March 2006: this site is so short of transgender content that I am copying an article. Here's the wikipedia article on transgender:


Last edited September 12, 2005 11:34 am EST/EDT by DeniseTanton? (diff)

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When there is no "us" or when the "us" is locked tightly in the closet...

The Transgendered Community is the most hidden and closeted community I have ever been a part of. There is no group more difficult to community build for, or with. And, unfortunately, there are very few solutions or techniques that work.

In my experience (which I will include below)...

You have the TGs who are not out and often don't ever see themselves as being out. Those folks are incredibly fearful of someone finding out. They're fearful of even being out to themselves. When you're afraid, at that level, and you're without hope, at that level, community is not something you can embrace openly.

And then you have the TGs who are out but who want nothing more than to not be TG. They're transitioning and while many are happy to talk about the logistics of transitioning or the emotional aspects of transitioning, they do so with an end in sight. They do so thinking that once they've reached the last stage they will leave the TG community behind and finally live as if they had never been TG at all.

When your community is built of those who are terrified or without hope and those who are looking to someday not be a member of the club or not even acknowledge to anyone that they've ever been a part of that club - you really have little hope of community.

It is very rare to find a TG person who is out and PROUD and continues to be a part of the TG world in any visible way, once they've transitioned. And, when a TG who is in one of the more prominent categories finds someone who is out and proud and a visible spokesperson, they are uncomfortable. The closeted, fearful TG is intimidated and jealous. The fully transitioned post operative is often disgusted by the TG who acknowledges his/her TG-ness after surgery (or after full transition without surgery). The goal is to move beyond TGness not to be TG for the rest of your life.

I spent a year as a volunteer community leader on a lesbian message board that had one M2F who considered herself a lesbian. She would happily talk to straights and gays about being TG but she did not ever initiate such discussions.

After that, I was hired as a paid (imagine that) community moderator and part of my responsibilities were to clean up and build the lesbian and bisexual boards at the now defunct There, I found this same M2F woman happily talking to the few lesbians and bis who visited those boards. We built the community and along the way acquired a CD and 2 more M2F women one of whom was actively transitioning and had a SRS date. Again, these women would talk to anyone who visited the lesbian/bi boards about being TG (or CD) but only when asked directly. And then, they would talk to the moderator (ME!) or to the other members but rarely to each other.

I assumed this was because they didn't have a "room of their own" and so I went to the big guns and begged for a TG board - and got it. Unfortunately, I was wrong. We found more TGs but they only talked to each other about everyday life and they did not discuss TG related topics with each other. They still continued to only answer my questions or questions from lesbians, bisexuals or heterosexuals who visited their message board.

I was frustrated, to say the least.

I developed a very strong relationship with these women and eventually learned that there was interaction taking place but it was done behind the scenes. On AIM or via email. I was gently informed that they did not want a large community. That talking out in the open made them feel uncomfortable and like they were trapping themselves (or being trapped) within a label that they did not want and could not ever be proud of and would either someday leave the board as the gender they should have been born with or, sigh, they would die.

I tried everything I could think of to convince them that being closeted in that way was not the way to change society. Hiding behind email or AIM was not the way to to make their own paths easier. Even when surrounded by a very large group of supportive women, straight, lesbian and bisexual, on a message board where they knew troll-like behavior was not tolerated at ALL they simply could not break out of the hatred for the label - the hatred for who they were, for how they'd been born or for how they were forced to live.

This group of people did not want an Us group, they wanted to be Them. It was very hard for me, a community builder, to accept that. I still have trouble with it but I realize now that by including them in the lesbian/bi community and then providing them with a community spot of their own I did what they needed me to do. They were surrounded by people who supported TGs and cared about them and saw them as real people. And they had a way to connect with each other in a way in which they still felt safe and felt like they would not be forever labeled TG.

Sometimes community building isn't about gathering large numbers of people like you, it's about gathering large numbers of people NOT like you while you remain on the fringe, quietly and invisibly gathering strength to simply keep living.