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Support group looks to provide safe space for transgender community
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Jenna Stone knows the ins and outs of being transgender. Over the course of her 13-year transition, she has endured the slurs and stares, the confusion and contention, and, thankfully, encouragement and acceptance from her peers. Having experienced the struggle first hand, Stone now hopes to help others accept and love themselves through the Stanislaus Transgender Support Group.


“I’ve noticed transgender people in the area that are very self-conscious about going out in public and being seen,” said Stone. “We focus on helping them overcome the fear and anxiety that comes with coming out, and help them assimilate better into society.”


Through the support group, Stone hopes to help fellow transgender community members (those whose gender identities differs from the sex they were assigned at birth) learn how to live their lives without fear. There are no set topics for discussion within the group, but Stone assists those in attendance with the day-to-day tasks of being transgender, from finding proper medical care — a difficulty for transgender residents in the Central Valley, said Stone — to beginning their transition. Finding information about hormone therapy can be tricky, she said, as can changing a driver’s license, birth certificate and names after transitioning.


“I’ve been researching this for the past 20 years. I know it all,” said Stone. “There’s all this information out there, and people who want to transition are like a deer in headlights. They don’t know how to go about it.”


All information shared at the support group meetings are private, she said, noting that names do not have to even be exchanged.


“This gives them a place where they can confide in someone where they don’t have to be afraid,” said Stone.


The support group is not just for those who are transgender, either, but is open to anyone who is LGBTQ friendly as well, Stone added. She encourages parents of those who are LGBTQ to attend the support group, especially parents of transgender youth, in order to get a better understanding of what their children may be going through.


“Some of these kids are scared to come out because they fear losing their parent’s love and support,” said Stone. “That’s hard to live with.”


Stone said that speaking with parents may not help them to accept their child’s identity, but it is usually a good starting point.


“I can tell them my experience, and if that doesn’t change them it opens up their mind,” said Stone.


There are many other difficulties that come with being transgender in the Central Valley, making a place where those who identify as transgender can talk about their lives and emotions all the more important, said Stone. Discrimination is something she faces every day, from being denied housing because she is transgender to having difficulty finding a job.


“I’m here to dispel all the myths and criticism,” said Stone. “We’re nice people who just want to talk to you. We’re not trying to upset anyone or offend anyone. We just want to be happy too.”


The Stanislaus Transgender Support Group meets from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. every Thursday at the Queen Bean Coffee House in Modesto, 1126 14th St. The group is supported by the Stanislaus County LGBTQ Collaborative for Greater Well-Being, and for those who want someone to talk to but wish not to attend a meeting, Stone is available to speak with and can be reached at 209-718-9931.