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The Merriam Webster definition of immersion is absorbing involvement such as immersion in politics or instruction based on extensive exposure to surroundings or conditions that are native or pertinent to the object of study.

By Melissa Ballard

I STARTED TO SEE THESE STRUGGLES THROUGH MORE OF A HUMAN ASPECT THAN SO ABSTRACT AS MANY PEOPLE DO.”

Once my son had come out as transgender, I began immersing myself in the community and not just the parents of transgender children community but the transgender community as a whole. I can say I did not personally know a transgender person prior to him coming out, but I did know what it meant on a basic level to be transgender. I had lived in the “Gayborhood” years ago and knew some of the LGBT struggles but needed to know more about the “T”. I started reading and then started meeting. I found local groups for trans people and started attending to get some sense of what they dealt with directly and locally. I joined online groups for parents of trans children and groups for allies of transgender people as well. I really became interested in politics because this was the precursor to the election of 2016 and the term transgender and bathrooms became the hot focus. I started to see these struggles through more of a human aspect than so abstract as many people do. I became friends with many trans adults and heard things that no one wants to hear anyone deal with ever! Of course, I will never use names, but will share some general issues people I know have faced since living as their authentic self.

1. Loss of Family – be it the blood related kind, including parents and the chosen kind such as spouses. Entangled in this are often children, and even those who are grown and those who are still considered minors. This can be so harmful not only for the trans person but for the children losing contact with a still able parent. I have seen the turmoil caused by drawn out divorce and custody hearings. It is heartbreaking to see a loving parent torn apart for transitioning, especially when the child seems to only want their parent around.

2. Loss of Employment – many people lose their jobs because employers do not understand or accept the transition. Human value does not change based on affirmed or assigned birth gender. Productivity can change and probably for the better once a person is no longer living a lie about whom they really are.

3. Loss of Friends – when a person transitions, people close to them feel they were lied to or deceived and they can start pulling away. Sometimes religious belief plays part in this chasm, and the transgender person is left alone. This can make anyone question if these relationships were ever real.

4. Difficulty Obtaining Healthcare – Although doctors “should” treat all patients the same, often trans people are turned away or treated poorly. I know of people who have gone in for illnesses such as the flu and been turned away for being transgender – like the flu knows the difference? I am pretty sure your gender does not have anything to do with receiving Tamiflu or anything different from any other person with the flu!

5. Loss of Church Home – while churches claim to be inclusive, more times than not, transgender people are shunned and turned away. This is not the idea of Christ I know. It is a very disheartening experience to go through as a family, and I cannot imagine being alone and dealing with this type of treatment.

6. Separation and Isolation – once transitioning, many people feel as if they are all alone and isolated because of the losses they have experienced. Blood makes you related, but connection and unconditional love make you family. Often, people in the LGBT community piece together a “chosen” family who is loving and inclusive.

7. Legal Struggles – Problems not only dealing with physical transition tend to arise, but also getting proper documentation to reflect this transition. Updating all records takes time and money, and sometimes both can be problematic. Lawyers’ fees can be expensive and without these documents, insurance and other basic needs for daily life can be hard to obtain.

Since the 2016 election results for President, the trans community has been somewhat scrambling in fear of what could take happen once Donald Trump is inaugurated. Twitter was trending with the hashtag #translawhelp in order to get information out to those in need of updating their documents. Many lawyers across the USA have offered pro-bono assistance in filing name and gender marker changes. We were blessed to have a local lawyer offer this service and many of our group’s members have taken him up on this offer. Although he is waiving his lawyer fees, the filing fees alone can be more than some people can afford. Our family is lucky enough to be able to cover these costs, and we will be updating our son’s documentation soon. If you need help and can search for #translawhelp or contact the Transgender Law Center for additional assistance. You may be able to get help with your necessary documentation changes.

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