Why is The Center so important to me?
My name is Jessica and I am a transgender woman.
Since the age of four I struggled with my gender identity. My teens and early adult years were particularly difficult. Growing up in the 70s and 80s I couldn’t just pop down to the local library and find information on how I felt or what it meant. My only sources of input were family, friends and teachers. But being trans was a huge taboo. You just didn’t talk about it. But if you did, how much knowledge did any of these people possess? And even if they had correct information, how would I approach them?
So I spent my days with insecurity, doubt and frustration. The end result for me was suppressing my identity. I made sure to rid myself of telltale signs, learned the “proper” way to act and became the person society expected me to be. For decades I played the stalwart soldier, the dutiful father and the attentive husband. Not that those pursuits are negative or distasteful. In general, we should strive toward such behavior. But I was living a lie! I hid behind a mask of social acceptability and the smoke and mirrors of what others thought I should be. After more than 40 years of pretending, the cracks began to show in my psyche and I nearly ended my life.
How wonderful access to a place like The Center would have been. I wish I had someplace like this available to me when I was much younger. To have a place where I could talk with those having firsthand knowledge; to have a library where I would research the feelings I held; to have a group of people willing to come to my school and educate the educators, would have been immensely beneficial to me.
Even now, years after the fact, The Center is a source of support for me. Transition can be a difficult journey and nobody should have to go it alone. The support groups here are extremely beneficial. And while I am finally at peace with myself, there are others who are not. At The Center I can find current materials to share with family and friends. Furthermore, The Center provides advocacy while dealing with social inequalities and corporate ignorance. On a personal level, this organization continues to provide guidance and instruction as I work through difficulties with local facilities and the recognition of my “new” identity.
Overall, The Center is a safe space. It is an area where people of the LGBTQ community can gather knowing they will not be judged, condemned or under threat of violence. Here we are valued and treated like human beings. It is a place where we can live and grow and become our whole, healthy selves. I cannot think of any other organization within 50 miles that provides similar services.
I encourage all who identify as part of the LGBTQ community, their friends and family, and all our allies to stop in and see what The Center does on a regular basis. Become a part of our family. And if you find value in the services provided, take time to help support this organization by donating and/or volunteering.