Those in Alachua County who are transgender or non-binary (a gender identity that is not exclusively masculine or feminine, thus outside of the gender binary), and the friends and allies of those who are, have access to several community resources.
Awareness of such resources is underscored by statistics pointed out by Sean Ochal, a member of various transgender and social groups in Gainesville. About 41 percent of transgender people have or will attempt suicide, he said, and roughly 57 percent have been rejected by their families.
“It’s also pretty hard to just, on paper, quantify the human experience,” said Amelia Millay, a member of TranQuility, a transgender community group serving Alachua County.
Here’s a breakdown of several Alachua County resources available to those who are who are transgender or non-binary.
2401 SW Archer Road, Gainesville
TranQuility offers education, support and care for all trans people, their friends, families and allies. Meetings are on the fourth Monday of every month from 7-9 p.m. at HealthStreet.
TranQuility formed in January to serve Alachua County with the mission to create another space to nurture transgender and non-binary individuals, as well as their friends, families and allies, by educating, providing support and celebrating diversity.
The meetings are centered around different topics and are often facilitated by a licensed professional. Last month, TranQuility brought in a licensed psychologist to talk about gender non-binary self-care.
For the next two meetings, in March and April, the topics will be split into two parts on identity, and a married psychologist couple will be speaking with the group.
The two-hour meetings usually involve an introduction by those members in attendance, a personal sharing session from a willing group member, and a discussion. Ochal said it is important for people to get to know the personal narratives of trans people and not just the statistics of their struggles.
“It’s the stories that tell the need,” Ochal said. “There’s always statistics and data, but it’s when you meet people and talk to them about how much pain or struggle they’ve gone through or even the wonderful things that have happened to them. There’s a lot of pain, but there’s a lot of positive experiences, too.”
TranQuility’s brochure notes 17 different places and online resources available to the community. Additionally, people can also email the organization because there are more levels to the different resources in topics such as spirituality, health care and legal help, Ochal said.
“There are so many layers to being people that you need resources for all of them,” Ochal said.
Working in tandem with the rest of the organizations in town is another way TranQuility seeks to build and move forward in getting the word out. The connectivity also helps the groups by allowing them to assist one another toward the same cause. Ochal said TranQuility admires a lot of the work that established groups have already done and wants to build off that momentum.
TranQuility is “a community group, not just a support group, where friends and family and allies can come, too,” Ochal said. “It’s not just people sitting in a circle talking about their feelings. It’s more how can we unite and care for each other so that we can kind of make a strong community.”
22 SE 5th Ave., Suite D, Gainesville
The Free Store event provides basic necessities to people who can’t afford them. It’s held on the last Saturday of every month from 2-6 p.m. at Wild Iris Books.
The Free Store event began in late 2014 and, in the beginning, often consisted of a few stacks of items on a picnic table or row of benches outside of Wild Iris Books. Through the coordination of Erica Rodriguez Merrell, co-owner of Wild Iris Books, and Shirley Roseman, the event helps with material needs of queer and trans people as well as people between housing.
Eventually, the idea of swapping clothes between friends grew to something much bigger, requiring a storage unit and a caravan of volunteers to set up each month. Because of the limited space in Wild Iris Books, the event has spilled over to the neighboring Civic Media Center.
“Humans make so much stuff,” Rodriguez Merrell said. “We should share.”
Through donations from the community, the collection of goods keeps growing. Once a month, anyone is welcome to peruse the clothing, shoes, makeup, jewelry, toiletries and children’s clothes.
“We have a wish list,” Roseman said. “We could always use toiletries, items like toothpaste and menstrual products. If there is a need, then we accept it. Literally any person, any entity and any organization can help.”
Roseman said the event brings some people who struggle with chronic instability back each month, but it also is a place that constantly sees new faces. Often, the most frequent visitors are friends helping out with the sorting process or those with vehicles dropping off more supplies.
