During this past year, I had many super experiences. I highlighted a few in my year in review. The absolute high points of this year involved making new friends. I have always contended we all have so much in common that there is a collective history we all relate. I am very grateful for the friendship and hospitality we shared.
I want to believe that much of the division and fracturing in our community has diminished. With that said I must mention one of this past year’s WTF experiences. Prior to arriving for one of my training/trips I was invited to attend a regional “support group" event. The group was not at all new to me in that many years ago, 20 to be exact, I had attended extended weekend events plus dinners with this group. I found the large group at that time to be fun and welcoming.
I have written in the past about the divisions that TRI-ESS has inflicted upon our community. Many of its members represent an older thinking and an exclusionary attitude of internalized transphobia and homophobia. One of the things that this group perpetuates is the separation from those who are "to trans". They want to make sure that people know they are just “crossdressers” and some go so far as to look and act the characterization.
In my naïveté I was thinking this attitude was so last century. Not the case. My invitation was to attend one of their annual “signature events” and was from an existing member in good standing; a blog friend. I was told that before I could attend, an interview was needed. The phone conversation arduous, probing, and detail. The first hint of what was to come. Not being a TRI-ESS member was clearly an issue. Not a subscriber to the doctrine was the big question.
As I look back now, I am not completely sure I was "granted permission" to attend. I just went with my friend.
Upon arriving at the restaurant, I pulled to the front and my host and I started to get out of the car. Immediately we were stopped by the parking valet and told the "side entrance" was where our group was entering. I got the distinct message, “Not the front door.” Why any group would tolerate this, I do not understand.
Individuals based on their comfort level should be free to choose, thus providing outreach opportunities.
The “room” was basically a large storage area with old tables and chairs arranged to accommodate maybe 40. The right side of the room is where the restaurant stored Christmas decorations. The entrance to the main eating area was blocked with a closed door and large folding screen. I was told, “We have our own restroom.” Message – do not go into the main dining room. The single restroom was more of a cleaning closet than restroom - Mops and buckets.
The website for this group, that will go unnamed, clearly states their exclusionary attitude:
Experience has shown that … cannot provide counseling and support to every part of the transgender spectrum as the needs are too varied and sometimes conflicting. Our expertise is in providing help to crossdressers and their loved ones. While we may maintain ties with those persons who are on a path to full transition, we cannot provide them with the support that their situation requires.
I sensed that some were uncomfortable with my presentation and outgoing nature. The fact that I clearly defined myself and wrote about the transgender experience, seemed to threaten. I volunteered to speak briefly and highlight the blog but no opportunity was provided. After dinner, a group, one hour mind-numbing game of “CLUE” was the night’s entertainment. Yes - "Colonel Mustard with a dagger in the billiard room." If only I could have been the lucky victim early in the evening. It the game had gone any longer, I would have been the perpetrator; "Rhonda, in the storage room with a butter knife."
The whole evening was not an endearing blast from the past. First: Why intelligent and “out” persons would allow a public venue to treat them in such a demeaning way is beyond me. Self-loathing abounding. Second: Why a person who could be reasonably attired, dresses in thrift store rejects just to make sure they look like stereotypical crossdressers, is absurd. Read and study what is acceptable fashion. If this is "crossdressing", know that this is not how modern women dress, regardless of size. Third: The accents may have been southern; the hospitality was not.
Anyone genuinely looking for support or tolerance, will find neither with this group.
The truth is that we all fit under the transgender umbrella. The sad truth is that some choose to not avail themselves to the insight, protection, and honor the umbrella provides. Very unfortunate. Enemies from within are the most destructive.
Note: This is not meant to throw aspersion on all TRI-ESS members. I have friends that are participants, organizers and board members. Over the years TRI-ESS served a purpose that was important. It provided a safe outlet for many to meet others for the first time on their proverbial "out of the closet" moment.
I founded two support groups. Neither of which were TRI-ESS groups. We were all inclusive.
However today, acceptance is the new normal and any who desire acceptance needs to practice acceptance. We are a diverse group, living in a diverse world.