Making Support Groups More Inclusive
Phoenix, who has lived in several different parts of the U.S. as a service child, says Reno and Nevada in general don’t feel inclusive, which is why this trans group is so needed here.
“Las Vegas was probably the worst I’ve seen along with Oklahoma for transgendered youth being basically kicked out of their house for trying to live their true life,” she said. “For the most part, (in Reno), sometimes we're still kind of backwards. You know, the old country mentality.”
Phoenix points to alarmingly high suicide and substance abuse rates for trans youths, as another vital reason for this endeavor.
“It's very important for the group to be inclusive, instead of exclusive, because people need to know it's open, you know, versus just having the same old people sitting around a table,” she said. “You know, if we don't bring new people in, new blood into groups, then guess what, the groups die off … it’s the same thing with any other type of group in Reno, AA, NA, people forget that nowadays. You know, if you’ve been in the same group with the same people, everyone knows each other. There's no new lifeblood and the new person in the group is the best thing in the world, because you get to help that person. You get to show them what you have and you get to show them how you live your true life.”
From Crystal Meth Addiction to Becoming a Leader for Positive Change
Phoenix, who now manages a Supercuts hair salon, has a life of struggles and turnaround to share as inspiration. “I started living my true life, in October three years ago,” she said. “That was after I finally had, I was finally done with crystal meth. I was on and off meth from the age of 18 to 32. I’ve been clean as of, August 28th of this year, I'll be clean three years. And my journey … I did everything I could to survive. I was homeless. I was living in a car. I stole from, you know, family members. It wasn't a true life I needed to live… People forget that, you know, being happy in your own life, becoming your true self, doing what you need to do is the best thing you can do to survive.”
Phoenix also points to the dangerous levels of violence against the transgender community, especially trans women of color.
“If you have some type of addiction that lands you on the streets, it can kill you, especially with everything that's going on in the world today. One thing that makes me really nervous is how many trans women of color have been killed, just this year alone, it's been a lot. Nobody's doing anything, you know? And that scares the living bejesus out of me because I was there. I was doing what I had to do to survive. “
For Phoenix, getting arrested in Reno at one point when she was hitting bottom was a wakeup call. “If I was to stay on the streets, I know that I would've died,” she told us. “The turning point for me was that, so basically the thing is, look at yourself. Do you see yourself there in 10 years or do you see yourself dead in 10 years? Get yourself a good support system.”
Advice for Parents and the Community
Phoenix says love and acceptance, including self-acceptance, is generally what’s needed the most.
“My advice for the parents would be they're your kid, love them. One day you're going to need the love. You know, it's just not about what's in between our legs, it's what's in our mind, what's in our heart. People forget that love is just not, it's not a gender. It's your heart. It's your soul. I was born this way and you know what? A lot of younger, the younger generation doesn't realize that… love yourself first. You know, people come and go in your life. There's one person that you wake up everyday with and look at in the mirror, that's yourself. Love yourself before you love anybody else.”
Phoenix would also like to see a local homeless shelter specifically for trans kids as well more pressure on organizations which still practice discrimination.