Sage first walked through the doors of the Alliance Health Project two years ago, to join Seeking Safety, a support group for people dealing with trauma. It was a challenge for Sage just to make it to the group. “It was hard for me to leave my house. It was a battle. I was experiencing constant fear,” Sage remembered. Sage’s struggles with post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety about others’ reactions to their gender (Sage identifies as genderqueer) were taking a major toll on their life.
A lot has changed for Sage in the past two years. Sage now marks 17 months sober, and is giving back to the community as a volunteer peer facilitator in the Shanti L.I.F.E. (Learning Immune Function Enhancement) program. With assistance from the Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative, they are looking to return to work. Sage now identifies as genderqueer and, like some other genderqueer folks, prefers the pronoun “they” rather than “him” or “her” in recognition of their identity.
Participation in support groups and individual therapy at AHP has been a crucial part of Sage’s journey: “Now if I start to get anxious, I know what to do. I feel like I have the coping skills to deal with it.” After participating in two cycles of Seeking Safety, Sage now participates in AHP’s Transgender Support Group. They say, “It’s helpful just being with other people who are trans and going through a similar thing.”
Sage has worked with two therapists at AHP, and appreciates that both clinicians understand the complexities of gender identity and have experience with genderqueer clients. “As a trans person, with other therapists I have felt treated like an experiment for them or a token for them to play with.” Therapy at AHP has been a relief for Sage. “I can pick up really quickly if somebody is getting me, and I can tell my therapists at AHP get me. I don’t feel like I’m some kind of new species they have discovered.”
Sage still has to deal with ignorant comments from strangers on the street, recalling, for example, others saying, “Is that a boy or a girl?” But Sage feels much more able to cope with the feelings and anxiety that these insults provoke. “I now feel more confident about being myself and giving myself permission to evolve into who I am.”