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"ARE GENDER SUPPORT GROUPS SELF DEFEATING?"

By
Denise Anne Fell

As I write this, I freely admit that I have never had the so called benefit of a support group. From the observations that I have made, I feel that I am fortunate in that respect.

The idea behind a support group for any reason is wonderful, especially in an area as touchy as gender problems, however, from things that I have seen and heard, I also believe that they can be very damaging to individuals that attend the meetings.

I believe that in order for a support group to work, there must be a leader. Not one of the girls, but someone who is far ahead of the others, or even better a member of the medical profession that has knowledge in the area of transsexualism. The second and perhaps the most important thing is total and complete honesty. Granted, the idea behind a support group is to offer support to each member, however, building false hopes and not being honest in order to make another person feel good at that particular moment can have far reaching consequences.

It is one thing to leave your home or apartment in the dark and go to a meeting in a dimly lit room and tell each other how good everyone looks. When reality strikes and that individual has to go out and face the world in broad daylight it becomes another story.

I wonder how many transsexuals, who are appearing in public for the first time will handle being laughed at by some little teenage girl. It happens and I can tell you from experience, it hurts. It can shatter your self confidence. It can make you doubt your ability and it can drive some that are close over the edge.

In addition to the comradely from these meetings, a time should be set aside to discuss current problems and issues involving the members as a group or transsexuals in general. Members should set up times when guest speakers can attend. Get someone to come in and give makeup demonstrations. Mary Kay and Avon should be more than happy to send a representative to show proper techniques. Have someone knowledgeable in wig styles come in and explain how to properly choose a wig. One that will not only match your skin tone, but will enhance your facial features. Sometimes what we think looks best is actually the worst for our features. These people have the knowledge to help the entire group succeed in their goal of becoming a woman or man.

One of the most important things that the members of a group can do is to learn to give and even more important accept constructive criticism. Above all be honest, it is better to hurt a members feelings in the security of a safe group than to fill that individual full of false hope only to have it broken into a million pieces when they first venture out into the world by themselves for the first time.

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