There is a hashtag that a girl like us uses on social media. The tag, conveniently enough, is #girlslikeus. This tag is used to bring attention to our community for the purpose of relatable problems, whether it’s trivial such as getting frustrated that Target doesn’t normally carry heels in sizes larger that an 11, or more serious issues like our president slowly and methodically stripping our rights away from us. It’s a tag that is used for personal pride, like when you take an amazing selfie, accomplishing something amazing (like finding heels at Target that fit) or just a way for our community to connect with each other.
It’s important that we have support, and it’s important that we have each other’s backs. It’s very challenging to understand who we are, not only to others but also to ourselves. But we don’t have to explain who we are to girls like us. Sure, being trans might mean something different to each of us and we all have similar journeys but we might have different destinations. I’m done. I’m at the end of my journey. I went from underdressing to where I am today. I am no longer discovering who I am. I have found myself, I have accepted myself, I have created myself.
But you might still be on your journey. Maybe you just accepted yourself. Maybe you just left the house for the first time. Maybe you just told your wife. Maybe you just started hormones. Maybe you just received your updated birth certificate. Our journeys start and stop. We might rest for years between next steps. We may want different thngs at different points of our lives. There are no timelines to any of this. You are never too old to start anything. It’s not too late. Besides wearing opaque stockings with open toe heels, there’s no wrong way to be transgender.
The point I am trying to make is that t-girls get it. We may not understand ourselves, but we understand each other. I don’t really know why I like to dress, but I know why you do. We all remember the thrill of when we first tried on heels or panties or lipstick. We remember how less alone we felt when we learned the word ‘transgender’. There are others like us! So many like us that there is a word for us! We all can relate to the tension between us and the cashier as they rang up a dress when we first started to build a wardrobe. We all have had the same conversations with our partners when we came out.
At some point in our journey (and for the record I want to say that I hate that word but it’s probably the most fitting and relatable), we find that we want support. We want to talk to someone. We may have spent decades in our heads wrestling with this side of us and we need to sort it out. Or shout it out. Or cry about it, whether it is because we are scared about this means, or cry from relief that we have accepted this part of us, or tears of joy.
It’s hard for someone else to understand who and why we are. They may want to support us but they will likely have questions. It’s important that we are patient and honest with the people in our lives that we come out to. Being patient is hard, though. I think one of the reasons I am not out to more people is because it takes a lot of energy to do that. I know what questions they’ll ask, I know there will be a conversation about how my wife reacted and what she thinks, and discussing what being trans means to me.
Just typing that part exhausted me.
I don’t feel I need support from anyone in my life that I haven’t already come out to. Yes, sometimes I would like to be out to more people but I don’t feel a burning or desperate yearning to do so. The truth is I never really felt that I needed support from many people. I wanted acceptance and, more than anything, friendship. I wanted Hannah to have someone to shop with or talk to. Not only is my wife the love of my life, she is also my best friend…in both of my genders.
I think it’s important for a t-girl to have other t-girls for friends. Not only to have someone to hit the mall with, but it’s important to have someone who absolutely gets it. I never have asked another t-girl why they are who they are. It’s none of my business anyway. I’ve never been asked that either. We don’t need to have that conversation. We already know what we would say.
I talk to a lot of t-girls on different points in their journey (ugh, that word). It’s exciting when we first come out because accepting yourself is one of the hardest and most wonderful things you can do. It’s also the time when we will make the most mistakes. These mistakes can be bigger than wearing opaque stockings with open toe heels. We will often get lost in the pink fog and make bad decisions.
One of the biggest mistakes we make is overwhelming our partners. Most of us want our partners to know about us, we want their support, and we want them to…well, participate. What participation means is different for all of us. Some of us want our wives to teach us how to do makeup, pick out a wig, hit the town, or have a girls nights in. I see too many of us tell our partners about this, and then the next day we tell them we want to go out en femme and the day after that we ask them to come with us. It’s easy to understand why our partners are wondering what’s next or where all this is going. Being who we are can be lonely. We want friends. We want to know girls like us. We feel we are the only ones like us. We have no one to talk to about this. On that note, our partners often feel that way, too.
When we come out we are opening up and discussing feelings and experiences we have been silent on for years. We are so ready for what’s next. But our partners aren’t. They are processing what we just told them and they need time to sort it out. Understanding this part of us is not simple. We don’t understand ourselves and we have had our entire lifetime to figure it out. Our partners need more than a couple hours, or a weekend, or a decade to let it sink in.
The most important thing we can, and should do is be open and transparent with ourselves and our partners. It’s also important for girls like us to be friends with girls like us so we have others to talk to about this. Again, we should avoid overwhelming our partner and it’s easy to do so if they are the only person we talk to about this.
