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I participate in a Women’s Chat Group every Thursday morning for an hour and a half. I started 6 or 8 months before we had to stop meeting in person. The group has been online ever since. In person the group was 12 to 15. Online is usually 6 to 10. I am one of 2 trans women who call in frequently. We were joined by a 3rd this week. It is a pretty eclectic group and I often talk about it when I encourage members to see if there are any online support or social groups that they can join in their area.
The Chat Group is under the auspices of The LGBTQ Community Center of the Coachella Valley here in California. I am a board member of The Center. There are 9 contiguous towns in The Valley: Palm Springs, Cathedral City (where I live), Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Desert Hot Springs, La Quinta, Indian Wells, Indio and Coachella. Some of the women are local, but we have others call in from Seattle, Riverside (our county seat), San Luis Obispo, Las Vegas, Lincoln NE, Big Bear and western Michigan. This represents women who have frequently vacationed here, have a 2nd home here or are thinking about moving here to The Valley. Although some are retired, occupations represented include a Rabbi, a university professor, a high school guidance counselor, a physical education teacher, a therapist, a geologist, a nurse, a travel agent, a mechanical engineer (me), a woman who has restored old Volkswagens and one who was an AIDS activist and ran an LGBT center. Two are adoptive single parents of girls. Two are natural parents of boys. Three were married many years ago and have adult children and grandchildren. Two were never married and have no children. The reason I say all this is that there is a richness of backgrounds, lived experiences, family situations and places lived. With a group like this, there is never a set topic, but usually in the first 15 minutes one will emerge.
It is an extraordinary group. I have learned a lot and I hope that I have been able to pass along some useful things. On occassion I will have a conflict and miss a meeting. It is a sad time because I had to miss something that is really important to me. Most, if not all of the others, feel the same way.
So, what have I learned from all of this? Well, it is clear that women function very differently in social settings, particularly when it is an all-women’s group. The trans women have turned out to be just part of the fabric of the group. From time to time we do discuss trans issues, separately or in the larger context regarding politics, but there has never been a JK Rowling-esque kind of discussion. Clearly, I have always felt supported and respected.
Over 3 years ago, when it was suggested to me that I join, I had no idea what to expect. As it turns out, I would have never guessed that it would be such an enriching experience and that I would be so attached to it.
I guess the moral to the story is to not be afraid to try new things. You may be pleasantly surprised!
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