group is intended for anyone who is transgender, non-binary, or questioning their gender identity, regardless of what stage in their individual journey they may be. It is an informal discussion about the experiences of being gender-nonconforming and addresses topics such as navigating coming out, accessing medical care, current events, and struggles that our community faces, among other topics. Supportive friends, family, partners, etc. are also welcome. 

Natalie Siagkris' Experience. 

From 2019 to 2022, I co-facilitated Transgender Life Support at Affirmations in Ferndale, MI. For years, we maintained a Professional Resource List, which included names and contacts for affirming medical providers, therapists, laser hair removal, gender-affirming clothing stores, information on name and gender marker change processes, etc. Due to the pandemic, and the passing of one of the long-time group facilitators who maintained the list, the list has largely fallen into obsolescence, though it is my ambition to revive and update it. Group members may pick up a printed copy at the center or ask the facilitator to email it to them.

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What Will We Be Doing?

TLS, one of the longest-running and largest groups of its kind in the country, was conducted as an open forum discussion. We met in person from 7-9pm every Tuesday at Affirmations, until the pandemic shifted the group online. The meetings loosely adhered to the following schedule, and I would like to conduct the group at Blue Water Allies in a similar format:

 

7:00 - 7:10 Welcome, Establishment of the Format and Ground Rules, which include

  • The importance of maintaining confidentiality. Anything said within the group is intended only for the people in the group, and must not be divulged to another, or in a public place. This includes a brief definition of “outing” someone, and an explanation of the issues that may arise when confidentiality is broken.

  • Only one person may speak at a time. What people choose to share is important, and deserves our full attention, so crosstalk is not permitted. 

  • No political or religious discourse is allowed. Of course, these topics may be significant factors in the lives of our community members, but the group is meant to be a safe and inclusive place for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals of ALL religious or political affiliations. Should the conversation devolve into overly religious or political debate, the facilitator(s) may intervene. 

7:10 - 8:00 Circle Discussion

  • Going around the room, each group member is invited to speak, introducing themselves, and sharing as much or as little as they would like to about their transition, identity, and what struggles they may be facing. 

  • Other group members may respond, providing support. Facilitators may comment or contribute as necessary, but the ultimate goal is for group members to connect with each other and find their common ground.

  • Nobody is made to speak who does not wish to. Individuals may share as much as they want, but if time is becoming a factor and there are still folks who have yet to speak, or if a topic of discussion (such as hormone replacement therapy) comes up that has the interest of many members of the group, the facilitator may opt to table the topics until the later half of the meeting so that everyone who wishes to speak has a turn.

8:00 - 8:45 Open Forum

  • Group discussion returns to any topics that had been previously tabled. All members are invited to add to the discussion, speaking one at a time. If no topics of interest had emerged in the first half of the meeting, the facilitator may introduce a topic for discussion, e.g. HRT, medical treatment, laser or electrolysis hair removal, name and gender marker change process, coming out to family members, seeking therapy or medical care, gender-affirming clothing and makeup, etc. 

  • During this time, an envelope is passed around the group, should any group member wish to make a donation to the center. Attendants are also given the opportunity to fill out a brief anonymous demographic survey for the center. 

8:45 - 9:00 Wrap Up

  • Facilitator(s) thank the group members for joining and establish the date and time of the next meeting. We remain nearby and available for one-on-one conversation with group members. Members are invited to use the center until closing, and often, members would make their way as a group to a nearby restaurant or café should they wish to continue socializing

Come hang out with us on the 2nd Thursday of each month! 

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