by Jack Haden
Social change is an ever-evolving thing. As our society moves forward toward greater acceptance of the broad spectrum of gender identity, younger folks are finding it easier to come out and be true to their core selves. Children, teens, and young adults are provided more opportunities for exploring their gender identities and their families are offered guidance to bolster their loved one’s journey toward authenticity. Creating safe spaces for families and friends to process a young person’s transition can be an integral part of a successful & healthy transition and strengthen relationships.
But what about those people whose loved ones didn’t come out when they were young? What’s out there to help those who may have adult children or friends who are just now coming out as transgender? It doesn’t take long to realize that there are fewer supports out there for people in such a situation.
Personally speaking, as a 32-year-old experiencing the complexities of coming out as an adult, I have been able to access resources geared toward helping me along my journey. However, finding similar means to support my own family and friends as I make this transition has been difficult. They want to know how to process becoming acquainted with this shift and are left wanting. Although I consider myself fortunate to have so many people around me willing to make these changes to support me, I know that I alone can’t be their only point of reference. They are going through their own process of change and although I can offer some advice and reassurance, both as a therapist and transgender person, this is not sufficient. What’s more, I know that my situation is not a unique one. There are many who want to know what steps to take as their loved one transitions, but don’t know where to turn.
With this in mind, Jania Sommers, LCSW, and I have collaborated on creating a support group for those who have a transgender loved one coming out as an adult. Although resources currently available are aimed mostly at families of transgender youth, Jania and I are hoping to expand those and offer a safe space for people to explore how to support their family member or friend without losing sight of their own experience.
This new community support group we have created is entitled Supportive Transitions. This three-week course beginning Monday, October 16, will be a place for people to not only learn how they can advocate for their family member or friend, but to connect with others who can empathize with the complex emotions that arise with such a change. Feelings of confusion and grief are common among this group, yet places to explore them and find ways to be encouraging of the transperson in their life are limited. The group will be a mix of both education on transgender topics as well as processing the impact transition has had upon group members. Ultimately, though, our goal is to support the supporters.
Inquiries are now being accepted by those who are interested in joining the group. For more information, people can contact me at [email protected] or Jania Sommers at [email protected] Additional information can also be found on the attached flyer.
by Jack Haden (Annie Haden, LCSW)