Support groups are something that I think many people don’t think of regardless of what the support group is for. There are tons of support groups out there ranging from the most common like alcoholics anonymous to the Harry Potter Alliance Support Group (Yes it does exist Google it). The point I am making no matter what it is you need support with the help is out there it simply is just a matter of finding it in your area or online.
The traditional form of support groups is of course in person, but with the rise of technology especially the internet we can do anything via other ways in today’s world. There are your traditional in person support groups, but you also have online support groups, Skype support groups, other platform groups, etc. Utilizing these other platforms you are able to reach out to other people in the world not just in your local area. It might give you more perspective on things than just utilizing your local support groups. Not that I am dissing the local support groups I think they are great and vital to a community. I just think in today’s age we should also take advantage of the other things that are out there for us.
For me I was never a huge fan of support groups when I was younger and my grandparents sent me to alanon for teenagers dealing with someone close that is an alcoholic. My father who is now deceased due to the disease was a severe alcoholic. Maybe I wasn’t fond of the support groups when I was younger because I didn’t utilize it like I should. I wasn’t very vocal and I tended to just sit there and listen to others instead of sharing my own stories. As I have grown up into the adult I am today support groups are a lot like therapy. In order to get something out of it you have to put effort into it. You can’t just simply show up and listen to get the best results from either. Therapy requires you to talk about your problems or issues that are bothering you in order to work through them and over come them. In order to get the most from support groups you also need to talk so that you can get other peoples perspective and support.
When I first came out as trans I didn’t know a single person that was trans. Obviously I knew that existed, but I didn’t personally know anyone even online let alone in my area. The first thing I did was google trans people and started watching youtube videos which ultimately at that time became my support group. It wasn’t until I was researching stuff online one day about trans that I ran into a website about a local trans group here in Florida where I live. I called the lady and she asked me a few questions and she said I could start attending the support group whenever I wanted. That it was once a month and they meet for about an hour and a half. My first thought about attending this support group was what are you thinking you aren’t trans enough for that support group. Of course these thoughts were my own problems of not being on T yet and not through my transition enough that I visually identified as a male 100 percent of the time. To be perfectly honest I was scared to death. Worried about meeting other trans guys and wondering what they would think of me. Plus I am older and knew that probably most of them were younger than me and further in their transition. But the truth of the matter that group couldn’t have been more welcoming.
The first meeting I went to was a loved ones meeting so I brought my partner along with me. It made me feel more at peace and not so anxious about talking in front of other people. I wasn’t sure I would talk the first time I was there, but I actually found myself opening up more than I ever had about being trans. I no longer was that little kid that just sat there and listened to other people’s stories instead I vocalized my own too. That support group has given me friends I wouldn’t have had, challenged me in ways I didn’t know I could be challenged and most of all gave me strength to be who I am and not afraid to be me. To me that has been the best thing about this support group. I can’t tell you how important support groups are and how helpful they can be. I know that support groups aren’t for everyone and not everyone can easily open up about things. It takes time, courage, and honesty to yourself in order to get there.
I am an introvert so I was challenged with those things in the beginning and even when new people join the group I get worried about what others will think about my story, but than I realize it doesn’t matter because its my story and as human beings we all have different stories especially in the trans community. We all go down a different path and have different plans for our lives. We live the journey we feel fits us the best and we find courage and believes in ourselves. No matter whether you go out and try to get involved in a support group or not remember you are not alone and there are people out there just like you dealing with similar thins. Whether they be good, bad or indifferent. There are months I don’t necessarily want to go to the support group, but I get up put my clothes on and go because I know at the end of it I will be thankful I went to know I have the support of other people in the same shoes as me.
Your best friend when trying to find support in your area typically is the lovely Google search engine. You can also reach out to your local LGBT center if you have one in the area and they might be able to direct you to a local support group. Also high school or college Gay Straight Alliance groups might have sources for you as well. Just go out there and start searching that’s what I did and I stumbled across something that has changed my life and helped me know I am supported even if the people I love don’t always support me. The last thing I will say is keep your head up and utilize all the support you can get out there.