Note: I have taken on board feedback I was given after the first chatting with members blog and used more direct quotes from the member in question.
This month I sat down with another group member to talk about their experience of coming to Chrysalis. They came to Chrysalis having found us when they were looking for support after telling their heterosexual partner that they might be non-binary but not having told anyone else, looking for a group of mixed ages that was not solely for binary trans people.
They had a telephone call with the office then a couple of weeks later met up with their local group facilitator and another volunteer and “felt put at ease by the volunteers.”
When they started coming to the drop in they “found it extremely welcoming and felt safe”, at the time we had pronoun stickers to give out at the wellbeing and they told me, rather proudly, that “I’ve still got mine from the first meeting.” They also talked about how much of a relief it was to be in a room “with other people who got it.”
Around six weeks later, they got a space in a support group and they talked about their experience of their first group, which was the same group as someone else’s last group. “Someone was leaving the day I started and she gave me a hug, I’d never met her before but she hugged me and said something along the lines of you are who you are, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise” which struck me as a typical response (though now without the hugs!) as the culture in our groups is to support each other, especially new starters.
I asked about what the support group felt like, and we talked for quite a while about the experience of group, from “I was really terrified going into the first circle of trust, it’s like if you’ve never had therapy and then you go into it and say something you’ve never told anyone and you say it out loud and you have to really trust everyone … talking about the really personal stuff you get really close fast … I’m fine with it now, I feel absolutely comfortable bringing anything into the room … I’m at the point now where I’ve got to know other people and I trust the process and I’m not afraid to talk about myself because it’s not met with judgement and it’s always met with support.”
We talked about why the group was so important and two main things came up. “A lot of things we talk about in group are not things you’d talk about to your friends, it’s stuff that doesn’t come up, the need to talk about being trans but there’s a lot to be said about having a space where you’re sharing similar experiences … it puts a lot of perspective on where you are because everyone’s at a different place in the process” and “it’s really nice to come into a space where it’s not just teens, it’s not aimed at youths, and seeing diversity in the group … there is a real span of ages and experiences and so everyone has a different angle to add to the conversation.”
Knowing that they had experienced some doubts about being non-binary I asked if they would feel comfortable discussing this. They told me about how supportive our volunteers had been when “there was a point where I became quite confused and I was thinking am I trans or not and it really threw me and I was struggling to get through that exploration and I didn’t want to bring it into group so I brought it to [my facilitator] and talked it out, I think it’s really important that if we’re not ready to bring something to group we have our lovely facilitators to talk to first if we need it … and what I got out of that conversation was that under no circumstances should I feel like I can’t explore this in group and that if anyone was unsupportive about it that that message would be enforced.” They had felt so held by their facilitator that they later felt able to bring it into group, explore it a little and work through it.
We finished up by talking through their experience of going into lockdown and our support moving online. “I remember the communications going out quite quickly with we can no longer meet face to face … when it goes, you suddenly realise how much you rely on it and I was relieved that we had something coming” “we were up and running quite quickly and the odd time we’ve had a technical hitch but we’ve been going kinda normally since then, I don’t know how I would have coped without it being locked inside and not going out into the world and I’ve personally had some weird experiences … part of your identity is how you see yourself out in the real world and not being out in the world anymore I kinda started to lose that a little bit so having the group still gave me something to dress up for and I was so glad to have that”
“One of the other things that’s great is that the guest speakers have still been running, I’ve attended a few of those and it’s been really nice that they’re online too” They then talked about the ones that they’d particularly enjoyed and Georgie of /Queer and Finlay Games came up as their two favourites.
Lastly, I asked them about their overall view of Chrysalis and I loved their response and just had to share it with you as a final comment: “the one thing that I really notice is that so many people leave and then later come back to facilitate and want to help, and I think that says a lot about the organisation … I think once I’ve worked through all my stuff I might want to come back and volunteer in the future, maybe with events and stuff like that.”