I'll Go With You: A Love Letter to the Trans Community
By Heather Branham
As I write this, it’s been less than 48 hours since North Carolina passed the most extreme, sweeping anti-LGBTQ legislation in the country. The bill guts anti-discrimination policies passed by local governments around the state protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens. It also removes the ability of local governments to raise the minimum wage above $7.25 per hour. But the centerpiece of the law and the driving force behind the unprecedented speed of its passage is the exclusion of transgender people from bathrooms that match their gender identity. The law specifically targets trans children, requiring them to use the school bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the sex written on their birth certificate. My goal is not to debate the merits of this law or to convince anyone that trans people deserve to exercise their humanity by choosing the bathroom appropriate for them. Maybe I’ll have the energy for that effort on another day. Today that argument is settled for me, and I want to speak directly to trans people.
I’ve started wearing a button that I picked up at a rally against HB2, this heinous law. It says, “I’ll go with you.” It’s intended to send a message of solidarity to trans folks around the issue of bathrooms. But it’s come to symbolize more to me than just an offer of support in navigating gender segregated facilities. In her welcome to the recent LGBT* in the South conference here in Asheville, Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara of the Campaign for Southern Equality told the crowd that the role of therapists and clergy is to walk through the dark places with people. We stay with them through the hard parts and see them through to the other side. When I begin a counseling relationship with a trans client, I am saying to them, I’ll go with you. Through the questioning and the answering, the doubting and the fear, I’ll go with you. When you’re ready to try new pronouns and decide what to say to your family, I’ll go with you. Through the grief of your losses and the joy of your discoveries, I’ll go with you. When you’re not sure where else to turn to share this experience, I can be present to witness and honor your path.
It’s true that I haven’t walked this road myself. I’ve traversed my own treacherous trails and was grateful to have beautiful souls who stayed by my side. These experiences taught me the power of a witness and a companion on an emotional journey. Some of the most dear people in my life have walked this road of gender transition and have shared with me milestones they encountered along the way. I’ve heard about the fear of regret and the excitement of taking decisive action. I’ve listened to stories about dysphoria and misgendering, anxiety about navigating bathrooms, panic about job hunting, and confusion about changing relationships. Your story is uniquely yours, but I want you to know that stories like these don’t scare me. I’ve sat with trans people through their darkest moments, and I’m honored every time I’m trusted with this authenticity and vulnerability. What I’ve been given is the chance to witness beautiful displays of resilience and creativity. On days when I’m feeling overwhelmed myself, it’s a gift to take in the vitality of a group of people who was never meant to survive.
So in case you have been doubting it, hear this and take it into your bones: You are beautiful. You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. You are not alone. You are not alone. You are not alone. If you need support, there are people here to help. Show us where you’re afraid to go, and we’ll go with you.
Heather Branham, LCSW, a therapist based in Asheville, NC, specializes in helping individuals, couples, and families navigate the complexities of gender identity and sexuality.
If you are a loved one of a trans-identified individual, please check out the facilitated peer support group starting soon.
If you are trans or questioning your gender identity, you'll find resources (online and local to Asheville on our Resources page).