We may miss the company of people standing next to us, but in the case of support groups, their newfound online presence has opened local groups everywhere to worldwide audiences. Paradoxically, this development has actually multiplied the opportunity to socialize (albeit on video calls) with those with shared experiences.
Support groups, (and their cousin, self-help groups) can be defined as groups in which “members who share a problem come together to provide help, comfort, and guidance.” Groups can be started by individuals, grassroots organizations, or non-profits, but are generally formed around shared experiences, like trauma, trans identity, or mental illness.
Support groups can be particularly valuable to trans survivors because they center connection. Because both the experiences of trans identity and survivorship can be marked by isolation and alienation from others, connection with others who have had similar experiences can be profoundly healing.
Before the pandemic, we only had access to support groups in communities where we live. Therefore, folks in rural or isolated areas might not have access to trans support groups, contributing to a sense of isolation. And those with multiple marginalized identities (like trans survivors, trans people with disabilities, or trans people of color) might not have been able to find a group that meets their specific needs. But with so many support groups moving online, it has become possible to find the community you’ve been longing for.
More about Support Groups
Some groups are open, which means anyone can attend any session, and others are closed, which means that a cohort of people moves through the group sessions and no one can join once they start. If you are exploring groups for the first time, open groups are a good place to start.
Groups also lie on a spectrum from structured to unstructured. More structured groups include information, curricula, and a focus on specific topics, while those on the unstructured end of the spectrum are centered on open conversation. During the pandemic, FORGE has been hosting structured online events focused on learning skills.
Is the group open to you?
Before attending a group, make sure you got the criteria to attend. Some groups are just for people who hold a specific identity (for example, trans survivors) and some groups are also open to allies and/or loved ones.
What if your home isn’t a safe place to participate in a trans support group?
Many support groups for survivors and/or trans people recognize that participants may live in homes that are not fully safe alongside people who are harming them. Here are some ideas on how to participate in groups while quarantining in an unsafe environment:
- Email the group facilitator/organizer ahead of time to express your concerns and ask how to participate safely
- To preserve your privacy within your home during group, consider wearing headphones, turning your microphone off, and participating by text chat
- Learn digital security skills to protect yourself and your devices
How to find a group you’re looking for:
- Here is a listing of groups
- Check out LGBTQ centers
- Look into organizations for LGBTQ survivors. Here is a listing
- If searching online, use creative search terms. Are you looking to connect with folks with a very specific experience (i.e. survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder), try searching for it! What you’re looking for might be out there.
While the pandemic has taken away many opportunities to gather, it has also offered new ones in the form of online support groups worldwide. With the bravery to show up in new spaces and the creativity to find them, trans survivors can use this time to find the communities we need to thrive.