Coming to the understanding that you are transgender is one of the first obstacles a trans person may face. It’s a part of figuring yourself out.

When I first came out, I felt like I had no one to really go to when I wanted to talk about my identity. The only other trans people I knew of were popular YouTubers on the other side of the country. I felt alone on the new journey I was so desperate to begin. I wanted more than just role models on the internet.

I wanted friends that I could relate to. I wanted to find resources near me. I wanted a trans-friendly therapist. I wanted to start hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

It wasn’t until I attended the first Aqui Estamos conference in the Rio Grande Valley and met a person who listened to my story. It wasn’t until then that, for the first time, I was given an answer. They typed into my phone “Michelle Cordoba-Kissee, MD” along with a phone number. They told me that if I wanted to start hormones with a trans-friendly doctor, she was the endocrinologist to go to.

I couldn’t believe that for the first time I had an answer, but even then I was afraid to be a “guinea pig.” I knew no one else who was seeing her as a patient. I didn’t know the risk, the side effects, the negative sides of HRT. I was worried I would be shocked by my drastic changes. I heard a lot of misconceptions about testosterone that I believed to be true at the time due to the fact I knew no one on testosterone.

Dr. Cordoba’s phone number stayed on my phone for another year.

Then, when I least expected, my mom introduced me to a Facebook support group she came across that was specifically geared towards transgender people in the RGV. I couldn’t believe it, there were more people on the same boat, so close to me. I saw people on there talking about being on testosterone. I had so many questions, and my new friends were so eager to answer. I felt a wave of relief! I finally knew people like me.

Then, I finally called and made my appointment with Dr. Cordoba. She welcomed me and made me feel at ease. She gave me factual information about the risks, and they were all things I was willing to risk. None of them were as bad as I was made to believe by the internet. Most importantly, she gave me hope.

Since then, it has been two years now since I’ve been on testosterone. I have legally changed my name and changed my gender marker on my ID. I can truly say that I am living a happier and a more fulfilling life and all that is thanks to the help of a caring support group.

Eventually, thanks to the knowledge I acquired from the first support group, I created a trans males group to focus specifically on issues for trans men in the Rio Grande Valley. My dream of finding answers became a reality, which allowed me to become a source of information and support for other people like me.

Over time, we have had over 100 members from the Valley. We have posted information and shared resources for medical and mental health help, secured donations, and organized and held fundraisers. We have also assisted with obtaining legal help for name and gender marker changes. Most importantly, we have created a safe space for people in our community to vent and ask for advice from others people with similar experiences.

When people ask me how I feel about this opportunity to create change in the RGV, all I can respond is that I never want anyone to feel as alone as I did at the very beginning of my transition. I am here to make sure the support group continues but, above all, to give others like me the same hope that was given to me and helped me survive.

Join the RGV Trans Folx group by clicking here.

This post was published under Neta’s “Community Voices,” a space for community members of the Rio Grande Valley to publish stories, opinions, information, and ideas. Posts in this section solely reflect the views of the authors. To read more from Community Voices, click here.