My Debt to the Trans* Community

Jul 9, 2021 | 2014 Winter - The Bi *Trans* Connection

By Angélique Gravely

The first time I felt the urge to be vocal about my bisexuality was in a transgender support group. I still remember the mix of anxiety and eagerness that pumped through my body as my roommate and I made our way that night from our suburban Christian college into the Philly Gayborhood. The easiest way for me to wrap my mind around what I was doing was to compare it to my favorite musical, Rent. Like Mark, I was going into a support group for people different from me for a project. Unlike Mark, I was doing this project for class rather than personal reasons. In retrospect, though, that’s debatable.

It’s true that I was attending the group in order to fulfill a class assignment, but it was my personal questions that had led me to select trans* issues over other potential topics. I wanted to understand more about the people whom I’d viewed as distant concepts until college. I wanted to know if exposure to the LGBTQ community could help me solidify my shifting beliefs and identity. I had committed to the assignment not just for class, but also for me.

Waiting in the small group room with my roommate that night, I couldn’t focus on any of those personal motivations. I was too distracted by my questions about the group. What would it be like? How many people would there be? Would we be the only allies during the open hour? Did that matter?

By the time more people started trickling into the room, I had convinced myself that I had made a mistake by coming. Somehow, they’d be able to sense that we weren’t connected to the LGBTQ community, and they’d kick us out. Or, if by some miracle they didn’t realize immediately, they’d know as soon as I told them why I’d come. Then they’d kick us out.

As we all introduced ourselves, I waited for the inevitable moment of being told to leave, but it never came. Instead, I was encouraged to stay and listen to what the group members wanted people to know about being trans*. I learned how they realized they were trans*, how they’d tried other identities, and how they’d handled a range of reactions from family members. I learned about some of the frustrating moments in their journeys of acceptance, as well as the encouraging ones. And in the process, I realized that we weren’t as disconnected as I had thought.

These were kind, hilarious people who were simply trying to find a place where they belonged and an identity that felt right. Sitting with them in that group, I could no longer deny my own search for those things. Like some of them, I had been living with a label that didn’t quite fit because it seemed easier to explain to myself and to those around me. I had been lying to myself, because I wanted to believe that despite all the signs, I was something other than what I was. That night, for the first time in my life, I didn’t want to lie to myself anymore.

As they spoke, I could feel the word “bisexual” rising in my throat. I could feel a description of the confusion and forced silence of the past few years of my life organizing in my head. But then, I looked at my roommate and I remembered everything I would risk by saying that word out loud—my friends, my reputation, my entire sense of community on campus—and I kept my mouth shut.

I buried the urge to speak underneath my interest in the lives of the trans men sitting around me and my need to do well on my assignment, but I never forgot that moment of almost coming out in a transgender support group. I never forgot how comforting it felt to sit in a circle of people accepting themselves and to feel encouraged to accept myself as well. Because of that moment, I found the courage to come out at a women’s studies program a month later. Because of that moment, I found the strength to join the LGBTQ community. That moment firmly planted me on the path to a proud bisexual existence, and for that, I will be forever indebted to the trans* community and especially to the five men who welcomed me and my roommate that night two years ago.

Angélique is a recent college graduate and blog editor for her alma mater’s alumni-run LGBTQ support organization, OneEastern.

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