When I first came out, finding like-minded people was important to me. I wanted to find people I could connect with, that knew what I was going through. I didn’t know anyone who was trans (to my knowledge), let alone non-binary, aside from one person online who I didn’t really speak to much. Even then all I knew was that he’d been homeless once and his family had kicked him out – not exactly the best start.
Finding groups really helped. Today I want to talk about some of the places I went to, and how they helped me.
I found a few resources online first, people on tumblr kind of helped, made me realise I wasn’t weird for feeling this way. Then I found blogs, such as Tony Doubek’s blog (now run by someone else) Boxers and Binders. That really helped a lot, and I found myself understanding a lot more.
I finally got the confidence then to contact a group down in Brighton. I hadn’t been to the city on my own before and so it was a little daunting, but I knew meeting people face to face was quite important. I found Allsorts, a youth charity I knew a little about from my work in the youth service. A few years prior some people had come in to talk to us about making services more LGBTQ friendly, I didn’t really know then that it fit me, but it began to click into place slowly.
It wasn’t possible for me to get down to Brighton once a week, so I never went to the drop-in, but I found they had a trans group that met (at the time) once a month. I emailed them, and they responded, but that was it. I didn’t respond again for about six months.
I got too nervous, I didn’t want to risk doing something wrong, so I just did nothing. Then, I had come out to my youth worker and been to an event to represent the West Sussex Youth Cabinet, a launch of a new trans group. I met someone there called Jak, who helped me a lot, and he told me that Transformers was a great group he occasionally went to, and that I should just check it out. Jak is also now one of my really good friends. So thank you Jak.
So, I emailed back, apologising for the late response. They were super cool about it and they put me on to the trans workers who set up a time for me to go to one of their meetings.
It was super nerve wrecking, and it took me nearly 45 minutes to find the venue (despite it being a short 15-minute walk from the train station), but I was so glad I went.
It was the Christmas party, and I wasn’t the only new person to the group. A guy, who had been to the drop-in for many years, had recently come out as Trans, and he too seemed nervous. He knew a few people there, but was quite quiet. We got talking, discussing why we picked the names we did, and I fumbled (he was cute), I messed up and said that I got it from the Chase, then realised it was Deal or No Deal, and said they were basically the same thing.
That was apparently the moment that Tyler realised he wanted to be with me, and now, four and a half years later, we are together, and engaged. We met through Transformers, possibly the greatest thing to come of that group, and I am so glad I went along that day.
Tyler and I started chatting online, and after Christmas we went on our first date. He was actually older than I thought, and I younger than he thought, but it didn’t matter. The down side was that it meant he was nearly too old for Transformers – they only took people up to 26 and he was only a month away from his 26th birthday. So, we had a look around for other groups.
Some people came into Transformers to talk to us about another group called FTM Brighton, which was for 18+ trans masculine people. Plus, they met only doors down from where we were at the time, at the Terrance Higgins Trust (THT) building.
In March, Tyler and I went along to our first FTMB meeting, their AGM and meeting about relationships. It was a pretty cool meeting, we seemed to be the only two in the room who were in a relationship at the time so got a lot of questions, but we quickly felt included.
That was the beginning of a new chapter, going to FTMB, which is now re-branded as Navigate.
Fast forward a few years, and now Tyler is the Chair of Navigate, and I the secretary. We have met some amazing people through the group, and watched things change a lot, including the venue and meeting times more than once. Navigate is a great group, we run twice a month now, and have a diverse group of people that come to our meetings.
These are just a few groups I’ve attended, but I really wanted to get across today just how powerful meeting people face to face can be. I am also involved in Trans Pride now, which is coming up for our fifth year, and that is just fantastic to be a part of. The community is massive, and events like Trans Pride really highlight that. We have thousands of people come along each year, from all over the globe, and it really shows the need for meeting spaces.
If you are in the position where you don’t currently know anyone, try and find a space. Even if it is an online group – there are literally hundreds out there – and meet people. There is something to be said for people who just get it.