Affinity Circles Project
You are probably aware of the grim statistics around the suicide rate in the transgender community. The commonly quoted statistic that 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide was originally reported by The Williams Institute in 2014.
According to a Huffington Post article, “Transgender people who are rejected by their families or lack social support are much more likely to both consider suicide, and to attempt it. Conversely, those with strong support were 82% less likely to attempt suicide than those without support.”
Transortium is passionately committed to lowering the suicide rate of transgender people. There are many levers we can influence such as visibility, employment opportunities, and creating opportunities for community. The Affinity Circle Project aims to create the “stronger support” that is needed to lower the transgender suicide rate.
The transgender community is one of the few minority groups wherein there is a low likelihood of knowing anyone else like you. Indeed, “community” is not an accurate identifier when so many transgender people face isolation. The isolation is even more pronounced if you take into account religious preference, nationality of origin, or political affiliation. Transortium aims to support the creation of virtual communities as well as provide tools for those wanting to start Transortium Affinity Circles in their own neighborhoods or within their own areas of interest.
Phase 1 Pilot – “Transitioning After 50”
This first pilot was conducted in the winter of 2018. This group was targeted specifically to women who had decided to transition around their 50’s. A need for such a group was identified when a transgender woman approached us who was just starting her transition journey. While she was able to find an LGBTQ support center near her, the only other transgender person was a young gender non-conforming person who was just starting out in life, without grown children or a retirement to which to look forward.
The group met via conference call once a week for three months. There were five participants plus a Transortium facilitator. The feedback from the participants was largely positive other than some frustrating tech issues. One participant shared that, “There is just something so special about our meetings. It is refreshing to be able to just be myself!” Another woman said, “I always look forward to hearing about others’ journeys. It helps me not feel quite so alone. I’m not the only person who has ever done this before. And our struggles and successes are all very similar.”
Phase 2 Pilot – Transortium Affinity Circles
Phase 2 of the Affinity Circles Project is set to launch in the fall of 2018. Ten to 15 individuals who are interested in facilitating an Affinity Circle will be provided with tools, training, and support. We will be using anonymous surveys of both facilitators and participants before and after the experience to assess the usability of our tools as well as the impact of the experience on participants. The second phase will help us to clarify guidelines and fine-tune content such as group norms and meeting agendas. We will also gain insight into how to implement our on boarding process for future circles.
Donations to Transortium are presently being applied to such activities as recruitment of volunteer facilitators and participants, creation and publishing of facilitator workbooks, and facilitator training for the Transortium Affinity Circles project. Please consider making a small gift to help decrease the transgender suicide rate. Your donation of $10 covers the printing cost of one facilitator workbook. Your donation of $250 completely covers the recruitment and support costs for one participation in the program. Thank you donors!
Phase 3 Launch – Ongoing Support of Transortium Affinity Circles
Phase 3 involves three primary areas of focus:
- Individual Circles such as those supported in Phase 2 will be expanded upon. Select facilitators identified during the pilot phase will be recruited to help train and support future circle hosts and hostesses. Transortium will continue outreach on social media to create Affinity Circles where the risk of isolation and suicide is observed to be greatest. On our Facebook feed of over 3000 transgender souls we see posts that mention the wish to commit suicide hourly on average. On Friday and Saturday evenings, that number is ten times higher. And during the winter holidays we have observed that one in every ten posts expressed deep despair over family rejection. Our volunteer team of Everyday Angels keeps a vigilant watch over our Facebook feed to notice and reach out to our suicidal community members offering suicide hotline information, to chat via Messenger, or to have a good old fashioned talk over the phone.
- Organizational Circles will be hosted by entities in the non-profit sector. Transortium Affinity Circle tool boxes and support will be offered to organizations such as Welcoming Congregations, LGBTQ Support Centers, and Homeless Youth Shelters. Many organizations already host support groups. It is our mission to inspire the expansion of such offerings and provide tools and support. Transortium is currently in the process of creating a massive transgender specific support database in which information about these groups can be available to transgender people an allies who registered in our system.
- Corporate Circles will be hosted by businesses who wish to actively express support of their transgender employees. Transortium has a growing network of connections within larger Seattle based companies. We will partner with LGBTQ diversity networks at these companies to pilot Affinity Circles. These circles will be unique in that they may focus on helping leadership to ensure a transgender informed workplace and a more transgender affirming culture. These groups will be sponsored by the participating corporations and will be part of a broader collaboration within and between companies that will involve recruiting fairs and employee volunteering opportunities with corporate financial matching contributions where available.
We certainly have a lot of work ahead of us! Perhaps you know someone interested in facilitating a Transortium Affinity Circle. Please have them reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. Together we can shift our culture into one that recognizes the sanctity of all who identify as transgender!