TransParent Okanagan was started by Carrie and Wayne Broughton four years ago when their now 15-year-old son Tor officially “came out” as transgender. They were attempting to find parents and other caregivers who were going through the same things, or who had already negotiated the medical, social, and other challenges that lay ahead of them.
It was important to them that they process their own feelings about the transition separately from Tor. “Because it’s not his job – or any trans person’s job – to teach us,” Carrie says.
They couldn’t find a local group and, as Wayne likes to tell the story, he said, “Oh great. You’re going to start one, aren’t you?” And so Carrie did!
They started out by just meeting people for coffee, sometimes awkwardly looking like they were on a blind date trying to figure out who the person was they were supposed to meet. Sometimes it was just Wayne and Carrie alone in the coffee shop when they were “stood up” – but as Wayne likes to say, that was still a support group.
Eventually, Carrie connected with Trans Care BC (TCBC) and they invited her to come to Vancouver to be part of a parents’ working advisory group where she met lots of amazing parents and grandparents from across BC, some of whom were already doing this work. They also went to Gender Odyssey’s family conference in Seattle for two years in a row and met even more fantastic families and specialists from across North America, and learned so much more.
Fast forward to today, TransParent Okanagan receives grant money from Trans Care BC and supports many families through their monthly meetings, special events, workshops, and their closed Facebook peer support group. Trans Care BC also supports them by providing learning opportunities through connections with similar groups in BC. Carrie, in addition to co-running TransParent Okanagan, serves on their community advisory committee and has worked for TCBC as a special community facilitator for events and issues related to parents and families.
Carrie’s advice on starting your own organization.
“I would ask yourself, why not you? If there’s a need and you have the skills, time, passion, and drive to do the work – your community needs you to step up. Some people are drawn to politics to help change the world; those of us with the privilege of available time (for little or no pay) to act as community organizers are drawn to change the world in another way. Both are needed to create and carry out solutions for community issues. Community organizing isn’t going to get you rich – but it will truly enrich your community and provide you with unimaginable fulfillment.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has, of course, affected the organization. Carrie and Wayne miss seeing their parents/caregivers and families in person but they are finding their way with Zoom. They recently held their first Zoom workshop with a special guest facilitator and had about 20 people in attendance. The feedback they received was fantastic!
The community can support TransParent Okanagan by suggesting workshop facilitators, and special guest speakers, etc who would be interested in presenting to their group. They have grant money set aside for these events and they love to support people who are members of the larger LGBTQ+ community, whenever possible.
Carrie says, “You can also support other families of trans kids by using the correct pronouns and names, and quickly correcting yourself when you make a mistake (It’s okay! We all make mistakes). If you know a family who could use our support, please share this with them.”