Undeniably, online interactions have shaped the way you find your way through transgender tangles.
The Internet may be the only place offering you a relief from a reality burdened by the gender binary. Stepping out from the pixelverse, however, can also create an opportunity for you to meet real transgender people.
And the best way to approach this life-changing step is to dip your feet into a trans-dedicated space.
They provide safety by acknowledging your identity as much as your reservations, surrounding you with advice as well as comfort, while pumping you with a feeling of empowerment by having your needs placed at the forefront.
Still hesitant to reach out?
Here are ten ways in which trans-dedicated events, get-togethers, informal gatherings, symposiums, or conferences are amazingly awesome.
1. There Are Trans People! Everywhere!
Until we get our own country, it’s a rare opportunity when trans people are plentifully gathered in one place at one time.
Everyone around you is like you in some way, understands what you’re going through, and can sympathize with your concerns to some degree.
On the other hand, our population boasts incredible diversity: young or old, new to transition or forty years post-op; single, partnered, male, female, binary smashers.
Even in smaller local gatherings, trans people’s origins are all over the map, from East Coast to West Coast to no coast, from small rural towns to capital cities to your hometown.
You are guaranteed to find someone who relates to you, but you’re also guaranteed to find someone who is completely different from you, too. Our community is beautifully diverse; trans-dedicated spaces are often the node of bringing together folk you would never otherwise cross paths with.
2. They Provide You with Information Overload – But in a Good Way
I still keep the notes from my first conference: “Testosterone.” That’s it, that’s all I wrote! I had never heard of it. I guess I thought that was important.
One of the best ways to get all the information you need in one place is at an event devoted to featuring experts on transgender topics. Sessions are usually chock full of details, many of them led by doctors or providers who deal directly with trans clients, or people like myself who do research and compile it in an easy to understand format.
Even if it’s your 100th event and you walk in thinking you won’t learn anything new, trust me, there is always something out there you didn’t know before.
The community is ever evolving, new strategies are developed, and there’s never a dearth of unique stories that complement your experience.
3. You Feel All the Feels (Really – All of Them)
Sadness. Joy. Worry. Empathy. Tears, lots of tears – sometimes tears of sorrow, sometimes tears of happiness.
If there is one word to sum up what a trans-dedicated space is all about, it’s emotion.
That moment when your partner squeezes your hand, letting you know they’re there for you no matter what. That moment when someone breaks down because they know, deep in their hearts, their parents will never be okay with their gender.
That moment when someone’s eyes light up because they just felt affirmed in being trans enough. That moment when you’re so inspired to keep being a vocal advocate in your community, or to simply take the leap to come out to your best friend.
That moment when you feel everything is going to be okay. That moment when you try hard not to have a break down yourself from being overwhelmed with all the resilient courage walking among you.
Forming an emotional bond with others while at the same time feeling cared for helps build a support system essential to your journey. It can become the key to push you forward or be the lifeboat keeping you afloat.
Unlike information, you can’t get the feels from Google.
4. It’s a Space for Thoughtful Introspection
Introspection is as central as external exploration in your gender journey.
Whether you’re talking about coming out at work, negotiating an evolving body with your partner, or simply exchanging tips for dressing up, these insulated spaces provoke you to explore territory you were too afraid to delve into alone.
Only in a roomful of heads nodding are you able to gather the courage to speak certain things out loud for the first time.
And as you listen to everyone’s experiences, you think of new possibilities for yourself.
5. It’s Also a Place for Mirrored Reflection
With a million and one gender identities or expressions out there, it’s hard to find a twin soul who shares your exact sentiments. But there comes a moment when someone else starts telling their story, and they begin describing word for word what you’ve been through.
You are finally seen. You are finally heard. You feel truly connected.
Seeing yourself reflected in someone else – in their history, in their face, in their body, perhaps for the first time in person rather than online – is indescribably validating.
6. You Can Connect with Old Friends and Make New Ones
When you’re a recurring member, trans time can turn into family reunion time.
But don’t let the regulars intimidate you.
As the same people gather at the same location week over week, month over month, or even year over year, trans events become the perfect chance to forge friendships through shared moments.
7. Volunteers Are There to Make a Difference
People often have a hard time securing a free space to sit in, let alone get paid for their time or dedication. Thus, it’s common for these groups to be created, organized, staffed, and run by volunteers.
These are friendly folk who dedicate their energy and resources and skills for free to make this happen. Whether it’s acting as the emotional backbone in a support group, providing food suitable to everyone’s dietary needs, or just rearranging chairs with a smile, volunteers’ work often goes unrecognized.
Fueled by a passion so palpable, so unavoidable, an incredible energy is exuded by those who actively chose to devote their attention to you.
In turn, they’re grateful to you for joyously partaking in what they’ve painstakingly planned, so you may form cherished memories, forge new friendships, or simply take respite in one glorious hour of emotional relief.
8. You Can Be Surrounded by Family
Friends, chosen family, roommates. The rejection of blood forcing the formation of stronger bonds.
Partners, a lot of loving, caring partners who want to do right – not just for their person, but for their newfound community too. Parents, children, grandparents, aunts and uncles, caregivers and guardians, everyone giving out hugs. Teachers and students and doctors and social workers who risk their jobs advocating for the trans people under their care.
Whatever the composition of a trans-dedicated space is, it’s a time to feel like you’ve come home.
We’ve all got our quirks (we might not even like everyone!), but we’re all looking out for each other. We’re all one big trans family.
9. The Past, Present, and Future Is All Laid Out Before You
Transgender icons who made history decades ago share their stories, leaving you in awe of what they went through in a time when wearing the wrong article of clothing could land you in prison. In the next room, a new generation of trans five-year-olds play duck-duck-goose.
Attendees can represent a gamut of trans generations. There are teenagers who came out as toddlers, teenagers who came out last week, 60-year-olds who came out forty years ago, 50-year-olds who came out forty hours ago.
All the possibilities of a trans journey are laid before you, each leading their own unique path towards self-fulfillment.
History has been made to get us this far, as national media now talks about transgender people more positively, with many of us living authentically, openly welcomed by our families.
We continue to make history, right now. You, me, all of us.
By intentionally gathering in solidarity, whether in private or in public, we show society that we are numerous, we have loved ones, we are human, we exist, we matter.
The world has already changed. Together, we’re changing it more.
10. The Experience Can Be Life Changing
Your first trans event – whether it’s a small support group or a large international conference – will be a transformational experience. For many, it’s the first time they physically meet a trans person.
That was certainly the case for me.
With each trans event I attend, the foundations of my trans identity are reaffirmed. I pick up important new pieces from which to build upon. And I continue to travel my ever-evolving journey.
Trans-dedicated spaces are more than about providing a room to talk.
They’re about enveloping you in emotions, deeply connecting with a diverse array of people, and being immersed – perhaps for the first time – in the power of a physical transgender community.
These spaces are a necessary oasis to affirm your needs as an individual, as well as advance the needs of our diverse transgender population as a whole.
So I encourage you to seek out – or create your own – opportunity to engage in a trans-dedicated physical community.
Micah is the little awesome writer and transgender advocate behind the blog Neutrois Nonsense, which explores non-binary transition, gender, and finding life wisdom beyond the binary. You can follow them on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.
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