In March, at the second annual Trans Town Hall in McAllen, Valerie Cantu Severn of Valley AIDS Council announced the formation of several new support groups for trans women, trans men, non-binary people, genderfluid people, genderqueer people, gender non-conforming people, and family and parents of the trans community.
“That was one of the concerns from the very first Trans Town Hall [in 2017], was the need for support groups,” said Severn, VAC CLEAR Specialist and the trans women support group facilitator. “We’ve been doing support groups [since March], and it’s been going pretty good, but we took a little break in May and June because people were dealing with finals and everything with Pride in the Park.”
Severn, the current facilitator for the trans women support group, will be stepping down in the near future, making space for a new facilitator that communicates in both English and Spanish.
“That was my biggest thing. We need to be bilingual. We need to be accessible to the community,” said Severn. The goal is to have all the support groups be accessible to both English and Spanish speaking communities here in the Valley. The new facilitator for the trans women support group will be announced soon.
With Pride in the Park behind us, the facilitators of the trans support groups are moving forward with the idea for a Trans Mixer programmed for July 22 from 5 PM to 8 PM in Hidalgo County.
“They [the different people involved in the trans support groups] brought this idea, saying, ‘Hey it’d be really great if we could do events for the trans community that aren’t so much about resources because a lot of events we’ve done in the past have all been about resources,’” Severn said. “We also want to have spaces for trans people to feel relaxed, comfortable, and get to know each other. Maybe have a little bit of food and to help build community.”
The various groups teamed up and soon the flyer was designed, modeled after a 1990s style mixtape. The groups announced the event, titled Trans Mixer, on Facebook and began distributing the flyer at Pride in the Park in June. The facilitators of the different support groups have been taking the lead in making this event a reality.
“The support group facilitators helped create the event. They are running the event, and they’ve only had minimal assistance from us at Valley AIDS Council, which has been our goal,” Severn said. “We want these groups to build themselves up, and be self-sufficient.”
The gathering is intended only for the trans community, which is one reason why event organizers are not releasing the location of the Trans Mixer.
“We want to stress that we love our cis allies, but this event is really focused and for just trans people,” Severn said. “We don’t mind if allies who are parents come. Like, if there is a parent who has a child who is transgender, we would love for them to come with their child. But really, we want to emphasize that this is for trans people. ‘Cause at the last Town Hall we had allies, and that was great, they want to be there for the trans community, but then I had people tell me personally, ‘Hey Valerie, it just seems like there are a lot of allies but not many trans people.’ So we want trans people to feel welcomed, and to know this is going to be focused for you, going to be geared towards you, so that you can meet other trans people.”
Karina Torres, a non-binary person from Edinburg who recently attended Pride in the Park, has publicly expressed interest in attending the event.
“I’m trying to find more non-binary friends,” Torres said. “Sometimes it feels like even within the queer community, we’re not as inclusive of people under the trans umbrella. So I’m hoping the trans mixer helps me find the community I’m looking for.”
With only a few months since the launch of these support groups, the hope is that they continue to grow, and the Trans Mixer is one of the first steps towards this. Attendees will have the opportunity to join these support groups at the Trans Mixer, but it is not required. Spaces and events for LGBTQ people remain rare, even more so for trans people, and while this is not the first trans-led event specifically for trans people in the Valley, this is still a unique event to find in South Texas.
“This isn’t the first, but it is definitely unique in that we have multiple trans-led community groups that are working together,” Severn said. “So we are doing more community building. We are strengthening the community. Sometimes we see a divide between our trans community. Sometimes we see divides between trans women, trans men, and non-binary people, but these support groups are saying, ‘We can’t be divided, we have to be united.’”
Individuals interested in attending and knowing the location of the event can email Severn at firstname.lastname@example.org.