Went to the second session of a group for young (<24) trans women at the BYC tonight. The first session, on Tuesday, was extremely frustrating – I didn’t the facilitators did a great job, one person kept telling long, meandering stories, and I felt like I had very little in common with the rest of the group in terms of age (I’m on the older end), class (I’m on the higher end), and education (likewise, higher end).
I do, however, like the facilitators a lot and I think it’s good for me to be in places where I’m being called R. One of the facilitators called me yesterday to see how I thought it went, and we had a really productive conversation, and tonight ended up being a lot better.
The stated goal of the program is to educated trans women about safe sex and avoiding HIV. It’s a pilot program, and if it goes well they may get more funding. Apparently, the trans population – and trans women specifically – have hugely higher HIV rates than other demographics. I’m not having luck finding data online, but the poster at the BYC said that, depending on the city, between 15% and 50%(!!!) of trans women polled were HIV positive, compared with a national level of just 0.6%.
I was initially worried that I wouldn’t get much out of the program, particularly after the less-than-stellar first session, but it turns out the goal is to sort of trick the participants into practicing healthier behavior. I’d imagine the facilitators (who also designed the program) wouldn’t be thrilled with that description, but rather than talk explicitly about safe sex/needle use/etc, it talks about how to feel positive about yourself, assert yourself in a positive fashion, etc, with the goal seeming to be the participants won’t feel the desire to partake in unhealthy behavior. (Though it does seem to touch on safe sex/needle use/etc, but more as a reminder, an ‘everyone knows this, but just so you remember…’ rather than trying to ‘educate’ us.)
Tonight the main focus was on assertive vs passive vs aggressive communication styles. I’d like to think I’m assertive (I’m pretty sure I’m not often too aggressive…at least I hope!) but I realized that when things are personal, I get passive. That is, when there’s a task or some theoretical or organizational issue – discussing politics, talking about the best route for a road trip, deciding how to organize office files – I’m fine being assertive. But when it’s something about me – people complimenting me on a performance, talking about how I look or what I should wear, etc – I get super passive.
Which, I guess, isn’t the world’s worst personality trait. But I like to think of myself as assertive, so it’s less than ideal.