Transgender Women Tell Their Stories at CAMP Rehoboth
CAMP Rehoboth has long been an organization and environment catering to the entire LGBT-plus community. Recently, with Transgender issues in the news, in the courts, and into the light, CAMP Rehoboth has been stepping up its programs and outreach to the area’s Transgender residents and visitors.
The umbrella term Transgender covers a lot of territory. It can describe anyone on the gender continuum who falls elsewhere than the gender they were assigned at birth, regardless of surgical procedures or gender expression.
As such, CAMP has had programs for all Transgender community members, but on May 6, nine Transgender women met at CAMP for a “Telling Our Story” Workshop.
Ed Kuebler, LCSW, a health trainer and Alice Mazur, a retired social worker and local LGBT ally, led the day-long event. The event was co-sponsored by Rehoboth’s very active PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Chapter.
Suzanne Reed was one of the attendees. “I was curious about the session, but had other plans that afternoon, so I decided to drop by in the morning to see what it was all about,” she says. “It was so well organized and fascinating, I changed my plans and wound up staying for the whole day. It was time well spent.”
And that time spent included the transwomen setting ground rules for the discussion with confidentiality, honesty, and respect being the first priorities. This was a new experience for many of the women—gathering with their own in a structured environment, sharing their journeys.
As such, the facilitators led off with ice-breaking structured meditations, where the women were asked to share favorite foods, colors, and other details. The light-hearted discussion and analysis revealed different and common tastes, as the exercise got the group talking, laughing and feeling comfortable with each other.
The main event of the day, was “hot penning” their stories—an exercise often called “free writes,” where attendees were given a list of questions and were then asked to write their responses quickly and from the heart.
The questions asked for basic information, like place of birth, parents’ names, etc., along with some more penetrating questions about the attendees early family life and relationships. “What was your relationship like with your parents growing up?” “What are your relationships like now, with family and friends?”
The ladies were then asked to read to the group from their writing to the extent they felt comfortable. According to Suzanne, “being the independent-minded women they proved to be throughout the day, several took their own approach to the assignment—bringing the exercise to life in fun, moving, and fascinating ways.”
This structured storytelling, regardless of approach, provided individual growth and group learning. Common threads emerged: knowing their gender from early in life and struggling to come to terms with desires and behaviors that most of society found difficult to understand and to accept.
Suzanne notes that the afternoon was spent looking at concrete actions each woman could take to move forward in life. Women shared ideas for organizing social events, coming out to their parents and even taking family members to NASCAR weekend.
The women also discussed creating events for Transgender people desiring to, but reluctant to venture out in public. With a safe environment as the hallmark, the group offered up several ideas for protected, structured events so folks could begin to explore public experiences.
In response to CAMP’s question “How can we work together?” the group responded first, with a big “thank you” for organizing the event and for the organization’s past support and interest in working with the community. Specifically, the women requested adding transgender literature to the CAMP Rehoboth library (upstairs at the community center), and a continued dialogue and more events in the future.
According to CAMP Rehoboth Executive Director Steve Elkins, the library additions are on the way. And future events are in the works.
Elkins also made a commitment to add transgender volunteers to CAMP Rehoboth committees and continue to support the community with added events.
“It was such a worthwhile day.” Suzanne added. “I think everyone who attended felt the same way.”
One of the avenues of outreach to the Transgender Community is a project co-sponsored by CAMP Rehoboth and the Unfinished Business Thrift Shop located behind Panera off Route One. The program, called TRANSmission, hosts special evenings at the thrift shop where they offer gently used clothing and a private, supportive environment for shopping. For more information on the program, call Unfinished Business at 302-752-6225 or CAMP Rehoboth at 302-227-5620.