A week after attending our first support group, I returned by myself. This specific group alternated weeks as closed for only members of the transgender community and open, which included family and allies. I set out alone and I was once again anxious about the evening. I tried to get out presenting as Crystal, something that had only happened once, and very briefly at that. I chose not to share anything this week, instead just sitting back and listening to others talk about the issues in their lives and what had been causing them stress and/or happiness.
There were only a few familiar faces from the previous week, which increased my personal anxieties, but it wasn't until the end of the meeting when one girl named Michelle came up to me in order to offer me a small gift. Apart from this group, she was also a regular attendee of a different local support group and they had produced rubber support bracelets. I thanked her and went my way, unsure how I felt about the evening. While it was nice to be out with people who I could identify with, there was something about this group that made me feel a little uneasy.
When I returned home that night, I spoke with Kat about the evening and told her about the girl who gave me the bracelet as I was preparing to leave. She thought it was awesome and wanted one for herself. We ended up finding this new group online and found that they met every Friday evening at a location not too far away from home. Being the type of couple that doesn't often go out on the weekend unless it's to a concert, we decided that we would check this group out at their next meeting.
"THAT FRIDAY EVENING, WE HEADED OVER TOWARDS THIS GROUP, WITH ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA OF WHAT TO EXPECT"
That Friday evening, we headed over towards this group, with absolutely no idea of what to expect. As usual, we were both a little anxious, and I don’t think either of us expected much out of this whole experience; assuming at best, we would share a little, hear a little, then go about our lives trying to figure out who I was and where we belonged in the world. We got to the location early and there wasn't a single person around. We knocked on the locked door to the building with no response and weren’t sure what to do. Was it possible this week's meeting happened to be canceled? Did they move locations and not post about it on their Facebook page? Nerves continued to grow as we stood in the empty parking lot for a few minutes, unsure if we should just give up and go home or wait a little longer.
Finally, just as we were ready to give up and head home, a couple of cars pulled in and we breathed a mutual sigh of relief. The doors were unlocked and we entered, not the main building which took up most of the property, but the small garage just behind it. Inside was furnished with a large couch, loveseat, a large chair, and a giant circle of folding chairs. The walls were nicely painted and were decorated with inspirational signs and despite the folding chairs, the place did not resemble what you would expect of a support group location. It more resembled an undersized living room where a group of friends could hang out, relax, and just do whatever they wanted.
Kat and I felt right at home almost immediately. The meeting started officially at 7:00 PM, but the group had a very laid back schedule, with people coming late because of work schedules, and we quickly learned that it was pretty common for group to run past 10:00 PM if not later. By 8:00 PM that evening, there were easily 30 people in that tiny garage, everyone sitting almost shoulder to shoulder, climbing around friends as they occasionally wandered into the snack corner for some chips, cookies, or a drink. There was no doubt to us that this was not just simply a support group, this was more than even a gathering of friends, the members huddled together in this room had become family to each other. And even though Kat and I had only been among them for a short period of time, we could tell that we were already being adopted into this family.
"WE WOULD HEAR OUR NEW FRIENDS TALK ABOUT WHAT'S BEEN GOING ON IN THEIR LIVES, FROM PLANNING SURGERIES, TO STARTING HORMONES."
It had been nearly 4 months until we had missed a meeting, and that was only because first Kat, and then I, ended up with the flu just before the holidays. During that period though, we would attend week after week. We would hear our new friends talk about what's been going on in their lives, from planning surgeries, to starting hormones. Kat and I spoke about our own matters, about our struggles with her getting pregnant, to my growing dysphoria as I considered who I was, first pondering if I might be more along the non-binary before finally determined that I was in fact a trans-woman. Kat came to group and talked about her growing fear about me transitioning, spending more and more time talking in private with the cisgender partner of our group leader.
Apart from attending the weekly meetings, we begun socializing with members outside of the group, inviting a few of them along when we won 8 tickets to a big rock concert at a local theater, then hosting near monthly game nights in our own apartment. It was almost weird for us, as both Kat and I had longtime been loner types who stuck to the same small group of friends and rarely expanded beyond those people. Now here we were, with more friends than we could easily count. When I planned a surprise birthday party for Kat a few months later, I somehow ended up inviting nearly 40 people to our tiny basement apartment that at best, could fit 15 people comfortably. It was almost overwhelming how positive our lives had become and how important our new friends became to us in every way possible. And honestly, I wouldn't want it any other way.