Archive for May, 2010

Thoughts on Support Groups

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

I have been involved in many volunteer-based support and community groups over the years. They were all good causes and all those involved were sincere in their hopes and wishes that the organizations would prosper and attain their goals. Some groups were successful and others were not.

All these groups from The United Way and Community Day Ottawa at the top of the food chain all the way down to street sale committees and transgender support groups had one thing in common: The bigger they got, the more rule-bound and hierarchical they became. And the less time, effort and money actually filtered down to the membership in the form of actual support and services.

Time and again, I’ve seen politics eclipse practical priorities and factionalization supercede fellowship. When groups start electing ‘executives’, striking committees and dealing with large amounts of money, their original aims and objectives are generally relegated to lower priorities and first priority (sometimes also second and third) is taken over by the perceived necessities of operating and preserving the integrity of the bureaucracy.

One reason that groups go astray as they grow is that, when members are asked to step up and assume the responsibility of ‘executive’ positions, the wrong kind of person steps up. Especially in mutual support and self help groups, many members tend to keep to the background and let others run the ‘business’ side of things. And the sort of people who step up to fill official positions are almost invariably one of two types, the first making good leaders and the second making bad ones.

The first type is the kind of person who, in all aspects of their life, steps up when no one else will because ‘it has to be done and no one else is willing to do it’. These people are genuinely helpful and caring individuals. They work for the good of the group and solicit direction from the membership. Their leadership style is open and transparent. They are almost always popular and successful in their official roles.

The second type is the kind of person who seeks the power and status that they believe an ‘executive’ position will bring them. They have their own agendas, gather their own little cliques of followers around them and spend a lot of time and energy protecting their own positions and looking over their shoulders for anyone who might challenge their authority. They do not seek membership input and, instead, send down pronouncements from upon high based on their own agendas and personal notions of what’s ‘right’ for the group. They consult the group only after decisions have been made to seek approval, not to receive input. Their leadership style is closed, secretive and, ultimately, unpopular.

On reflection, it seems sensible to limit the formal structure of small groups, keeping them as organizationally ‘flat’ as possibleespecially support and self-help groups where the emphases is or should be on personal growth through contact with others who share our specific issues and challenges.

One way or another, the needs and wishes of the members of a group should never take second place to the personal desires of a few power-loving people in official positions.

(Repost from a private blog.)

In Memoriam: The Grandmother of Us All

Thursday, May 13th, 2010
Virgina Prince (1912 - 2009)

Virgina Prince (1912 - 2009)

On Saturday, May 02, 2009, Virgina Prince passed away at the age of 96. She had been healthy and vibrant up until a month before her passing, when she went dramatically down hill.

Dr. Prince was the originator of the cross dressers club phenomenon that now runs throughout the US and Canada, as well as the editor of Transvestia, the first cross dresser magazine available by general subscription.

The founder of Tri-Ess, the cross dressing sorority, she was for many years from the 1950s on, the public face of cross dressing in the US.

While Virginia held views that were not popular with all members of the trans community, her contribution to the self-respect of heterosexual transvestites and the creation of a CD community is undeniable.

At a time when there was little sympathy for trans folk, she defied convention by being public and insisting that we deserved space in society.

She was indirectly responsible for the formation of the old Ottawa transgender support group and Gender Freedom.


A Transwoman’s Thoughts on Mother’s Day

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

I walk a little over five km each morning, both for cardio health and in my eternal crusade to control my weight. My doctor says Ill get maximum benefit from my daily constitutional if I maintain a pace at which I cover each km in under ten minutes. That gives me almost an hour each day to myself, by myself, to try to come to terms with myself.

One of the things with which I dont think Ill ever fully come to terms is the sense of loss I feel over experiences and occasions I missed out on by not having a girlhood. Well… For that matter, I never had a young womanhood or a motherhood, either. I landed square in middle age when I finally transitioned.

So, I often wonder, late at night after Ive turned out the light or during my solitary morning walks, what it would have been like to take ballet lessons for poise and grace; to be a flower girl at a wedding; to try out for the cheer leading squad; to taste that first, magical, mostly innocent kiss with a boy; to lose my virginity in a fit of passion  or perhaps fearful anticipation; to be a brides maid; to be pregnant; to give birth; to nurse a child at my breast; to watch my children grow and prosper and have children of their own.

I fathered no children in my other life, for a variety of reasons both medical and political. So, the parenting experience is a whole chapter full of nothing but blank pages in the book of my life.

My own mother is still alive and kicking, of course. She lives up to her nickname, The Iron Lady, both in terms of her amazing physical constitution and her will to survive. She has outlived two husbands and looks forward (she says) to reaching 90, when shell start allowing herself the fortification of a tot of Gin each day, just like the late Queen Mum! Shes a wonderful role model and I love her dearly. She has also been one of my biggest supporters during my transition and all the other life changes that have come along with it. People say I take after her in a variety of ways. But theres one thing she and I can never have in common.

A few days ago, as I addressed her Mothers Day card and ordered the traditional flowers, I thought, œIll never get a card or flowers like this. Ill have no one to support me in my old age. And, when I die, Ill just be gone, with no one to mourn or remember me.

Then, I realized that I do have something in common with millions of women all around the world  all the women who are childless not by choice. Thats small consolation at best. But, at least, I now know that Im not alone.

[Repost, from a private blog.]