I thought being trans was a curse until I went to a meeting with people who were just like me. Finding the trans community changed my life, says Toryn Glavin
This October TENI is celebrating our first ever Trans Mental Health Awareness Week, which aims to highlight the importance of good mental health within the trans community.
As someone who has experienced first-hand the issues faced by the trans community I am excited to get us talking about our mental health in a positive and constructive way so that we can work together as a community towards a more positive world for us all.
My own story of turning the tides of my mental health began in November 2013. I went along to a trans safe space at USI’s Pink Training and to say this small event changed my life would be an understatement.
I was 19 and for the first time in my life a group of people were all using she / her pronouns when referencing me. People were talking about being trans; how hard it was, but also how great it was.
For over three years I had been struggling with what I considered to be a curse. However, this room of people did not see it as a curse. It was simply an aspect of who they were.
From that room of young trans people enjoying a moment of solidarity and acceptance grew the Irish Trans Student Alliance (ITSA).
ITSA has always been about providing spaces, whether they be online or in person, for young trans people to interact.
It’s often mundane little things that people discuss, from the weather being too hot for comfortable binding to what a pain facial hair is, but these moments of community mean a lot.
My involvement with ITSA and the wider trans community over the last three years has taught me the incredible importance of peer support groups for trans people and their mental health.
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One of the first things I recommend to any trans person struggling with their mental health or coming out is to find their community.
I am in no way suggesting this is a cure all. Mental health is tricky and it takes a long time to find the perfect balance, but it’s a good place to start.
These collective hive-minds are a great place to vent and find sympathy, but they are also fantastic sources of further knowledge.
They can tell you where the best counsellors are, how to come out to those around you in a safe way, or simply advise you on how to love yourself each day.
Being trans can be difficult. You face unique challenges which those around you do not, and even though the numbers in our community grow daily many of us are still quite isolated.
Not everyone is as lucky as I am to spend most days in a bubble of trans. Most of us rely on support groups, not only for support but also for social spaces and a place to find friends.
There is something innately comforting in finding someone who understands you, even if it is just a small part of you. I think this is why we use these spaces so regularly.
As many minorities move away from the model of the support group, we are adapting it and moulding it to the need of the 21st century trans person. The take us from being ‘other’, to being a family, and that’s something which should not be taken lightly.
But how do you find these groups? They are spread wide and far across the country, but also across cyber space.
If you have any further questions or concerns you can get in touch with the office at [email protected] or on (01) 873 3575. We are always happy to help in any way we can, and our aim is to point you in the direction of what is best for you.
A bit of parting wisdom from a not-so-wise 22 year-old: mental health is hard at the best of times and being trans certainly contributes to that. I am in no way a paradigm of good mental health but one thing I’ve found helpful is simply being nice to myself.
Trans people have enough critics; don’t become one of your own.
Don’t worry what that guy who stared a second too long in the supermarket thought. Don’t try and force yourself to do your make-up every day because your sister said you looked terrible without it. Don’t worry about binding when in a room full of friends.
Life is hard and people can be judgemental, and you’re going to have those moments when you doubt who you are and how you feel, but remember that you are you. You are good and incredible and you are trans enough.
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