Laur Bereznai felt so alone. When the community Arriving in Toronto via Germany in 2019, Bereznai – who alternates pronouns including fae, xyr and it – had just begun his transition and had virtually no support.
Despite having a degree in political science and work experience in Berlin’s largest refugee center, Bereznai was unable to find work. With winter in Toronto in full swing, xyr has found it difficult to socialize and meet new people. All of this led them to Twitter in hopes of finding a community.
Bereznai began making friends online and frequently posted about advocacy and trans issues. Other trans people have messaged her, often for help with the daunting administrative tasks sometimes involved in transitioning, such as changing her legal name.
Fae noticed a lack of space for trans and non-binary people who were older or existed outside of mainstream, young, white, and binary North American trans culture.
“We already have programs for trans people that are organized and established by cis and white people,” says Bereznai. “We need these programs to be restructured and led by a diverse group of trans people.” Soon xyr’s DMs were inundated with messages from trans people all over the world.
On New Year’s Eve 2019, with no celebration plans, xyr decided to throw a virtual party. Over the course of the evening, dozens of people joined in the festivities and hundreds more watched live via Twitch. The evening was a success, a time when trans people everywhere were able to connect and have fun. For some, it was the first time they had spoken to other trans people or to several of them at the same time. Encouraged, Bereznai launched a weekly meetup for trans people on the Discord group chat platform.
At the start of the pandemic, as demand for the group grew rapidly, Bereznai founded the online community TransPeerNetwork. It began hosting three virtual hangouts a week, each lasting six hours or more, and later added Bereznai’s ongoing support for the legal transition, as well as game and movie nights, chat rooms, and social gatherings. discussions on topics such as HRT (hormone therapy), dating, surgery. and family disputes.
More than 1,200 people around the world have joined, from teenagers to sixties. “Historically, (trans people) have experienced a lot of isolation and invisibility, which we’ve been forced into because of violence or medical surveillance by doctors,” says Bereznai. “Facilitating shared spaces full of diverse trans perspectives is important because it’s what allows people to have a strong and sustainable community.”
Bereznai volunteers up to 60 hours a week on TransPeerNetwork, financially assisted by Patreon donations, and is available for one-on-one connections. “I love watching the light enter someone’s eyes as they embrace their identity,” Bereznai says. “I’ve seen incredibly shy trans people grow into stronger, more confident people with this support.”
There is also beauty when trans elders and trans youth educate each other. Bereznai recalls a pre-pandemic encounter with Sandy Stone, a trans octogenarian who is an academic, author and activist: “Meeting Sandy and doing his workshops on trans history and research ethics was so meaningful because it t was the first time I had met a trans senior, who hadn’t just started HRT, she had been doing it for decades. It gave me a future to imagine for myself.
Bereznai is optimistic that TransPeerNetwork will continue to evolve in the post-quarantine world.
“Ultimately what I want to do with TPN, he says, is to pool resources on an increasingly larger scale, so that we can empower trans people to build their own things. , create their own networks and give back to their communities. I can’t wait to see pictures of other members getting together and (seeing) their joy.
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