Finding purpose by giving back

by Kira Wertz
Community Issues Columnist

Within days of my coming out to my spouse I had already begun the counseling process leading into transition. It was during this time that I also sought support groups within the community. While I did find one to attend, that fact that I found only one is a concern.

If one is an alcoholic and in need of support, it’s not a stretch to believe that within Oklahoma City and its surrounding areas one could find an AA meeting on the day they are most in need of support. No such support community exists for those in the trans community.

It would be unfair of me to say that the one meeting I found was all there was, it’s simply all I could find while scouring the web. A larger group formed a few months after I began my transition. Unfortunately, that group, held during the week, is difficult for me to work into my schedule.

While having support groups on weekends might seem ideal for my situation, many people have weekends preplanned, and as a result, attendance could be impacted. In fact, I suspect this reason is why my go-to support group tends to have sporadic attendance. I can’t help but feel that the model that AA has for meetings would be much more ideal with creating support groups that manage to fit everyone’s schedule.

But what trans-specific organization could offer daily meetings?

My biggest lament isn’t necessarily even the lack of groups but the absence of those who have completed transition. Some would say they have no reason to attend. The counterpoint to that is people struggling with transition aren’t going to get all the information and support from others who are also in the exact struggle. I will not discount that there is some level of catharsis to be had among transitioners and their shared experiences.

But many of us want to have someone who’s done it all and emerged better for it. Without someone who has walked the walk, done it all from name change to surgery, struggled with crippling dysphoria and pitfalls of the medical and legal system, who is there to reassure us?

I’ll be the first person to admit that there is no ‘one way’ to transition. Having those individuals present in group won’t serve everyone’s personal journey but I do feel it’s critical that we see someone living a positive side of transition.

I am left wondering if the transition itself was such a painful and arduous process that those who have completed theirs choose not to rehash those trying times. Perhaps it would be like reliving some kind of abuse, which causes me to question how I would feel if I were the person I’ve just described.

As much as I want there to be more cohesive and well attended support groups, I realize that the burdens we take on personally rarely align with any other single person in attendance. Many of us have hidden our identities behind a wide array of addictions. Some lose their friends and family. Others got love and acceptance. Some can afford gender affirming surgeries, while others can’t.

These variations with our journeys are a source of jealousy and discontentment which undoubtedly take a toll on attendance. For as much as I want to have a conversation with someone who has done it all, I know I would be replete with feelings of jealousy due to the financial unlikelihood of being able to complete my own affirming surgeries.

It’s an often-spouted cliché that it’s “about the journey, not the destination,” and around the internet I’ve seen some interesting commentary from those whom have fully transitioned. The feeling I get from those comments is a sense of “what do I do now?” As if the transition was the thing that gave them a reason to go on, but afterward there is some sense of loss.

Maybe that’s the circle of mental health that we need to tap into. Maybe those suffering that loss can find their purpose by helping the next group of transitioners in support sessions. For them, the journey doesn’t have to end, it can just have a shifted focus. One that affirms their identity and brings hope to those finding theirs. Who will answer that call?

Copyright The Gayly – December 22, 2017 @ 7:50 a.m. CST.