So, how do we do make friends?
I don’t need to tell you about this new thing called the world wide web. It’s a wonderful way to connect with others. Of course, if your partner has requested that this side of you doesn’t have social media accounts, you had best respect that boundary. It drives me crazy when t-girls tell me they have a Facebook profile that their wife doesn’t know about. Don’t do this. Seriously.
You can create profiles and chat online at places like crossdressers.com, The Gender Society and urnotaone.com. Even just chatting and posting on the forums can give you support and friendship. I spent a lot of time online in the early days and found it helpful to read about others like me and I gained a lot of information about everything from beard cover and color correcting to understanding what our partners are feeling.
I met girls online that I later met in real life. In fact, one of the first times I went out was to meet up with someone I met online. I hope I don’t need to explain why you shouldn’t meet someone at a hotel room or at their house. If you are meeting someone you know from the internet, meet in a public place.
When I was ready to make friends, I started attending a local support group. There are a few in Minneapolis and I went to two different ones off and on for a few months. One of those groups was PFLAG and I am willing to bet you can find a PFLAG support group near you. Going to the groups was wonderful. If anything, they help me get used to going out en femme. I built confidence and it soon became second nature to get in and out of a car wearing a skirt, walking in heels outside, and interacting with people as Hannah.
After a few months, I started to feel that the groups weren’t right for me anymore. All t-girls are different and are at different points in their lives. Some had just started hormones, some were there with their wives as they were both struggling and coming to terms with this, some just had gender affirmation surgery and just hit the reset button on life. I wasn’t conflicted about who I was, I didn’t want to live full-time and I wasn’t about to transition. I was no longer looking for support, it was time to make friends.
I talked to my wife one night after a meeting. I felt ready to start going out to other places besides the support groups. I was ready to move from seeking support to finding a social circle. A group to shop with, go out to dinner with, and just do…stuff. Places to go that weren’t built around gender identity. I didn’t want to just frequent gay bars or drag shows, I wanted to go to the mall and Starbucks.
So, my wife suggested I start a group like that. And I did. As of this writing, the MN T-Girls has existed for almost six years. It started small like most things do, but the group now has hundreds of members from all over the state, the midwest, even girls from outside of the area who travel to the Twin Cities on a regular basis.
The first step in creating the group was to decide what kind of group we would be. This was kind of like writing a mission statement. I remembered the first time I went out and how scared I was. I could think of nothing but the sad and horrific and terrifying stories of girls like me getting harassed, attacked, or worse. These instances understandably stop many of us from leaving our living rooms. So, safety in numbers became the driving force behind the group. Not only safety from those who may hurt us, but the security we give each other when we know we are not the only ones like us.
The second goal of the group was to create a social circle for those like myself. Most of the members of the group are secure in who they are. Most know where they are in their journey. Most members of the group live comfortably with their gender identities and go back and forth between them. In 80% of their lives they are husbands and fathers but every other Saturday they strut out of their closet looking fabulous. Most of us are out to our partners.
Sure, support for each other is a given. It’s not uncommon for members to talk about something they, or their partner, is struggling with. Our shared experiences help each other and offer a perspective we may not have had before. So, I guess I created a support group after all. But I like to think the group offers a social part that many of us need. The group meets once a month and we have different adventures. Sometimes it’s the group going out to dinner, or attending a play, visiting a museum, annual holiday parties, or going to a pride festival. We’ve had a lot of private shopping events where businesses will host our group after hours which gives us an opportunity to shop for everything from lingerie to shoes to clothes to accessories. Our most popular and requested events are the private makeup lessons that I organize at least once a year.
Our first event was meeting for coffee at a cafe owned by a transwoman. There were about five of us there. Today the group has close to 300 members. Growing the membership was one of the hardest parts of starting the group. I had been blogging for a couple years at this point so I had a little following. I was active on forums and had attended local support groups and knew a few girls like me. I wrote about the group on my site, I told others about it at the support groups I attended and soon word spread. After a few months of, well, recruiting I guess, we had our first meet up.
The group was formed for girls like us to find and make friends with others like us. I wanted to meet other girls like me, I wanted to shop with girls like me. There wasn’t a local group that offered that, so I created one. I’m glad I have the group and thankful for the friends I met because of it. I get emails from t-girls from all over the country looking for a group like this. I encourage them to start one. It takes dedication, consistency, and probably a kind of madness to do something like this, but it can be done.
I keep the group going because I know how important it is for me to have friends who are like me. It’s important to every girl like us. I wholly believe the group is a form of activism in a way. We are showing the world that girls like us go out to dinner, shop, and do whatever everyone does because #girlslikeus are just like everyone else.