J and I went to our first transgender support group meeting yesterday. Before the meeting we went to see the new Hunger Games movie, which was good, both in itself and because I was a little nervous about going to the support group for the first time. Nice to have some alone-time together first. I had forgotten how expensive movie theater snacks are, though. Holy cow! But I suppose ticket purchases alone aren’t enough for cinemas to meet their bottom line. It would be interesting to see how the finances work for that kind of business.
The transgender meeting went well, and I think we will go to it another time. It took place at a small community center that looked from the outside like somebody’s house. On the inside the place was all brochures, inspirational posters on the walls, and folding chairs. Rainbow banners fought for attention with holiday decorations. J and I picked folding chairs right next to a big, cheerfully decorated, plastic Christmas tree.
There were about a dozen of us at the meeting. Only three were not trans: myself, a guy from a local university who is studying counseling, and a cheerful-looking blond woman who had come as a support with her depressed friend. There was one ftm (female to male) transgendered person at the meeting, and the rest were all mtf (male to female). I am learning a whole new set of acronyms now. Maybe half of the mtf women wore heels and false nails. Pretty much all of them had immaculate make-up, and they were all very friendly. A couple of the people really passed well as female, although when they spoke their voices gave them away a bit. If I saw one of them on the streets I’m not sure whether I would recognize that they were transgendered. Others in the group (most of the people, to be honest) did not pass quite so convincingly. It was a combination of voice, masculine facial features, and (in a couple of cases) thinning hair that gave them away. J has a strong jawline as well as the beginnings of male pattern baldness (revealing itself in the slightly receding hairline around his temples), but his shoulder-length hair looks good on him and he’s not obviously balding yet. I’ll like him whether he is able to “pass” or not, but I do worry that he will be disappointed if he is never able to pass 100%.
During the meeting my attention kept getting drawn across the room to one girl, Marie. While everybody took turns talking she was quietly folding and refolding a dollar bill, making paper airplanes. She was the only mtf who wasn’t wearing makeup, although she had a feminine hairstyle, a necklace, and wore a dressy black top with her blue jeans. Sort of a low-key cross-dresser, and that along with the paper airplanes somehow reminded me of J. We later found out she worked with computers, and I think maybe it was also something about that I had recognized in her attitude. J used to work with computers too. Same thing with J’s brother, and J’s old best friend from high school. They’re all of them smart, somewhat self-contained, a little critical of others, and unabashedly interested in the things they’re interested in. J is certainly like that, and those characteristics, along with his frank style of communication, are things I’m comfortable with.
The meeting lasted for about two hours and was pretty informal. One of the mtf women was the group’s mediator, moving things along, and everybody just took turns talking about anything they felt like talking about. Then the rest of the group would give advice or share similar stories. A couple of the people in the group were dealing with some serious depression and difficult situations in their lives. Most of the group members had been in similar places before, but seemed comfortable with who they are and where their lives our now. There was a lot of discussion about hormone treatment methods, which I didn’t really understand, and a lot of name-dropping of doctors and treatment centers. A little disturbing was the lack of understanding hospitals in southern Idaho seem to have for the transgender community. People also talked about their churches, and which ones were and weren’t understanding of their lifestyle. That part of the discussion wasn’t really relevant to J and I, because we aren’t religious.
When it came to our turn J didn’t talk much. I gave a basic run-through of our relationship history and how I was here to support J and see how far he wants to take this transitioning thing. J did ask a bit about electrolysis, since mtf or not he hates shaving and eventually wants to get rid of his facial hair. Basically it sounds like it is a very painful process (some group members likened the removal of each individual hair to getting stung by a bee, or having somebody snap a rubber band at your face), but one that yields worthwhile results. I don’t envy J whenever he ends up going through with that.
The evening ended with most of us eating out at Chilli’s, which is a tradition with this group. The food was good and I love eating out, but J and I both agreed afterward that if we continue to go to these meetings we’ll just share an appetizer next time. We need to be a little conservative with our budget right now. The oddest part of the evening for me? A couple of the group members came up to us separately and admitted that, when we first showed up at the meeting, they hadn’t taken us for a traditional married couple. One person had initially assumed we were a lesbian couple and that J was undergoing a female-to-male transition. Another person had initially thought I was beginning a female-to-male transition (to be fair I am tall, have short hair, am not overtly feminine, or, at this point, overtly pregnant). Both of these people were a little embarrassed when they said this, but really, considering we had all just spent two hours talking about sex-change surgeries, breast implants, and the effect of hormones on libido, their admissions seemed more funny than outrageous.