Just to make myself feel REALLY old this week, I looked up a few dates. It turns out that I was 17 when email became widely used, 22 when texting was invented, 23 when one of the first blogs was published, 25 when Hotmail was introduced, 28 when MSN messaging was rolled out, 30 when Yahoo Groups were first spawned, 32 when Facebook hit the general population, 33 when YouTube starting shaking up the world, and 34 when Twitter was launched. Ouch.

The thing is, as I did not start trying to find out more about my gender issues, and considering transition, until my mid to late 30s, I had all of the above to help me find out information, get in touch with people in similar situations, chat about my feelings, look at photos, explore different viewpoints, etc. etc. I’ve heard (often younger) FTMs state that the internet has ‘saved their lives’ in terms of being trans, and coping with that, and whilst I do not want to belittle the strength of feeling they’ve expressed, I’ve always argued that the diverse communication channels we enjoy these days simply make dealing with an age-old problem easier.

Whatever contact I have with other trans people via the internet/texting/etc. I still crave real human interaction with people like myself. Even just a little bit like me. However, this is often easier said than done.

The problems a lot of trans people have, in my experience, particularly transmen, is that there aren’t THAT many of us and we’re pretty widespread geographically. Another important factor is that many transguys choose either not to identify as trans at all, or to remain ‘stealth’ (that is, not ‘out’ as trans) in their everyday lives.

Currently in the UK there are a number of FTM groups that meet – not just to sit discussing Testosterone and surgery (though of course it’s always helpful to swap notes). Mingling over a cuppa and a jammy dodger, or a pint and pasta is, for me, something that gives me strength, and more importantly, helps me remember I’m not just a freak.

The first time I went to the FTM London group was mind-blowing – I’d never been in a room with people who were even a *little* bit like me. We were all different ages, outlooks and attitudes, with some far along the transitioning road, and some only just starting to think about that route. But it worked, and that (trans)human contact is what keeps me going along. But then I am fortunate, and I am able to travel to London easily. That’s certainly not the case for everyone, which leaves a lot of people isolated.

Up in the city where I live, I know there’s quite a few transguys. I know a handful of them – some by chance encounter, others via friends, and some from initial contact online. The thing is, of course, is that it just isn’t done to walk up to someone and say “excuse me, but are you by any chance transgender?” Even at the few trans gatherings I’ve attended, when there have been a large number of transwomen, and then maybe just myself and another guy I didn’t know, you can’t sidle up to that person, and say “so, I believe we have something in common”. I’m more shy in real life than I am online, and besides, I don’t want to get punched.

My city doesn’t have an FTM social group. I believe there once was one, but don’t know the history of what happened to it. For a long time I’ve thought about trying to start something, but felt that I wasn’t at a point in my transition where I could give very much. Perhaps, though, the time has come. TG2012, a conference for transgender people, is taking place in a few weeks at the local University. I’m thinking of having some flyers printed for distribution there, asking for input on starting a new group locally. Is this the way forward in helping those who identify as FTM in the area, or am I biting off more than I can chew?

The internet is a marvellous thing, and has opened up the world, with all its warts, for all to see. But I still feel we need to be able to meet face-to-face, even just occasionally, to feel less alone.

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