16 July, 2011

1:15 pm
Alexandria, Virginia

I went to a new support group last night, MAGIC. I’m not sure how they got the name but it stands for Metro Area Gender Identity Connection and bares no connection to the card/battling game of the same moniker. MAGIC seems like a solid group. I liked Jessica, my contact person from the group. She was very articulate and seemed to have her life put together. I would trust her opinion on things. Others in the group seemed equally organized and confident. Also, I was not the only new member and there were some, though members longer than I, not as far along in the process as I am. The ages range from early/mid-twenties to late fifties/early sixties. There is a slight aura of self-absorption, but that is the case with any support group.

Halfway through the meeting a co-founder of the group twenty-five years ago arrived and attempted to usurp the group’s attention. The person (identifies female but for reasons of attitude and behavior I can’t help but think of as male) is a biker straight out of a 1960s B biker-flick (Biker Chick Pricks Ride Through). Rough, crude, greasy, arrogant, and almost completely self-orientated. A bit of a frightening presence. And I believe zer  to have tipped the bottle before coming.

There was talk of surgeries both SRS, which left me feeling wistful and overwhelmed with a general anxiety that I will never achieve it, and FFS, which given the descriptions of pain, swelling, bruising, and general procedures (cutting bone and flesh out, carving the face up like a hunk of whittling wood) I would never even consider doing. This discussion started off useful but after twenty minutes boiled down to graphic and stomach churning details.

Other topics were also addressed. Actually, how they addressed topics is worth mentioning. They didn’t call on people nor did they wait for someone to blurt something out. At the beginning of the meeting they passed a clipboard around and interested persons wrote down questions or topics they wanted addressed in the meeting. This was quite effectual and helped keep the group focused. Anytime discussion wandered from the topic or got too detailed—as with the facial surgery discussion—the clipboard could be invoked to bring the focus back to supporting the community. It was very much like the conch shell in Lord of the Flies.

Topics addressed that I found useful revolved around body image, feeling fake, and knowing/figuring-out who you are. I commented once on a younger, part-time gal’s question about the usefulness of solitude in figuring out who you are. The Biker interrupted me with some rude comments designed to draw attention to hirself but Jessica was quick to shut hir up. I briefly explained (three quick sentences) how I found journaling effective in producing solitude and reflection and that it didn’t take a trip to the remote areas of Alaska to achieve solitude.

The meeting went till ten, a several women went to a nearby diner to socialize, but I was too socially anxious and exhausted by that point to join them. The next meeting is in a month, but I will be in Minnesota then, so I’ll have to wait till mid-September for the next one I can attend.

One of the largest impacts the group had on my thinking did not originate from what they said, but from who they were. To be in a room with so many other women going through or having gone through my experiences was at first overwhelming and, oddly, slightly off-putting (I think this springs from years of denying who I am to myself) but looking around at the variety of experiences and physical appearances eased those feelings. Some I know think the myriad ways of being transsexual/transgendered underscore the impossibility of community, but I found it enhanced the connections between the group members. The ability to retain individuality in the midst of shared experience is a vital and enriching component in community. Something all communities (regardless of gender or any other labeling concept) need to hold firmly before them.

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