The lack of appropriate social, professional and medical specialized services for people who start their path to transition is not news, so it’s always good to point out groups and organizations that are flourishing and serving the trans community well. Tranz-Central Coast, located in San Luis Obispo, California, started out as a peer support group 13 years ago, but it has broadened its mission to help create a network of therapists, doctors, as well as provide outreach to educate the public.

The group highlights its new mission Saturday with “An Afternoon of Awareness,” a free event aimed at promoting public discussion about transgender and transsexual issues. Part of Central Coast Pride, it’s co-sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of the Central Coast. “We’re really trying to reach out to the community and educate the community,” longtime member Doug Heumann said.

For transgender people, making the transition from one sex to the other can be expensive, stressful and emotionally draining. They risk alienating their families and losing their spouses and closest friends. Jobs are also at stake. “We want to be there to make this process as easy on them as we can,” [Atascadero resident Kari] Graton said. “We want them to know that there are some people out there with compassion in their hearts.”

One of the critical parts of outreach is reaching out to work with businesses that don’t have experience addressing an employee who makes the decision to go public with their employer about transitioning.  Graton recounted the experience with her supervisors.

“It was like the ‘cone of silence’ went down and everything got scrambled,” she said, referring to the TV show “Get Smart.” “They didn’t know what to do.”

One official wanted Graton to keep her transgender identity secret until she left work to undergo surgery. Another suggested simply firing people who had a problem with Graton’s transition from male to female.

“I said, ‘Wait, I work with 200 people and I know them quite well,’ ” recalled Graton, an engineering technician for the county Department of Public Works and Transportation. “I don’t want anybody to get fired. I’m not the only one transitioning here.”

And that scenario plays itself out all around the country; in response Tranz-Central Coast created a PowerPoint education presentation for employers, along with resources like information pamphlets to share with local businesses.  

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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