I remember the first transgender support group I attended. It was at the Milford UU Church and it was called Transgender North or T.G. North. They had an old-school snail mail newsletter they would send out and they would address it as T.G. North so it would give recipients of the newsletter more privacy. There would usually be between 10-20 people who attended G.T. North. They were an interesting bunch with the usual diverse “characters” you often find in the transgender community, and I say that only in the positive sense. It felt good to be in a community of trans people [and it was almost exclusively trans women and MTF cross-dressers.] This was back in the early to mid-1990s and the group was run by a couple names Karen and Pat Wells. They worked very hard to keep the group going for a good amount of time and I am not sure when the group eventually folded. There were some people that got cross-dressed in the church bathroom, as they did not have the privacy or safety to get dressed in their home. A few brought their wives and partners but many did not, either because their spouse was unaccepting or because their wife did not know.
I went to a few other support groups including Tri-Ess New England, the Tiffany Club in Waltham, Mass and one in Portsmouth, NH. Some I only went to one meeting while others I went to a few. A group I founded called New Hampshire Transgender Resources for Education and Empowerment [NH TREE] in the early 2000s had a number of open houses where we had meals and shared comradery with each other. The same was true of the 2009 successor to NH TREE that I formed entitled simply Transgender NH. There have been barbeques and house parties and pot lucks.
However, what I would like to point out is that the days when the support groups had their heyday, in the 1980s and 1990s are over. Starting in the mid to late 1990s, the internet happened. This enabled people to meet online. It enabled people in rural areas to find each other much more quickly. I remember back to Transgender Tapestry Magazine and how they would have personal ads in the back of the magazine. People would then write into the International Foundation for Gender Education [IFGE], who ran the magazine and the mail would get forwarded to the correct person. It all seems so quaint now. Snail mail! Imagine that.
While I would say there is still very much a need for trans people to get in a room and be able to look each other squarely in the face, I am not sure the next generation agrees. Digital natives, they have grown up with the internet, smart phones, social media and digital technology all around them. Going to a brick-and-mortar trans support group may seem old-fashioned or even unnecessary.
I will always be thankful for trans support groups, especially T.G. North. This was a time early in my coming out when I definitely needed this type of support. I only wish I knew where many of those early pioneers I met are and how they are doing. Their courage is inspiring to me and I will never forget them.