These action-oriented articles function as starting points for trans people and those questioning their gender identities who live rurally, remotely, or in small communities, and are looking for resources, support, and trans community.
Part 2: Finding an in-person trans social network & community
If you are living rurally, remotely, or in a small town, and are thinking about transitioning or in the process of doing so, you may feel isolated. Perhaps it seems as though there is no one else like you nearby and that no one you know will accept you for who you really are. Isolation is not easy to bare and it can also take a toll on wellbeing. Though the internet offers many opportunities to connect online with trans people living in different locations, supportive and safe in-person interactions are important. Most of us thrive when we are accepted and included in community, and have strong social connections. The good news is there are things you can do to find and connect with people like you, and to build community. Here are four ideas to get you started:
1) Find an LGBTQ2SIA+ group:
Seek out local LGBTQ2SIA+ groups in your surrounding area. Hopefully, a group exists that is tailored to trans and other gender variant people. If this is the case, attend if you can. Unfortunately, for people living rurally, remotely, or in small towns such groups do not always (or often) exist nearby. There may be a gay or lesbian group nearby, for example, but it may not yet include people of diverse sexualities and gender identities. If you attend a group that doesn’t feel validating of your gender identity, your first step might be to look for an ally there or someone else like you. Chances are you are not alone. Connect with them privately. This may be the beginning of a strong friendship and together you may eventually help the organization become more trans-inclusive. If there is no group at all in your surrounding area, you may consider starting one if and when you feel ready and safe enough to do so.
2) Connect with a Trusted Friend or Community Member:
Trusted friends and allies can be valuable supports for people questioning their gender identities or transitioning. Reflect on who has shown you over time that they are open-minded, kind, and can be trusted with confidential information. Keep in mind that sometimes people who have known you for a long time can have mixed reactions when you come out to them as trans. They may take a while to adjust. If you are looking for initial support, you may first want to turn to someone you trust who is not invested in a specific version of you like a parent might be. Also, try to seek out people who may identify or you’ve heard might be gender variant. However, this may not be possible given your geographical location. Remember, people of all genders can make great allies.
Once you’ve established a connection with a person (or several) and they’ve shown that they are accepting of you, you will begin to find your world opens. If the people you connect with want to be supportive, but aren’t sure how, consider sharing the wonderful video below with them by the incredible trans Youtuber (from a small town) Stef Sanjati about “How to Help Trans Friends”. If the people you connect with happen to be trans, they will likely have experiences and information to share with you. You may want to try out names and pronouns with them privately. They may also have friends that you will meet and connect with, and eventually you may know more trans people than you ever thought possible.
3) Out of Town Groups:
If you can afford to take a trip every so often (or have someone who can drive you), find a support or social group in a city that you can travel to. This is especially important if there is no nearby trans-inclusive group to attend. Even if the group is a few hours away, it can be worth the travel to be with others like you. In Victoria, the social group South Island Gender Variant Drop In Group meets monthly and is for people with a range of gender identities. By attending an out of town group when you can, you will not only meet new friends and connections, but you will also gain access to information and resources that will help you in your journey. Also, while you are in the city, you can try on different versions of gender more anonymously and see what works for you.
4) Camps & Conferences:
Another way to get to meet many people with varying gender identities is to attend a summer camp or conference. Being surrounded by trans and other gender variant people in these settings can be a transformative experience. Many also have scholarships available to help offset the cost of attending. If you can afford to do so, attending one of these events might be just what you need.
Every summer, UBC organizes CampOut, an amazing bonding opportunity on Gambier Island for LGBTQ2SIA+ youth and allies ages 14-21. There are also some great conferences to attend such as Gender Odyssey in Seattle and LA. Locally, every two years the University of Victoria (which has the world’s largest transgender archives) hosts a conference called Moving Trans History Forward. The conference is more academic in nature, but non-academics will still gain a lot from attending. All of the conferences have this in common: you’ll meet people like you, learn more than you can imagine, and experience incredible speakers and presenters!
Wherever you live, remember, you are not alone. It may take time — a lot more than you’d like — but eventually you will build a social network and community of trans people and allies.