Friday, 29 January 2016

Groups and Organisations

There are a few groups and organisations that support the people who are transgendered. Some of these are support groups and some of these are forums or dating/friendship sites. Some started as Yahoo groups, some of which have moved to proper websites nowadays and some actually started on a website which have been improved a lot over the years. The 2 main ones for us in those early days were Roses Forum and The Angels. It was good to see the support and advice that was being offered and it was being in touch with these sites that probably helped Lucy make her first steps out of our home into the real world all those years ago. Certainly it was down to events that were arranged by The Angels that introduced us to our beloved Pink Punters.

Back in the early days (15+ years ago) there was really not much for partners at all. You would get the occasional partner who may comment on some of the forums but they were specifically for the transgendered partner. Being the sort of person that I am, I enjoyed being on these forums and seeing what all the issues good and bad that were being discussed. I got to know a few partners on The Angels site who had been there longer than me and muted the idea of a separate (but connected) private forum for partners where they could discuss issues privately and away from the main TG forums. A few people thought this was a good idea and the moderators set up a separate Yahoo group which was for partners only. This was great as many of us could go on there and discuss issues which were specific to being a partner of someone who is transgendered. There were many confidential issues discussed and a problem shared is certainly a problem halved. Through this particular forum I did make some lasting friendships even though our circumstances were not exactly the same it was nice to be in touch with new people who had an understanding of how I might be feeling but also people I could empathise with.

The Angels grew so much it eventually moved away from Yahoo and onto a proper website with better forum capabilities. When doing this they also moved the partner forum into a chat room of its own which although is accessed through the main forums can only be accessed by partners and not open to the TG partners.

These days there are more organisations online that are supportive to the TG community and all the variations this brings (gender non-conforming, non-binary, non-gender etc) and then there are the dating/friendship sites that have grown too. Seems there is quite a big community for dating and it does not matter where you are on the transition route, if at all.

The issue for me now though is that some of the people in the partners forums I know personally and have met quite a few times. Sometimes you do not want to discuss issues or how you are feeling with people who know you and your family. One of the reasons I enjoy writing this blog is that it just gives me the opportunity to express how I am feeling and to be read hopefully by people who are not judging me. One of the partners from the old days is in occasional contact with me but I know she does not understand the whole transitioning thing and said that if it was her she couldn’t stay with her husband (these days her husband doesn’t dress at all but still visits forums and occasionally goes to events but in male mode).

To be fair it is not that I necessarily need anyone to confide in (I have Lucy and she is my best friend and soulmate) but I do like to understand the challenges other people are facing and how they are handling the situation as you never know, it may relate to us one day. These days The Angels partners forum is very much quieter than it used to be and it seems that not many people want to post anything or maybe they feel that there is not enough activity in the forum so don’t post as they think they won’t get a response. However the other day I did notice a post from someone late last year mentioning another organisation which is specifically for partners of TG so I thought I would have a look and see what it is all about.

I was quite disappointed to see that although they have a website, everything for communicating with each other is done through a Yahoo group and it seems that just to even join is like getting into Fort Knox! I’m pretty sure that this alone would put off quite a few people. Their main forums are for non-TG only (they use the word transsexual which is not the right word as your gender has nothing to do with your sexuality) and it was the use of this word alone that made me feel uneasy. They have Family (only for family and friends of TG but not partners) and a MTF-Partners and FTM-Partners ‘list’ (partners of TG only) and then they do have a Community list which is open to TG. According to the information supplied there are 163 partners on the MTF-Partners list. The website clearly stated that it was UK based and would only take requests from UK.

So….. to join you click on the website link which routes you back to Yahoo groups where you have to send a request to join. The request to join asks that you give a reason in 200 characters why you want to join the group. No problem except it turns out 200 characters is hardly anything at all and to be honest what other details could they possibly need other than the fact I am the wife of a TG husband?? Anyway filled in as much as 200 characters would allow and sent the request.

A day later I received a generic and impersonal email (addressed Dear Applicant) which asked 3 questions, my reason for joining the group, whether I am UK based and to read the rules and code of conduct and agree to be bound by them. To be honest the whole tone of the email I found slightly offensive. I cannot put my finger on it but that was how it made me feel. Probably the footer of the email didn’t help that if I did not reply within 7 days my application would be denied. Why should I have to give more justification to join a group who at this stage I have no idea if they will be of any benefit or use to me? Why SHOULD I have to justify who I am and what my situation is and why else would I want to join this sort of group? At this point I nearly backed off again completely. I have enough going on in my life with Lucy and everything else and really didn’t want to be forced into giving more detail out to people I don’t know. I typed a bit of a curt response stating that I had already told them I am the partner of a TG husband so was not sure what else they needed to know. Added a few details about how long I had known etc but at this point was not just feeling any love or friendship from this group. Two days later I received several emails stating I had been subscribed, how to use the forum advice and a welcome email, again all generic and another email asking why I wanted to join…… really!!????  I fired off another curt response as by this time I was really not impressed with any of this process. They responded a day later saying that it was an error. Did not fill me with confidence. All this just to join a chat forum.......

Eventually I was able to view the group in Yahoo. It is a typical old fashioned Yahoo group and the threads are difficult to follow as they show like an email inbox and the messages are email trails. It seems a little more active than The Angels. It is such a shame that it is in this format as a couple of the topics do seem interesting and relevant. I think I will need to sit on the sidelines and watch the topics for a while before posting the introduction they expect me to do. Watch this space!
Found another relevant group on Yahoo so will have a nosey around that one too. Just sent a request and got a much friendlier generic response. This does make me feel more positive about this group.

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