Trans Feminine Circle a safe haven in stormy times
Holly Williams (she/her), long-time participant and former co-facilitator of Rainbow's Trans Feminine Circle.
Despite a surge in acceptance of gender diverse people, recent months have also seen a sharp increase in discrimination and violence against trans women. For a world that has suddenly become more terrifying, Rainbow Resource Centre’s Trans Feminine Circle (Trans Feminine) is a safe haven in the storm, a place where trans women—no matter where they are on their journeys—can find understanding, acceptance, and community.
Holly Williams (she/her), long-time participant and former co-facilitator, worked hard in her 15-month tenure as co-facilitator to ensure participants feel welcome and safe. After all, she remembers first attending the group herself more than a decade ago and running away in fear when the meeting was over.
Holly's journey of self-acceptance, finding community, and taking on leadership roles led her to return to Rainbow Resource Centre to co-facilitate Trans Feminine. Despite how clear this path seems, it wasn't easy for her to come back and lead a group. "Coming back to Rainbow and leading the very group that scared me away so long ago became a beast for me to slay," she says. "It was a way to help others going through what I have. And now, I’m proud to say that the beast has been slain."
Her primary goal was to ensure no one runs away in fear like she did—and while she can't be sure that hasn't happened in her time as co-facilitator, the doubling of attendance numbers indicates she and her co-facilitator were doing something right.
Trans Feminine meets on the third Friday of the month at Rainbow Resource Centre. While the recent move to the Centre's new home at 545 Broadway has led to some re-jigging of how programming works due to the different physical layout, the goal remains the same: provide space for folks to find the fun and peer support they need.
Peer support can come in the form of in-depth discussions on experiences, feelings, and navigating relationships—after all, the best advice and support usually comes from someone who has gone through the same thing.
Holly says, “Discussions could be related to the trans experience, gender dysphoria, internalized transphobia, self-acceptance, challenges with family, living in the closet, working as a trans person, discrimination they face, the list goes on." But sometimes the challenges are a little more light-hearted. "They could also be silly (such as eyeliner and nail polish woes)."
Peer support is vital, but community is often formed through shared laughs and casual hangouts.
Celebrating achievements are crucial to Holly. "There is much to celebrate in these journeys, and we want to ensure they are recognized by the group." These achievements could be coming out to the world, a kid calling their parent "mom" instead of "dad", or successfully getting through a transition-related surgery. Big or small, every success is worth celebrating.
For Holly, it's important to have fun at meetings, too. Peer support is vital, but community is often formed through shared laughs and casual hangouts. Trans Feminine meetings will often find participants sitting around and catching up, or perhaps competing with a roll of the dice in a board game.
Though Holly and her co-facilitator have both recently stepped away from leading the Trans Feminine Circle, she feels good about the decision. Their goal right from the start had been to get the group on good footing and upskill participants to take on leadership roles. All plans aside, it was difficult to finally step away. "We had spent over a year building the Trans Feminine Circle, it was our baby."
At a recent meeting, the first for the new co-facilitators, Holly knew she had done the right thing and all her fears melted away. The group under the new facilitators ran smoothly with nearly two dozen people chatting and laughing and playing board games.
"It was perfect," Holly says.
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