The support groups run by Tauranga organisation Gender Dynamix have helped at least one mother to support her son be himself.
Gender Dynamix runs support groups for transgender and gender questioning adults on Mondays from 5-7pm and for their families on Wednesdays from 5-7pm at The Kollective in the Historic Village.
One mother, who met organisation founder Julia Linde in an education forum around 18 months ago, says the group has helped to ‘normalise’ her feelings.
She told The Weekend Sun there is a sort of grief that comes when your child tells you they are transgender.
“You’re grieving for a lost daughter, even though they’re right there.
“You grieve for the white wedding and the children all while supporting this child who is anxious and depressed and trying to work out who they are.
“Having a support group and other parents going through the same thing normalises that feeling.”
She says it was a shock when her son came out. She knew he was questioning something because he was going to Rainbow Youth for some time before telling her, but she didn’t expect this.
“I feel he’s always been very girly with his mannerisms and interests but I’ve learned to stop putting things in boxes and he might just be a girly boy.
“At the end of the day I don’t care as long as my child is happy in their skin and loved.”
Julia says she was motivated to start the support groups to fill a gap in the community.
“There’s people for youth to go to but we found that if you’re just a little bit older in Tauranga there was nothing.”
As for the parents’ group, Julia describes it as “a place you can come and ask those hairy questions without having your kid in front of you”.
“Quite often there is stuff you want to discuss that you need to be prepared for but don’t want your kid to see or hear.”
The support groups have been running for about a year now and Julia is pleased with the attendance rate but is still concerned.
“What worries me is the people that are not there. They are quite often the people that need help that can’t or won’t access it for whatever reason.”
Julia is transgender herself and says she has had a mixed experience in Tauranga.
“At one end you’ve got super accepting people and at the other you’ve got real bigoted people. You seem to ping pong between those.”
She says the workplace is a specific area that is challenging for many trans people.
When a transgender person changes their name, the one they were assigned at birth is often referred to as a ‘dead name’ and is no longer used or referenced. This can cause issues when their educational and work record is now under the incorrect name.
“A person may have this awesome work history and then come out at 30 and not be able to use it,” Julia says. “Or they leave that employment because they wanted to come out and didn’t feel safe doing so.”
Looking towards the future, Julia says she would like to see Gender Dynamix minimise this issue by implementing a mentoring programme for transgender people to gain work experience.
There are a number of things Julia thinks Tauranga needs to change to help make trans members of our community feel their safest and happiest, including creating more gender-neutral bathrooms and actively promoting inclusive workplace policies.
She recognises that these things take infrastructure, time and money to come into effect so does not expect to see an immediate change, but is looking forward to seeing it happen over time.
In the meantime, Julia encourages people to get involved at the Tauranga Moana Pride Picnic on Saturday, March 8.
The event promises music acts, giveaways and other fun activities.