22 SE 5th Ave., Suite D, Gainesville
Trans Affairs offers resources and support for Gainesville’s trans community. Meetings are every Saturday from 6-8 p.m. at Wild Iris Books.
The Trans Affairs group meets for the purpose of strengthening and supporting the transgender community. It was started over a year ago by Rodriguez Merrell and Yocheved Zenaida-Cohen, a community activist.
Lately, the organization has been planning proposals for fundraising, playing games, organizing potlucks and simply providing a social outlet for anyone attending.
“Our main goal is helping with the material resources of those in need in the trans community,” said Krys, a member of Trans Affairs who identifies as non-binary and preferred not to give a last name. “Also, a major difference between this group and the other groups around here is we want to have a social and political platform.”
Though primarily in the throws of gaining momentum and spending time organizing the group, Krys said the Trans Affairs group hopes to get better and bigger.
“We’re learning this together, (and) we’re very grassroots,” Krys said. “The hardest, most difficult thing is to provide material resources to the community.”
Krys, who moved from New York to Gainesville in 2009, said the trans community is really active here. However, the active community does not persist without encountering bigotry, transphobic viewpoints and a harder time getting jobs and medications, Krys said.
“We need to make a community because sometimes people don’t even have the basic support of their family,” Krys said. “It’s not all about surgery. When people focus on body parts and hormones and surgery, it’s only part of the story for some, not for all.”
Trans at UF
686 Museum Road, Gainesville (University of Florida’s campus)
Trans at UF is a discussion and social group open to folks who identify as transgender, gender variant and/or genderqueer, and their intimate partners. Meetings are Thursdays at 7 p.m. in the Rainbow Room on the second Floor of the Reitz Union.
The group was started by LB Hannahs, director of LGBT Affairs at UF, in 2011 as a discussion group open to transgender, genderqueer and gender nonconformists, and their intimate partners. The group evolved to include social outings, game nights and a place to share resources.
Eli Mender discovered Trans at UF as a junior, when he went to LGBT Affairs to look for trans resources. Starting off with about three to five people meeting up, typically biweekly, the group remained relatively small for some time.
Trans at UF has been growing steadily these days, Mender said, with meetings typically having at least a dozen people attending. Mender thinks the recent completion of the Reitz Union construction has led to growth because the group is centralized in the building.
Trans at UF also includes Santa Fe students, recent graduates and college-aged individuals. Additionally, partners of trans people are always welcome to attend, though the group aims to keep things closed and safe, Mender said.
Mender has been a big part in organizing resources for trans people in the UF network, too, by working to keep track of the gender-neutral and single stall bathrooms around campus. He said he has created a Google map and Google Sheet spreadsheet containing a list of all the gender-neutral and single-stall restrooms, along with buildings, locations and whether the restroom is ADA accessible.
The map project came together last summer when the UF Access party was running with a platform of making more bathrooms all-gender, according to Mender. LGBT Affairs joined the mission and together worked with the Access party in finding out where the all-gender signage existed.
Mender said he hopes that as new buildings spring up on campus, single-stall restrooms or all-gender signage are considered first rather than being a change down the road.
“Maybe one day the campus map will include the designations,” Mender said.
More local resources:
Pride Community Center of North Central Florida
3131 NW 13th St., Suite 63, Gainesville
Open Monday through Friday, 3-7 p.m., and Saturday, 12-4 p.m. Gainesville Transgender Social Group meets here.
1624 NW 5th Ave., Gainesville
Meetings on the third Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at United Church of Gainesville.
LGBT Affairs at the University of Florida
The organization strives to educate, advocate and support LGBTQA people and issues at UF and in the Gainesville community. (See Trans Affairs above)
Gainesville Transmen Group
The organization connects individuals who identify as FTM/transmen for resources, friendship, social outings, volunteering and more.
Alachua County Crisis Line
This free, 24-hour telephone crisis intervention and counseling service is offered by trained volunteers.
This story is a part of Untold Florida, a WUFT News series built from your questions.