Finding Community

Needs change, and the people we hold close change as our needs are met.

Approaching the two year anniversary of coming out, so I guess this stuff’s on my mind, but my needs are quite different now from what they were two years ago. Two years ago, I was looking for information on how to transition: priorities to set, who I needed to tell, what help I had to seek. I wanted contacts; people that could point me in the right direction. Instructions. If we’re going to look at this in terms of Bloom’s taxonomy, it was very much a knowledge space. I didn’t comprehend and I hadn’t even begun to integrate meanings.

I sought community. I contacted a local charity and they did exactly that: connected me with folks. Hooking me into the knowledge base didn’t end up showing me anything I hadn’t read on the Internet, but verification is important. I dove in. Veteran readers will note a pattern with me: I’m not one for half measures. At least I’m consistent.

After about a year, I already started to distance myself from that initial community. It was a lifeline and I’m thankful for it, but I didn’t need the same things. I knew what to do. I was set on a course and life was settling down. My friends and family had settled down with me and we were navigating the process on our own. Many of the people I met in that arena are still in contact with me - there was no cut off. More of an evolution than a sharp break.

I don’t know how to move on without throwing a torch on it. It’s something I keep saying when examining how change happens in my life. I move on, disappear, ghost most of the people I know and never go back. This time is different.

Yesterday I was sat with a queer friend who was talking about moving somewhere. Her main thread of reasoning was where there would be a community. There were two kinds: who she knew, and what kind of queer scene it had. A couple of months ago, I went out with a friend and her first question to me was what friendly events were going on. I wrote at the time how this didn’t figure into my reasoning when considering what to do and where to live.

It’s an alien thought process, and not one that figured into my way of thinking even when trying to work out what to do with my dad. Maybe he did? We never discussed it. I know he hung out in gay bars. When my younger brother was potentially finding a boyfriend (he wasn’t, that was a pretty funny misunderstanding), my dad was keen to let my brother know where he could go to be himself. So having a scene mattered to my dad. Once he moved to Chicago, he exclaimed at one point how he loved his new gay life. Having that community was important to him, even if he didn’t necessarily seek it out when deciding what to do or where to go.

I don’t feel the need to be immersed in that queer community. I don’t feel the need to renounce it or somehow hide my queerness, but I don’t fancy going somewhere to be queer with queer people. I see that other queer people do, and I wonder why I don’t.

"WE’RE ALL EMOTIONALLY INVOLVED IN A THING AND THERE’S NO COMMON AGREEMENT ABOUT HOW WE SHOULD DEAL WITH THE PROBLEMS IN FRONT OF US. WE ALL JUST HATE THE PROBLEMS."

One of the more uncomfortable lessons I learned early was that there is no common transhood. Being transgender doesn’t mean we’re all friends or even want the same things for transgender folk as a whole. This specific common quality doesn’t unite us. Often, it serves to divide us. We’re all emotionally involved in a thing and there’s no common agreement about how we should deal with the problems in front of us. We all just hate the problems.

An argument over whether I could use the word ‘period’ was the start of my own distancing. That was the moment where I learned that the people I assumed should know better would actually oppose me rather than validate me. From that point, I looked to the friends I had and stopped going to meetings. I still cared about the community and wanted to support people, but I didn’t want their support anymore. Not in that context.

That trust in a group is crucial. The belief that one is safe in that company is what I lack. One person went so far as to tell me I was fooling myself for thinking anyone but other transgender people would accept me. Course, that was on the heels of that being demonstrably untrue: transgender people denied me that acceptance because of my refusal to bend. That’s the trade: safety if you go along. I’m bad at going along.

"AS I’VE SAID IN A FEW OTHER PLACES, MY FUTURE WITH THE TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY IS A BIG OL’ QUESTION MARK."

As I’ve said in a few other places, my future with the transgender community is a big ol’ question mark. Truth is, my needs have changed. I don’t really need the group for anything but company. I have a lively social life anyway; I’ve made the contacts I need to make for the moment. What I need now is to just get through life and make this part of me ordinary. The queer culture I’ve encountered spends a lot of time making the queer bits stand out - I don’t want that.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want anything to do with the queer community as a whole or even the transgender community. I just don’t really need them to support me and I don’t want to interact with them in a support group context, which is how I connected with them in the first place. I still want to go to trans pride events (but not general pride events, oddly), but again, different context. I don’t need safe places, I need safe people. Not everyone I encounter in the community is safe. That means I don’t have any use for the community as a whole; being transgender isn’t a point of mutual trust.

I don’t think this evolution is especially unique. We all want associations for our own reasons. We all need communities for different things at different times. It’s possible that I’ll return to the support context after a while. Many do. But for now, I’m happy to slide away and keep the friends I’ve made. Like so many things, we’ll just see what happens.

Comments
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Emma-Gray
Emma-Gray

Your experience and feelings parallel mine quite closely. I often say I’m not “only” transgender. Like you I have friends who’re trans, others gay, and some who are cis and straight. We’re not defined by our gender or sexuality, nor are those characteristics check boxes for who we feel community with.